Having a business continuity strategy has never been more important than now. Small businesses face ever-increasing challenges involving regulatory compliance, severe weather incidents, an increase in ransomware attacks and Brexit. While any combination of these scenarios can deal a devastating blow to a business of any size, the threats are heightened for small businesses, which are usually running on limited resources and budgets.

It’s not surprising that many businesses are bringing on business continuity managers to cope with this huge range of threats. Yusuf Ukaye, business continuity specialist at IT Specialists (ITS), will be revealing what a successful business continuity manager needs to keep up with today’s business world at the BCI World event, where Ukaye will be participating on the “Professional development: New skills for a changing landscape” panel. The advice is equally applicable for small businesses choosing to outsource to a consultant, as many do. Regardless of whether a business continuity planner is on staff or outsourced, the person serving in this role must have the following skills:

Ensure an ability to mitigate interdependencies throughout the organisation

Business continuity planning begins by evaluating how soon each department and function must be up and running in the event of a disaster. By nature, business continuity is fast-paced and dynamic, so planners must be skilled at regularly consulting with various departments and extracting key information about what they require to operate and how soon these functions must be restored. The planner must identify interdependencies throughout the organisation and identify strategies for mitigating them.

Breed familiarity with testing best practices

As experienced business continuity planners will tell you, even the most brilliant plan is worthless if it can’t be implemented in the real world. Conducting desktop exercises is a simple way to ensure key employees are aware how they should respond in the event of a disaster. For example, as flood risk increases throughout the UK, it’s fitting to have employees walk through a flooding scenario. They can discuss things such as when it’s unsafe to commute, how to communicate with co-workers and customers, and how to access critical applications.

The planner should be sure the organisation also performs regular real-world tests. These tests needn’t be full-scale tests every time. For example, Rentsys Recovery Services, ITS’ sister company in the US, conducts semi-annual tests of a single predetermined critical technology component, such as alternate internet connectivity, critical applications and data, and redirection of inbound or outbound calling. At least every year, the company performs a full business continuity test.

Become skilled at getting buy-in

Without the participation of key employees, the business continuity plan won’t achieve the desired results. An effective business continuity planner has the ability to inspire internal stakeholders to skilfully and enthusiastically respond to any incident with passion and skill by building relationships. The business continuity planner gains the respect of employees by demonstrating that they’re empathetic, proactive, innovative and approachable.

Develop a knack for choosing the right technology

In addition to having people skills, a business continuity planner must be highly tech savvy, as cybersecurity and information assurance is now core to most business operations. Keeping business systems online and operational is extremely important, and businesses of all sizes are adopting disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS) solutions. Managing data is a big challenge, and sometimes outsourcing is a must, especially for small businesses. A business continuity planner should be able to instruct a business in selecting a technology solution best suited for the business.

For example, strategic use of hybrid cloud can help small businesses protect their data and IT environments without draining their resources. A key benefit of hybrid technology is the ability to back up critical business data in the cloud (thus mitigating local incidents, both technical and physical) but also on local dedicated hardware, so restoring data doesn’t require it to be downloaded from the cloud.

There’s no denying that small businesses are up against a host of challenges. With guidance from a skilled business continuity planner, however, a business interruption doesn’t have to be catastrophic.

By Yusuf Ukaye, business continuity and disaster recovery specialist, IT Specialists (ITS)