Is your business continuity sound?

Check out some tips in this article quoting Baker Tilly risk specialists in the May 13, 2013 edition of IA Week, a newsletter published by IA Watch.

The following article is reprinted with permission from IA Watch.

Try this BCP scenario: An emergency strikes and the boss is AWOL; now what?

The CEO gathered his team in a conference room. Special guests sat among the invitees: consultants with surprising news. Pretend an emergency has hit that requires the implementation of the firm’s business continuity plan – and the CEO’s not here.

"We reminded them that things can happen at" any time, recalls Dan Steiner, manager in the risk adviser consulting group of Baker Tilly, an accounting and consulting firm. Precious minutes ticked away as the executive team struggled to figure out who would take charge during the mock emergency.

This real-life test may be illustrative for your firm, too. Make sure your BCP gets to all parties and that they know their role and the organization’s "plan for getting back up and running," recommends Eric Wunderlich, a Baker Tilly manager in Chicago.

A common mistake firms make is to not even bother to test their BCP, says Steiner, who helps firms assess their plans. He works in the consulting side of the firm.

Don’t ‘break the team’

Set up a BCP team and start small, he advises. "You don’t want to break the team" by overreaching in a test exercise. "You want to make sure that you’re setting people up for success while at the same time challenging them so they can improve," Steiner urges.

Begin with a table top exercise. Perhaps move on to videos or scenarios. Or test your plan in segments. Look for gaps each time. "The whole idea is to get better tomorrow than you were today," says Steiner.

Once your team knows their roles, consider cross training them by rotating the roles periodically. This builds flexibility in case of absences in a real emergency.

And while you "don’t want to interrupt your operations to test your business continuity plan," it’s necessary to do some type of exercise for those employees who are only there during the day, he continues.

Another common BCP mistake that besets firms is poor communication. Phone trees break down. Operations doesn’t talk with IT. People feel left in the dark, and not because the power is out. Department heads should have a good rapport before a crisis, stresses Steiner.

Consider simplifying your plan, suggests Chris Tait, a Baker Tilly director in Milwaukee. Too much complication can confuse.

And periodically check those vendor contracts. Talk with them, too. You want to avoid a situation where, in a crisis, the vendor seeks to serve only its bigger paying customers and ignores the little guys. Smaller RIAs may be wise to favor mid-size or smaller vendors, Steiner adds.

Other tips include to assign staff g-mail addresses in case your server does down and open a Skype account and alert clients to turn to there in an emergency.
 

This excerpt from the May 13, 2013 edition of IA Week, a newsletter published by IA Watch, is provided with permission from IA Watch.