Business Continuity PlanTemplates & a Step-by-Step Guide to Creating Your BCP

David DeCorte David DeCorte | June 19, 2024 | 13 min read

Business Continuity Plan

In a Nutshell

A well-structured business continuity plan (BCP) is crucial for maintaining organizational resilience during challenging times. This document serves as a quick reference guide to define evacuation procedures, assign roles and responsibilities, and establish a robust audit protocol. Developing a BCP doesn't have to be a daunting task; using a provided template can streamline the process. Regular audits and updates will ensure the plan's effectiveness, addressing any sensitive information carefully. For further guidance on protecting revenue and preventing losses due to disruptions, reaching out for expert advice is recommended.

A Rock-Solid Business Continuity Plan Could be a Lifesaver in a Crisis

It’s June — you know what that means?

Yeah sure. Hitting the beach, going camping, maybe even a cross-country road trip. All fun stuff. That’s not what I’m talking about, though.

June 1st marked the beginning of hurricane season on the east coast of the US. And, as we’ve seen plenty of times in recent years, even a comparatively mild tropical storm can cause havoc for businesses. Power outages, service disruptions, shipping delays resulting from damaged infrastructure... that’s just scratching the surface of the potential impacts.

I picked a hurricane as an example, but a big storm is just one of many possible sources of a business disruption. From natural disasters to cyber attacks, there are more threats to your continuity than you can count. That’s why it’s so important to have a business continuity plan in place before disaster strikes.

What is a Business Continuity Plan?

Business Continuity Plan

[noun]/biz • nəs • kän • tə • no͞o • ə • dē • plan/

A business continuity plan is a proactive strategy that outlines the procedures and instructions an organization must follow in the face of disaster to ensure that critical functions continue to operate. The BCP cover identification of potential risks and the creation of recovery protocols to minimize disruption and facilitate fast resumption of operations.

A business continuity plan — also called a BCP — is a strategic framework that can help you overcome sudden and unexpected challenges to your business. It ensures that you can keep up critical operations during and after an unexpected disruption of service.

Your BCP outlines procedures and instructions that you will follow in the face of natural disasters, cyber-attacks, or other significant interruptions. The aim here is to minimize downtime, protect assets, and defend the interests of stakeholders by ensuring a swift and structured response.

Having a BCP in place makes it easier for you to be resilient and protect your ability to deliver essential services. It also helps you offset risk; as we’ll see, insights gained through development and deployment of a BCP can help you identify vulnerabilities — and opportunities — that you didn’t know you had.

The Value of a Business Continuity Plan

The experience of living through the covid-19 pandemic should give you a sense of how important a continuity plan is to your business. But, just to drive the point home, consider the following:

When you have a good business continuity plan in place, you don’t have to scramble to figure out how to respond in a crisis. You’ve already done the work.

Your BCP gives your a structured and premeditated response to unforeseen challenges. It reduces the amount of time it takes to restore normal operations. And, it helps you better protect your employees, critical infrastructure, and sensitive data.

Common QuestionIs business continuity the same as disaster recovery?Not really. The two concepts are related, but disaster recovery is more about restoring operations after a crisis has already caused a disruption of service. Business continuity, however, is about taking preemptive steps to keep your business running smoothly during a crisis. With a BCP in place, you can (hopefully) avoid disruptions altogether.

A well-prepared BCP can also help boost customer confidence. If you can maintain a high level of service, even during crises, then your clients feel reassured, and can have confidence in your organization. In a way, your BCP can give you a competitive edge; imagine what your customers will think when your competitors are struggling to recover from disruptions, but you’re chugging along, business as usual.

Risks of Not Having a BCP in Place

Your BCP protects your operational continuity, financial health, and reputation. It can also put the spotlight on you as an example of how to “do things right” when the pressure is on. On the same token, failing to put a BCP in place could be a major risk to your business.

Here are just a few consequences of failing to have a plan in place when you know what hits the fan:

Reputational Damage

Reputational Damage

Most of your customer might understand that accidents happen, and that certain crises are unavoidable. But, they’ll also demand a swift and effective response to any disturbance or disruption of service, regardless of its scale. How you handle a crisis can significantly influence your reputation for years to come — for better or worse.

