What is Business Continuity Planning?

20 March 2024
Reena Patel, MNP

Business continuity planning is the process of developing strategies aimed at reducing the impact of a disruption to normal business operations. The goal of business continuity planning is to ensure that, even during a disruption, a co-operative’s business operations can continue at a reduced but acceptable level.  

Why is Business Continuity Planning important? 

Many incidents can affect a co-operative’s ability to operate: pandemics, cyber attacks, and severe weather events (e.g., ice storms) are just a few of the things that can disrupt a co-op's ability to serve its members. No plan will have all the answers or address every interruption, but having a business continuity strategy in place will help to minimize the impact and consequences. This is why business continuity planning is important. It gives a co-operative the ability to continue conducting its essential activities before, during, and after an incident or event.  

How do you build a Business Continuity Plan?  

You can create your own Business Continuity Plan by following a few key steps.  

  1. Determine Who Needs to be Involved: Business continuity planning is a collaborative process that generally involves the co-operative leadership team and occasionally a few other key stakeholders. 

  1. Understand Critical Business Activities: The first step in building a business continuity plan is to decide what activities are critical to your co-op’s operations. The best way to do this is by asking yourself about the potential impacts if an activity could not be completed. For example, if monthly housing charges were not deposited, would the co-op be at risk of missing a mortgage payment? Consider the possible impact on health and safety, finances, operations, legal or regulatory requirements and your co-op's reputation. If an activity is extremely important and has significant impact if it is not conducted, it is considered a critical activity.   

  1. Understand Key Resources: Determine what resources are needed to perform the critical activities. These can include the following:  

  • Information Technology: What IT applications support the critical activities?  

  • People: Whom do you need to complete the critical activities?  

  • Equipment: What equipment does your co-op need to perform the critical activities? Consider IT (e.g., laptops) and non-IT equipment (e.g., tools).  

  • Data and Information: What data and information does your co-op need to perform the critical activities? Is the data in digital or print format? Where is it saved or stored?  

  • Interdependencies: What organizations and individuals do you rely on to complete your critical activities (e.g., bank/credit union, contractors, vendors or suppliers)? 

  1. Determine Strategies and Actions: Now that you understand what your critical activities are and the resource required, decide on your strategies and actions if you experience a business disruption. Consider the following business continuity scenarios:  

  • Loss of IT: How would you complete your critical activities if you lost access to your IT applications, systems, data and information? What are your manual workarounds? Can you recover your lost IT systems or digital data and information? Do you back up your co-op’s data? How often? 

  • Loss of Facility: How would you continue your operations if your co-op office were unavailable? Is there an alternate location your staff could work from?  

  • Loss of Staff: How would you perform your critical activities if the people who normally conduct them fall ill or are otherwise unavailable? Is someone available to take over critical functions? Are there any written procedures they can follow?  

  • Loss of Third-Party Service Provider: Are there alternate contractors, vendors or suppliers that you can call on to get the work done? If not, do your essential third parties have their own Business Continuity Plan?  

  1. Determine Your Actions: Once you decide on your strategies, create an action checklist. This will set out the step-by-step activities you would take to respond to any disruptive event (such as the four scenarios above). Remember to include both your response actions during the event and your recovery actions after the event.  

  1. Identify the People: Decide who would lead any response to a business continuity disruption and identify a backup. Consider who is available and has the skill set, not necessarily who is president of the board. The response leader will provide overall guidance and direction, while being supported by key stakeholders who execute the actions. Identify any external stakeholders that you may call upon during the disruption. Develop a contact list with information on the key individuals and third parties who would be involved in your response.  

  1. Document the Plan: Record all the information in the areas above, including the critical activities and resources, your strategies for the four key scenarios and your action checklist, along with any other relevant information (e.g., contact list). This is your Business Continuity Plan.  

Maintaining Your Business Continuity Plan 

Review and update your Business Continuity Plan every year to ensure the information remains current and relevant and that your plan will be effective.  

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