Given the back-to-back hurricanes hitting the United States lately, the number of business recovery plans activated recently has made it a busy time. Many advisory firms in Texas, Florida and other places faced the challenge of running their businesses while staring down an evacuation and dealing with other important matters, such as ensuring the safety of family members and personal property.
These events always test even the most detailed and robust business recovery plan. For all of us, this is a reminder to review our business recovery plans. Here are several areas to be re-evaluated and considered anew.
1. Make sure you have a fluid document. Your firm's business recovery plan should be a living document and resource. Specifically, it requires on-going attention as your firm changes and adds new products, solutions and even environmental modifications.
In general, it's easy to incorporate significant product changes in your plan, such as a new reporting system, upgraded trading technology and new servers. However, it is the system infrastructure and environmental changes that can — but shouldn't — be overlooked.
For example, if you decide to switch the primary Internet provider for your office, how does this change impact your backup Internet provider solution? Sometimes it is these “minor” environmental changes that can end up causing the most havoc during a business recovery event.
Because your business recovery plan is a living document, the size and complexity of your firm should dictate who is responsible for updating and implementing the document. This task often falls to the IT department.
But remember, every employee should have specific roles and responsibilities. So, if you are the head trader at your firm, you should own or at least be a co-owner of the plan for your area of responsibility. This could include the details and tasks for each of your direct reports during a business recovery event.
Be careful, though, since you don't want each department to become a “silo” for its specific area of the business recovery plan. To avoid this situation, keep the plan glued together with a holistic view of the needs for your entire firm.
2. Plan for flexible time stoppages. Perhaps the greatest unknown during a business recovery event is how long is it going to last. Will the power be out for an hour, a day, a week or even longer?
The same type of situation also can occur when one of your technology partners is having frequent outages. You simply don't know when everything will be back to normal, and equally frustrating and challenging, you have no control of the timeline.
So make sure your business recovery plan considers various lengths of time periods for an outage/event. For example, what happens if the power is out much longer than you anticipated? What do you and your employees do?
There are many creative solutions, from using your car to power your devices to owning a backup generator, or even driving to where power is available, if you can. The point here is that you need to consider and discuss options so you and your employees are best prepared.
3. Plan for multiple communication channels. A common challenge during a business recovery event is effectively communicating with colleagues and employees. Sharing and receiving information is often one of the first tasks in the plan.
However, you can't rely on or expect that your regular communication channels will work. The size and scale of the event may be isolated to your firm or affect everyone in your region.
Given these variables, it's critical that your business recovery plan includes multiple communication channels for your team to utilize, including emails, phones, texts and social-media channels. Everything should be considered and thoughtfully included in the plan. Also, remember in some events that your clients might be directly impacted as well, so consider what communication channels you may need for sharing information with them too.
4. Do the drill. There really is no better way to know if your business recovery plan is ready than to run a test drill on a regular basis. And make sure that you include multiple variables and different team members in each drill. Then, have an open and candid debrief with your team on how it went — and just as important — what changes should be made to the plan.