Recovery planning essential


With natural disasters impossible to predict and an increased risk from terror attacks playing a major role, the need to have an established workplace recovery plan is greater than ever.flooding

How to protect your business from a catastrophe – Why business continuity plans must consider the needs of people is essential reading for management from SMEs to major corporations.

It is not just your IT systems that need to be recovered – your most important assets, your employees, must also be prioritised.

The case for business continuity was well made by the seminal research by Knight and Pretty “The Impact of Catastrophes on Shareholder Value”. This showed that shareholder value was lost in the long-term by the poor response to a catastrophe, but conversely it was actually improved by responding well.

Many think they are prepared, or can get by, but it is crucial to remember that dealing with a disaster well wins the loyalty of your customers; dealing with it badly can put you out of business.

The report says that traditional workplace recovery takes no account of employees’ emotions or their journey to work. It is designed for an era when both IT and people were more static.

Most businesses are confident they can recover IT. Regus research revealed that about one in three of IT recoveries are fully successful, but 1 in 16 completely fails.

This focus on IT has come at the expense of people. Modern workforces are increasingly mobile – the practice of herding workers into a ‘one-size-fits-all’ facility is outdated, the report says.

The report notes that while technology continues to change how we work, traditional recovery solutions have not kept pace.

Mobile working solutions have fundamentally changed the workplace. People can work wherever they sit down, accessing services and data as needed. Cloud computing provides scalable solutions without the need for heavy investment in IT equipment and capabilities, and if disaster strikes, new technology gives us far more options.

But despite companies beginning to embrace new working practices, with an increased reliance on co-working and shared spaces, recovery methods are lagging behind. Gone are the days when we have to stop work or move an entire company, en masse, to a large static recovery location. Today, it is much easier to simply head for the local coffee shop or work from home. But, if not considered properly these solutions bring with them a multitude of additional problems.

The fastest growing business continuity strategy is to work from home. Regus research has shown that this is the preferred option for 39 per cent of businesses, with 75 per cent of these expecting to see an increased reliance on it. When you consider that PwC clients have reported being able to make savings of 50 per cent of their business continuity budget by adopting this strategy, this is hardly a surprising statistic, the report says.

Businesses need to strike a balance between the old-style recovery and full-on mobile working, the report says.  That balance should take the form of a toolkit of strategies that allows them to pick the right mix of approaches for different types of needs. Most importantly, it should to address the needs of people, and not just IT and business functions.

The report concludes with advice on making a continuity plan and a valuable checklist of things to include in your planning and preparation.

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Failure to plan could cost you your business

Prior to the 1980s, if you lost your place of work you would simply take a few days off. Businesses were vulnerable to disruptive events that were out of their control, with lost revenue, diminished reputations, and even the threat of closure.

But, during the past 30 years, companies have realised the value of having a disaster recovery plan that includes fully equipped alternative premises to work from. Unlike the 1980s, customers today expect an uninterrupted service even during a disaster, whatever the size of the business – and now there is an expectation to have an effective plan in place.

When Superstorm Sandy ripped through the east coast of the US in 2012, the US Chamber Foundation’s Business Civic Leadership Center estimated that 60,000-100,000 small businesses were negatively affected. Some 30 per cent of them were expected to fail within months as a direct result of the storm, according to a report by Forbes.

A National Hurricane Center report concluded that severe damage to small firms occurred in New Jersey, with nearly 19,000 businesses sustaining damage of $250,000 or more. Total business losses are estimated at $8.3 billion.

In 2011 Japan was hit by an earthquake, which affected 740,000 small businesses, and a tsunami, which took out 80,000 companies. While no price can be put on the human losses, conservative estimates suggested that the disaster displaced more than 300,000 employees across 715 industries, costing $209bn in lost sales

Due to a lack of planning by businesses themselves, the Organisation for Small and Medium Enterprises and Regional Innovation in Japan arranged for temporary offices

It’s not just widespread natural disasters that pose a threat. Smaller-scale man-made incidents, whether unintentional or intentional, such as terror threats, can also have a significant impact on business continuity.

In the aftermath of the Paris terror attack in November 2015, Brussels was put on a heightened state of alert and local officials recommended a full lock down, with several facilities across the city ordered to close

When a cable fire blazed for 36 hours under the pavement in London’s Kingsway in April 2015, several businesses lost electric, gas and broadband services. Some 5,000 employees were forced to evacuate their offices, with more than half of them experiencing disruption or several days. The estimated cost to London’s economy was £40m.

A study by the Federation of Small Businesses in January 2015 found that 59 per cent of the small businesses that they questioned in the UK did not have a plan in place to deal with extreme weather such as flooding or snowstorms.

Under this heightened state of alert across the globe, companies must be prepared to relocate their staff at a moment’s notice due to a terror alert or even attack.

But, astonishingly, despite significant changes to working practices and mobile technology during the past 30 years, recovery methods have largely remained static, and the plight of workers has remained largely ignored.