You don’t have to be a FTSE 250 or a Fortune 500 company to have a contingency plan in place in case the worst should happen. More and more SME businesses are drafting their own business continuity (BC) plans to ensure their businesses continue even in the worst case scenario.
In 2007 the new riverside development at More London flooded with disastrous consequences for the businesses, both large and small. One of the major companies to be affected was Ernst and Young. Luckily they had a suitable plan in place to ensure their customers received a seamless service. Many others took up temporary options at the nearby Regus business centre.
One thing this unexpected emergency highlighted was the lack of planning by many businesses that were reliant on local office availability. However, as London faces a potential shortage in available office space in the years ahead, adequate planning is going to be crucial to keeping businesses up and running.
One thing that wasn’t clear about the More London flooding was how long the emergency would go on for. It took about two months to restore the building back to normal which for many businesses is a long time and a highly costly one if BC wasn’t budgeted for.
As business can be disrupted for both minor and major events, the time it takes to get things back to normal can range from a day or two to several months. Here are a number of potential disruptions to consider:
Short Term Emergencies
- Localised flooding – The Environment Agency publishes the potential flood areas for the majority of the UK. What is surprising is the sheer number of businesses that lie within these areas. With severe flooding in the South West, Thames Valley, East Anglia and Yorkshire over the last 12 months, what should also be considered are the number of areas that have been repeatedly flooded over the last five years.
- Power failure – The loss of power effectively cuts you off from the outside world. No internet connection can mean your customers have no way of contacting you.
- Loss of public transport – If your teams can’t get to you then you will have to consider making access much easier.
Long Term Emergencies
- Terrorist attack – Should the worst happen it could mean a disruption to your business for several days to several weeks.
- Major flooding – Depending on the severity of the flood your business could be out of action for months.
- Building structural issues – If you have to vacate the building the need for a new space becomes very urgent. The likely hood of finding something nearby could prove difficult.
Business Continuity Planning
Your Business Continuity Plan should include the following to ensure you are able to manage the worst that can happen and communicate with your employees, business partners and customers:
- Business preparation for widespread disruption;
- Planning for alternative locations;
- Telecommunications services and technology;
- Your communication plans;
Using this framework, here are some tips on putting these guidelines into practice:
- Business preparation for widespread disruptions
Take a long hard look at how your teams get online. These days many businesses have their servers in the cloud providing 24/7 connectivity with remote access from any location. If your servers are on-site you will need to look at how they are backed up and in the event of a major incident how you will replicate your main systems elsewhere?
- A duplicate office: Planning for alternative locations
A strong disaster recovery plan for any business may have a remote location available which replicates the primary business premises to ensure employees remain productive and able to work.
Many businesses may consider the cost of a duplicate office too high, but for many like Ernst and Young it was a crucial lifeline that kept the business going. In order to evaluate the options for the size of your business, it’s best to talk to an impartial advisor who can provide details of what’s available to you.
- Remote access technology
Taking a duplicate office space may not be as expensive if you factor in the ability to use remote technology to link employees and allow for a degree of remote working. Generally there are three commonly used technologies for remote access:
- VPN technologies work by connecting a remote computer to a user’s primary computer, allowing someone to “remote desktop” and run all of the applications that live on their work computer’s server.
- With a Citrix server, you can log into a website via any computer and get access to the applications that live on the Citrix server in your office.
- Outlook Web App (OWA) provides Web access to email, contacts and calendars to allow your employees to work from a portable device from anywhere including their home. It also allows immediate access for a BC office space.
Whichever remote access technology you select it’s important to remember to train your teams to use them and a regular test may keep people up to date.
- Your communication plans
How you communicate during an incident or disaster is vital to help protect both your brand and your business sales. With careful planning businesses can protect both future sales and keep current customers happy.
In our connected 24/7 world a well thought-out communication plan will reap benefits in the long term. Companies are regularly judged on how they handle a negative situation like a customer complaint or staff misconduct with plans in place to ensure legislation is followed. But less than 40% of businesses have paid as much attention to how they communicate in the event of a major incident.
Remember to include how you would communicate to all employees, external partners, affiliates and service providers. Your plan should also include how to inform people about what’s happening on social media and in the press.
There is also a need to plan how to communicate to the various groups after the emergency is over to ensure everyone is kept up to date.
Effective Budgeting Should the Worst Happen
It’s easy to see why so many businesses put off creating a business contingency plan that will protect their business should disaster happen. It could be down to what the initial costs are. If so, these quick outlines should provide some food for thought. With the planning and communication elements of the plan done the main cost involved is keeping your teams working.
- Part temporary office, part home working
If you have 30 people in the office, how about looking for a smaller, more flexible space with high density desks for about 50% of the workforce. The remainder of the team could work from home connected to email and the network remotely.
- A duplicate office
Your business may just need to have everyone in one place, especially sales teams who work together. But like option one, a high density space may be the answer. Sometimes relocating to a space away from the original area takes care of access issues if the area has been evacuated and may also get you a cheaper space that represents better value.
Talk to Someone Who is Impartial
Finally, there is a wide choice of options available from many of the UK’s best flexible workspace providers. Finding the right option for your business can appear to be quite a daunting prospect. A loc8 Commercial advisor isn’t tied to one provider and is best placed to give the best possible solutions advice for your business.