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Business continuity planning: Making changes

Business continuity plans should make changes to protocol, policy, or process. (See my Introduction to Governance for details on these!). It initiates radical changes and ones that most staff would not normally expect.

Changing protocol

A business continuity plan should:

  1. Restrict staff’s ability to make decisions and reserve day to day decisions to management. Circumstances are changing rapidly and there may not be time to communicate every change. The organic decision-making process is no longer appropriate because staff cannot account for corporate effects of their decisions.

  2. Delegate additional authority to take decisions for non-critical decisions. Under the business continuity plan, there may be an inherent approval to make refunds, cancel services, or give credits. Staff should not need to bring each approval back to management so conserve management resource.

Changing policy

Policies govern the company’s behavior, and when extreme changes are needed, corporate policy should be reviewed. Some policies which the organisation will want to review:

  1. Cash management – Circumstances may warrant moving cash out of a certain country or converting into a different currency. Will the company continue to use vendors which require advance payments or pay a slightly higher price to pay later?

  2. Issuing refunds and credits – If the business begins cancelling delivery or services, what will the refund policy be? Is there local law which allows the company to keep cash and defer delivery, or will a refund be required? What effects could not changing refunds and credits policies have on the company’s reputation?

  3. Staff duty of care – How are your staff? Have you initiated policies which are meant to keep them safe? Has travel to the office been restricted? Have you checked their well-being if the were at the office during the initiation?

Policy change should relate to the changes in protocol and procedure (as we explain next).

Changing procedure

Business continuity plans should assume procedures need to change. The plan might require staff to start working from home, the phone lines might be down, or government regulation has changed. Some examples include:

  1. Switching to bank transfers instead of check. Staff working from home will prevent physical signature. There maybe be a breakdown in the postal services preventing delivery of checks to suppliers or an inability for the company to deposit a check received.

  2. Rerouting approvals. If the company changed protocol, it most likely will need to change the approval procedures too. In multinational companies and other remote working situations, using applications such as Adobe e-signatures or Microsoft Teams (or a combination of the two!) can be added to the process to streamline this process.

  3. Changing the customer services model. Is there an ability to answer the phones? If staff cannot reach a call centre, how can enquires be handled? Do enough members of staff have access to the company’s Facebook, WhatsApp, or other communication method?

Making the right changes

The business continuity plan needs to account for all areas of disruption and prioritise them. Management must consider what needs attending and what does not. The best changes are those which reduce the amount of resource needed to operate while devoting enough resource to keep the business operating.


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