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How to create a Business Continuity Plan

By Donna Torres, director of small business at Xero

Creating a business continuity plan (BCP) is an important measure for small business owners as it will allow your business to keep operating in times of hardship, and bounceback from turmoil as quickly as possible.

In short, a BCP is an outline of procedures you’ll undertake to help your business prepare for events that may cause disruption such as a cyber security attack, natural disaster or global pandemic. If you don’t already have one, don’t worry – it’s not too late. In the current climate, it’s extremely useful to create one to help you plan for the impact of Covid-19 and minimise disruption as much as possible.

There are a few important areas to think about including in your BCP. These include:

  • Objective – Identify the purpose of the plan.
  • Scope – Outline the people, locations and business activities/ processes the BCP is intended for. This includes your employees, locations, and departments or teams.
  • Responsibilities – Identify the key contacts for people during an event and after, alongside the roles they’re assigned.
  • Resources – If your business is primarily online, identify the tools you or your employees need to continue operating. Ask yourself – are the tools available to use outside of the usual workplace? How many employees do the resources need to service?
  • Stakeholders– Identify those outside of your business who are key in helping you operate effectively. Key stakeholders can include online providers, suppliers, clients, etc.
  • Timeline – Create a timeline to identify the stages of an event where your BCP is put into place.

When executing your BCP, you may need to make use of a few key tools to support your plan and to help your business stay up and running. The adoption of certain cloud technology can help implement remote and flexible working, allowing you to collaborate in real time. Some tools to consider include:

  • DocuSign– This tool allows you and your colleagues to easily sign forms electronically. It encrypts e-documents and e-signatures as well as creates a unique hash for these. This hash can be used to verify authenticity; it can indicate whether a document does not match the signed one that was originally uploaded.
  • Miro– Miro is a collaborative whiteboard platform, perfect for brainstorming. Your team can work together on canvases and add visual elements to help create new and exciting ideas. You can also create information hubs to keep all project stakeholders updated.
  • Google Drive– Google Drive is a popular tool which offers a place to easily store and share files. You can decide exactly who can access particular files as well as the level of access, and it has the capacity to hold large files that can’t be sent by email.
  • Slack– This cloud-based communication tool lets you create chat rooms organised by topic, send direct messages and documents, and make voice or video calls to anyone within your practice. It can be used on a basic level but also has many more complex features that can be explored.
  • Dropbox– Dropbox began as a file-sharing service, but it has since evolved to improve collaboration. For example, you can comment on files added by your clients. Dropbox Paper enables your team and clients to work on documents together simultaneously, and you can also assign tasks and to-do lists.
  • Xero – Xero offers a cloud-based accounting software platform for small and medium-sized businesses. Its single unified ledger enables users to work together on the same set of books regardless of their location or device. Some of its features include automatic bank feeds, invoicing, purchase orders, and standard business and management reporting.

Crises can unfortunately happen at any time and the business landscape is often difficult to predict. In order to navigate through tough times as best as possible, it’s important to look to the future, pivot the business plan in line with the current environment and do what’s possible to keep operations running smoothly.

Tools like those listed above, along with a robust BCP, will help to ensure businesses can continue operating and collaborating during more challenging times. It can seem overwhelming, but there are lots of great resources available to walk you through setting up a BCP. These include Xero’s Business Continuity guide and blog on 10 tools to support your accounting practice’s business continuity planning.