Business Continuity Tip of the Month

Make yourself a tome

There can be a temptation to cram a business continuity plan with anything that might be vaguely useful in the event of its activation. After all, we don’t know precisely what’s going to hit us so we need to make sure the plan has everything in there that we might possibly need, don’t we? 
The trouble is that this tends to make the plan quite large. And one thing that’s pretty much guaranteed to ensure your business continuity plan never gets read, lovingly crafted though it may have been, is to make it large and verbose.
There are several ways keep the size of the plan down to sensible proportions. For instance :
  • Using a style of writing that’s concise and to the point. There’s a time and place for flowery prose, but the business continuity plan really isn’t it;
  • Abbreviating where appropriate – beware of overdoing this, however, and do ensure that the people using the plan actually understand what the abbreviations and acronyms mean;
  • Using checklists and action-oriented language, rather than huge tracts of text – “Prepare for return to BAU” uses a lot less space (and ink) than “As progress continues during the recovery operation, the team should be prepared to move back to the affected facility and resume normal business operations” (which, incidentally, came from a real plan!);
  • Giving careful consideration to what should and shouldn’t be documented in the plan. One old chestnut, for instance, is the fire evacuation procedure, which absolutely should not be in there (if people have to look in the business continuity plan when the alarm goes off to find out how to evacuate then someone’s completely missed the point!). Likewise, standard operating procedures and the contents of the yellow pages may be better left out; 
  • Avoiding specific scenario-based plans, unless absolutely necessary – except maybe some very high level ones, such as unavailability of premises, facilities, technology or people;
  • Avoiding repetition – one copy of a map or contact list or whatever in the appendices, rather than multiple copies of the same thing in several sections.
Not only are weighty, wordy plans unlikely to be read before the event but, worse still, they’re unlikely to be used at the time.
Bear in mind that the purpose of the plan is to aid the response and recovery teams in the event of an unexpected, difficult and potentially very stressful situation.
What people really need at that point is something concise, action-oriented and easy to use, not the business continuity equivalent of War and Peace.