Every organisation can benefit from planning for how to stay operational during a crisis or business interruption event such as a natural disaster. Checking that the business continuity plan is effectual will ensure that the effort involved has not been wasted and that the organisation has the best possible opportunity to respond successfully in the event of a disruption.

However, it’s important to give consideration to whether testing exercises determine if the plan as written will achieve what is needed to protect the organisation, versus simply that the plan will be applied and followed at the time of a disruption.

The key concept is not to ask “did we follow the plan” but rather “did we do what the organisation needed at the critical time”.

To make this determination, select a range of plausible scenarios impacting on different functions within the organisation and test these regularly with all key staff. However, also remember to also see what happens if certain key staff are removed from the exercise (as “on leave” or similar).

Some scenarios should be small and relatively contained (e.g. only testing the IT back-up process or employee communications), and some should be potentially catastrophic and organisation-wide, checking all components of the crisis management response. Some tests might also involve external parties such as emergency services, external stakeholders and business partners.

Another important but often overlooked component of the testing process is to be mindful of using the exercise to build workers’ confidence and empower them to take control of situations in a calm and logical manner. This will build organisational resilience and makes it more likely that entirely unexpected disruptions or failures can still be handled well. It is important to maximise the value of the testing process by also utilising it to ensure that back-up and secondary personnel are competent and confident to ‘step up’ when required.

Please contact QRMC for more information.