Editor's note: This article was written by Amy Fowler on behalf of Maintel , experts in unified communications solutions for both small businesses and large corporations.
There's an old saying, "expect the unexpected." It may sound like an oxymoron, and in truth, it is. However, that does not mean that there isn't a grain of common sense in there.
When it comes to business planning, trying to plan for the unexpected makes sense.
Yes, you can't plan for every eventuality, but if you build some flexibility in your business plan there's a good chance that you'll be able to implement Plan B, or Plan C, when things go wrong.
Your customers are the most important part of your business, and the priority for your business continuity plan should be ensuring that your customers do not experience a loss of service. How you do this depends on the nature of your business and the size of your company.
Communication is Key
If your business trades on an international scale, then communication could be one of the biggest problems that you face. A good unified communications solution could be the difference between a fast recovery and complete disaster.
Take, for example, the recent protests and riots that have been occurring across Europe. The London riots this summer interrupted business for a lot of people, and many cities are facing issues even today thanks to the Occupy Wall Street riots -- which have spread from the USA to Rome, London, and many other areas. If protestors can spread messages instantly using the power of the internet, then doesn't it make sense for your business to harness unified communications too?
Your business continuity plan should lay out how key staff members should contact each other during disturbances, and should give those staff members an idea of what tasks they should prioritize. If your server fails, where can the backups be found? If bad weather stops supplies reaching your factory, how long can you operate on the existing supplies? Should the priority be finding new ways to get supplies in, or should you help your customers make alternative arrangements?
Every Business is Different
If you're not sure where to start with your business continuity planning, the best place to start is with one of the basic checklists provided by the government. The checklists are quite basic, and focus almost exclusively on common problems such as fire, theft, or power outages. Business specific issues aren't covered. The lists are a good starting point, however, and should help you to focus your thinking and expand your plans to cover the things that your business needs to worry about.
Once you've drawn up your plan, make sure that your staff know about it, and that they understand it fully. There's no point in having a plan if it's locked away in a safe that only you have access to, and nobody realizes it exists. You should revisit the plan frequently, and make sure that it is up to date, accurate, and reflects that status of your business.
Finally, remember that you can't prevent or solve every problem.
The true test of a business is not how they perform in ideal circumstances, but how they cope when things go wrong. If your customers do receive interrupted service for a while, treat them well and reward their loyalty. They will remember you for it.
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