Risk to Employee & Customer Safety

Risk to Employee & Customer Safety

Your primary objective, regardless of the incident, should be to ensure the safety of your employees and customers. This task becomes a lot harder without a well-thought-out business continuity plan. If you don’t have a good plan in place, you could risk injury to your workers and customers. You’d be violating the number one necessity of managing a business

Financial Consequences

Financial Consequences

The costs associated with business disruptions can range from $5.8 million for fires or explosions, $4.4 million due to storms, and $0.55 million from water damages. Extended downtimes contribute to greater financial setbacks. Having a good plan in place minimizes downtime and improves service in the meantime. Additionally, depending on the crisis's severity, your company might face liability issues — like chargebacks for services not provided — potentially escalating the costs further.

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How to Develop Your Business Continuity Plan: Step by Step

So, it’s clear why you need a business continuity plan in place. Next question: how do you get started?

Below, we’ve outlined the key steps you need to take to develop the kind of robust and resilient BCP you’ll need to overcome any challenge.

Identify Your Vulnerabilities

Step 01 | Identify Your Vulnerabilities

Start by identifying your organization’s vulnerabilities. Think about processing, fulfillment, supply, customer service, and shipping; all have unique risks that need to be carefully analyzed. Remember that disruption at any point in the chain can have a ripple effect throughout the entire organization.

Think about how public infrastructure damage after a disaster can break your shipping and supply chains. Pinpointing vulnerabilities — where merchandise is stored, reliance on on-site communications, order fulfillment capabilities during power outages, and accessibility issues — can help you anticipate those long-term consequences. Picking up on your weak points can mean the difference between a quick bounce back and lingering setbacks.

Key Questions:

  • What’s the likelihood of a disaster or other disruption of service happening?
  • What sources of revenue loss should you anticipate? How much could be lost?
  • How will productivity in individual departments be affected? How will productivity in other departments be impacted as a result?
  • How many customers or stakeholders might lose confidence in your service?
  • Are there external systems or apps that might cause additional delays if not in service?
  • What additional expenses will be needed to address the issue? Are there extra liability costs to consider?
  • What are the costs associated with implementing preventative measures?
Identify the Objectives

Step 02 | Identify the Objectives

Naturally, you want to get back up and running as soon as possible. But... what exactly does that mean? After all, it could take weeks, or even months, to fully recover from a disruption of service. In the meantime, you’ll need some key data points and benchmarks that you can track to determine whether your BCP is holding up to the pressure.

IT teams have a metric called recovery time objective (RTO) that we can borrow here. RTO is basically the amount of time it takes to get back online or regain access to data after an outage. You can apply the same idea here. Pinpoint key operations within your business, and develop a realistic timeframe that can serve as your “goal” for getting those operations back online to a serviceable point.

Key Questions:

  • What’s the estimated recovery time for a major disruption?
  • What are the most important processes that should be “high priorities” for getting up and running as soon as possible?
  • How much can you budget for short-term, emergency measures?
  • What constitutes practical “recovery,” considering that it may take months (or even years) to fully recover from a worst-case scenario crisis?
  • What preventative measures could you put in place before a crisis, to try and offset the worst impacts?
Develop a Strategy

Step 03 | Develop a Strategy

Building out your strategy means creating comprehensive, step-by-step plans for pushing through each of the risk factors you identified above.

For instance, let’s say a major storm knocks out power to your building for several days. How are you going to respond? One approach is to pre-designate a team that is responsible for finding a safe location with electricity. Another team might get tasked with coordinating remote work. A third team might be working onsite to try and back up data however they can. Remember that your plan needs to be thorough but practical; don’t expect miracles, or put unrealistic expectations on your team members, especially at times of crisis, when people might have family member to worry about.

Key Questions:

  • What are the five most important objectives that you intend to achieve with this plan?
  • What is the budget you’re able to allocate to this plan?
  • On what timeline can you allow recovery to take place?
  • Who is on your business continuity team, and what are their roles?
  • Who are the key stakeholders involved in the business continuity plan?
Refine

Step 04 | Refine

You can plan for any contingency you can imagine... eventually, you’re going to get caught off guard by a curveball, though. What do I mean? Well, think about Dr. Malcolm from Jurassic Park. Despite meticulous preparations, there’s always the element of chaos, ready to derail your best-laid plans.

Key Questions:

  • How often do you plan to test your BCP?
  • What practice scenarios will you run through to test your plan?
  • What processes will you use to test and update your plan?

