Don't get caught out this Christmas
A lack of preparedness for the unexpected is becoming harder to justify
By Ben Griffiths | Published 14:22, 19 December 11
The high profile shutdown of London Heathrow and subsequent public attack on the airport’s owner BAA’s inept handling of the snowfall was just the tip of the iceberg as far as business continuity was concern.
Twelve months on, have we learned any lessons about risk management and preparing for the worst?
Specialists in business continuity at accountants PwC believe a lack of preparedness is becoming harder to justify. Companies need to be much more proactive in preparing for disruption, they say.
It could be more than just lost sales that are at stake. The very future of the business could be under threat, according to research for standards organisation BSI Group. It found 80 percent of companies who did not have a business continuity plan closed within 18 months of a major incident.
If you’re a retailer, for example, and have yet to consider what happens if another heavy snowfall this year disrupts your fulfilment processes and delivery services in the run up to the critical Christmas selling season you’re heading for near certain trouble.
There’s no excuse. It’s not rocket science. All that’s required is a bit of thought about what is necessary to protect a company and how all members of staff - from executive management down to the lowest paid workers - will operate in the event of a crisis.
PwC reckons more organisations have become more vulnerable to weather disruption. This is partly due to a recession-led drive towards efficiency where resilience is lower on the list of priorities. Additionally, just-in-time supply chains leave little room for error, it explains.
The firm also suggested that this winter could be the ideal time to rehearse for the expected disruptions caused by next summer’s London 2012 Olympics, when transport networks will be under increased pressure.
Helpfully, BSI provides a suggested approach to business continuity management including five key steps:
- Identify crucial operations and the risks to them.
- Make a plan for those crucial activities and how to keep them operational.
- Exercise the plan with a simple severe weather scenario to see if it will work.
- Write it down. There’s no point having a plan in the boss’ head. What happens if he’s not around?
- Don’t wait until after the bad weather hits. Plan now!
We would do well to pay attention to any worst case scenarios spelt out and to avoid dismissing weather warnings out of hand, as we once might have done.
The shocks of recent years must surely have taught us that risk management should be part of our daily thinking.