Today, financial leaders from across the globe face serious challenges as it relates to business continuity and disaster recovery. Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic has introduced major setbacks even for the most seasoned financial firms. In fact, according to Garner's recent business continuity survey, only 12 percent of organizations were "highly prepared" for COVID-19.
So, what does this all mean for your financial organization?
The fact is, a business continuity and disaster recovery plan is paramount in the 21st century. Here are some mission-critical steps to build a robust business continuity and disaster recovery plan for your growing financial organization.
How to Build a Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Plan During COVID-19
A business continuity (BC) management plan outlines the steps your financial institution will take to maintain business operations despite unplanned or unforeseen disasters.
Don't confuse a BC plan with a DR plan, however. A DR plan focuses on restoring IT infrastructures and operations after a crisis and not the long-term impacts the disaster will have on your core business functions. Every thorough BC plan will include a DR plan within it.
Failure to create and implement a thorough BC and DR plan leaves a lot of room for things to go from bad to worse while in the midst of a disaster (such as COVID-19).
To give your business the best shot at successfully navigating COVID-19 and/or other unforeseen disasters, we recommend following these steps to build a BC and DR plan:
1. Identify the Scope of the Plan
Defining your BC plan's scope involves considering all processes and functions within your business that are necessary to maintain day-to-day operations.
Keeping your day-to-day operations flowing smoothly in the midst of a crisis sends a strong message to your customers and other stakeholders.
They can be more confident in your leadership capabilities and the business’s ability to weather the storm when disruptions to core operations are minimal.
Get a big picture idea of your core business processes and functions and then dive into them much deeper in steps 2 and 3.
2. Identify Key Business Areas
Identifying key business areas means defining which processes are vital to keeping your doors open in the middle of a crisis, and long after.
Once you’ve identified those vital processes, you’ll need to mitigate the impact the crisis could have on those processes and to your business as a whole.
Workflows, interviews, organizational charts, network diagrams/topologies, and data flow diagrams are good places to start identifying business processes and hierarchies.
3. Identify Key Business Functions
After you’ve identified the key processes within your business, you need to dig even deeper and identify all the key business functions too.
Are there any key functions that you could automate? Including automated functionality provides significant value to customers and helps your business operate more efficiently during an unplanned event.
The COVID-19 pandemic has required financial organizations to invest in technology solutions designed to automate many core business processes. An investment in these technologies requires a careful analysis and consideration of associated risks and compliance implications. And in terms of day-to-day operations, financial firms must assess the effectiveness of automated solutions to minimize downtime and facilitate expedient recovery.
4. Identify Acceptable "Downtime"
Maximum acceptable downtime is the amount of time that key business processes and functions can be down before it becomes devastating to your organization.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a “one-size-fits-all” approach that specifies how long is acceptable or not. You’ll need to assess and monitor key processes and functions within your company to better determine how long they can be down before it becomes a major threat to your ability to keep your doors open.
Revenue-generating processes and functions are the most crucial to maintaining your organization's most critical operations and warrant the most scrutiny.
5. Create a Response and Recovery Plan
Now that you’ve identified all key processes and functions and you’ve determined what an acceptable downtime is, it’s time to create your response and recovery plan.
We highly recommend using the CDC’s Pandemic Intervals Framework (PIC) as an outline for your plan. Create action steps your company will take depending on what interval you’re currently operating under.
For example, during the acceleration stage, what processes and procedures will you be thinking about that would be impacted the most? Document these possible scenarios and the plan you’ll put into action even if they come to pass.
6. Perform Routine Disaster Simulation Testing
The best way to determine if your plan will be effective is to perform routine disaster simulation testing. This type of testing makes it possible to identify potential weaknesses or things you might have overlooked.
Create a structured walk-through of every possible disaster you can think of, and have your team go through the actions outlined in the plan to spot any gaps. Make sure to document their feedback so you can update your BC/DR plan with the necessary improvements. Despite all your planning, testing, and tweaking, you can still miss detrimental weaknesses that could leave your organization open to major risks.
It’s best to bring in a 3rd-party risk management service to help you create and implement a BC/DR plan so you can minimize any risks you might not think of on your own or during simulation testing with your team.
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