Your business continuity plan should be a work in progress. You should periodically test your plan under conditions that simulate actual emergencies, like practicing a fire drill when you were in elementary school. This ensures your BCP is effective, and that you stand a good chance of identifying areas for improvement. Remember, an outdated BCP can be more detrimental than having none.

Real-World Example: A Sample Business Continuity Plan

Your business continuity plan doesn’t have to be a dense, impenetrable tome. You're not trying to rewrite Moby Dick over here. For most businesses, a few pages with critical information will do.

Here’s a basic rundown of the information to include as you craft your own BCP:

1

Objectives

You’re opening your business continuity plan with a basic rundown of what the plan will help you achieve. Provide a couple of paragraphs that outline the overall aims. Think about the objectives we discussed above; what specific, measurable goals do you hope your plan is going to help you accomplish?

2

Emergency Contacts

Communications can be disrupted in an emergency situation, and the usual channels that people might use to communicate within an organization could be unavailable. Provide a roster of points of contact that employees can use to stay in touch and get essential information. Also, provide the organization’s official social media pages, as crucial information could be distributed there, too.

3

Risk Factors

Give a brief rundown of all the risk factors that might impact your business. Are you located in Florida? Then there’s a good chance that a hurricane might impact your business at some point. Located in Upstate New York? A blizzard might be in your future. Outline the ways in which your facilities might be vulnerable to these threats.

4

Contingencies

For each risk factor listed above, provide an outline of how your organization is going to respond. For fires or other sudden and immediate threats to the facility, for example, include an evacuation plan, as well as instructions to recover data from backup servers in case onsite servers were damaged. For hurricanes, think about chains of contact, whether any staff will need to be onsite through the storm, etc.

5

Assignment of Duties

You need to outline which persons or departments will be responsible for filling key roles and taking up important responsibilities in each crisis scenario. You have to clearly outline each party’s tasks, decision-making powers, and channels of communication. You can assign short-term roles that might be needed only in a crisis, like incident coordinators, communication liaisons, and recovery team leaders. Making sure everyone understands their responsibilities will prevent confusion and make it easier to get back online.

6

Audit Protocol

End with instructions as to how your continuity plans for the scenarios you identified are going to be audited and updated periodically. Provide instructions for how this audit should be conducted, as well as guidelines for handling privileged or sensitive information that might be exposed through that process.

Do You Have a Plan in Place?

By now, it should be clear that a well-structured business continuity plan is going to be essential for organizational resilience. It will be the lifeline that keeps you afloat in difficult times.

This document will be a kind of “quick reference” guide to help you define evacuation procedures, assign roles and responsibilities, and establish a robust audit protocol. Remember, though, that the development of a BCP doesn't have to be an overwhelming and complex process. Using the template provided above can help you streamline the process.

Have other questions about business continuity? Want to learn how effective planning can help you protect your revenue and prevent losses resulting from chargebacks or canceled services? Contact us today to learn more.

FAQs

What are the consequences of not having a business continuity plan?

Failing to have a business continuity plan can lead to significant disruptions, prolonged downtime, and loss of revenue during unforeseen events. Additionally, it can damage your organization's reputation and result in a loss of customer trust.

Do you have to have a business continuity plan?

A business continuity plan is not legally required. However, a good BCP is still essential for every organization. It ensures that critical business functions can continue during and after a crisis, minimizing disruptions and safeguarding your revenue and reputation.

What should a business continuity plan include?

A business continuity plan should include a detailed strategy for maintaining operational functions during a crisis, identifying key personnel, critical business processes, and necessary resources. It must also incorporate communication protocols, recovery procedures, and regular testing and updates to ensure its effectiveness.

How to write a BCP plan?

To write a BCP plan, begin by conducting a thorough risk assessment to identify potential threats and their impact on business operations. Next, outline clear procedures for response and recovery, assign roles and responsibilities, and establish a communication plan to keep stakeholders informed during disruptions.

David DeCorte

Author

David DeCorte

David DeCorte is the Content Manager at Chargebacks911. He is the primary editor of the Chargebacks911 blog, and also writes and edits much of the material published offsite by the company. His work has been featured in numerous industry publications including Mashable, Business2Community, Fintech Futures, and more. David graduated from the University of South Florida with a degree in Creative Writing.

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