Business Continuity is a critical function for all facility managers, yet many delegate it to consultants who are not knowledgeable of organizational culture, alignment, or strategy, and who will not be there when an incident occurs. Business Continuity planning is best done by facility managers who are most intimate with the imperatives of their business, its priorities, and mechanisms.
Advantages of Bootstrapping
The biggest advantage of developing your Business Continuity Plan (BCP) internally is that it allows you to customize it to your organizational needs. Before beginning one must ensure that facility management and corporate priorities are aligned, and that there is strong corporate sponsorship for the initiative. Integration with other business units, especially service cousins (IT, Security, etc.) is critical. Failure to work through sponsorship and integration processes will undoubtedly isolate FM and diminish funding and cooperation. Once these protocols are in place, however, the road to developing a successful BCP is well paved.
Success Is in the Details
The next biggest advantage of self-performing BCP development is that it forces you into a deep dive on the details. When events force BCP activation these details will be known, thus facilitating a faster and more agile response. The binder may be on your shelf, but key responsibilities, tasks, and options will be in your head. That ingrained knowledge pays immediate dividends when needed most. Beyond knowing the broad strokes, however, you must also have the details at the ready. Building drawings, utility plans, MEP equipment listings, emergency response vendor call lists, access to temporary space, and other potential needs should all be thought through and have accompanying strategies.
The scale of event experienced will dictate much of your response plan and action. Site specific, local area, and regional events all have different profiles and necessitate responses that match up to their realities. For example, in a site-specific event such as a building fire, you can count on an immediate response from local agencies. Local area events, such as an active shooter in a mall or mixed-use facility will lead to an immediate agency response but you are unlikely to get their support unless your facility is directly involved or threatened. Wider scale events, such as a major earthquake, flood, or hurricane typically overwhelm agency capacities, at least in the short term, and the safety of your people and facilities will largely be on your shoulders. It is important to think through various scenarios and plan for each.
Events Should Dictate the Response
Your Business Continuity Plan should be just that, a plan, not a hard and fast set of rules and tasks. Each event is unique. The best plans provide capability and capacity and leave decisions on how they are used to the responsible individuals when the time comes. These folks should be thoroughly trained, comfortable in their roles, and empowered to make all of the decisions needed to protect the organization.
Provision, Train, Deploy
Once the plan is in place, make it real by provisioning supplies and conducting routine exercises at both the strategic and tactical levels. If you have a task to set up the Incident Command Center then make sure those responsible for doing so have what they need, know where it is, and have actually done it a few times. You will likely find that these exercises, as simple as they are, will point out missing items in the set-up kit, personnel planning, or other criteria. These lessons learned are like gold. Put them to good use by updating and enhancing your capabilities as needed. A great plan on paper that doesn’t have the needed provisions or has not been adequately trained is just that, a plan on paper.
Test and Audit
Periodic tests at various levels (functional, business unit, enterprise) are needed to keep the plan current with organization and staffing changes. Table top exercises with leaders focused on big picture options, table tops with functional managers to hone their response skills, and operational tests to educate and train front line staff and occupants are all needed parts of the BCP puzzle. Another key part is an outside audit by knowledgeable professionals who can spot deficiencies and recommend corrective actions or help anticipate strategy shortfalls.
The key to Business Continuity success is in thorough planning, investing in skillsets and provisions, and recurring validation. One can never guarantee the outcome, but one can always be prepared and positioned to succeed. Don’t let an event catch you unprepared in planning or preparation.