If you' re thinking about creating a contingency or disaster plan for your business, you' re not alone. A contingency plan has always been something that no business should be without, but the events of September 11, 2001 underscored the importance of such preparation.
Todd Gordon is the president and general manager of IBM' s Business Continuity and Recovery Services group that works with 12,000 customers in 76 countries. A 20-year IBM veteran, Gordon has seen many disasters that endangered the survival of important IBM business clients. Although Gordon mainly works with larger companies, he believes that small companies often have much more to lose than the big guys if they don' t have a continuity plan. " Small businesses typically don' t invest the time, effort, and resources to design redundancy into their systems," Gordon explains. " And it' s a real paradox, because small businesses that face a disruption tend to face tremendous financial hardships."
By creating a disaster plan, says Gordon, you perform an analysis that increases the chance your business will survive. You determine where your business comes from, what people you need for the business to function, and what resources you need for it to continue functioning.
The best way to start, Gordon suggests, is to develop a skeleton plan. Then, over the next 30 to 60 days, you create the next layer of the plan, and continue to fill in the blanks over the course of the next six months or so. It' s a huge project, and can seem overwhelming at the start. But think about it - consider all of the things that could go wrong: fire, flood, tornado, anthrax, workplace violence, hurricane, bomb threats, the death of key employees in a car accident or plane crash, burglary, and the list goes on. The key is to focus on the situations most relevant to your business, and to develop contingency plans for all of those situations.
The time-consuming process can have unexpected benefits. " Thinking about and creating a contingency plan forces you to think about what the most critical aspects of your business are, and this disciplined analysis can be an opportunity to become more efficient," says Gordon. " For example, as you review your key revenue generators and their vulnerabilities, you may find opportunities for automation."
Based on our conversations with Gordon and other disaster planning experts, we created an eight-point list to help you get started with your plan.