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Why an operations backup plan is essential...

From global to local... be prepared to manage your business in any circumstance.

On a recent morning, a software firm, Jawtech, sent 30 team members home. The company wasn’t lacking for work, with three mid-cycle projects and several ongoing contracts to complete, nor was it related to positive Covid-19 cases. And, after shifts in vendors and adjustments to project timelines, the reason didn’t lie with supply chain issues.

It was the two feet of standing water in Jawtech’s headquarters that was the problem, and it threatened to derail operations. At least one client had already called, concerned over an approaching delivery deadline.

Even worse, the city’s code officers said the structure could be condemned due to structural damage.

Team members were prepared to work from home — they had only recently returned to the office after 18 pandemic months — but the servers they logged into were down because the building’s power had been shut off.

Their backup power source? Non-operational. It was one of several facility issues that hadn’t been addressed due to the demand of day-to-day operations.

While Jawtech survived the pandemic and had adjusted operations affected tangentially by the continuing the war in Ukraine, it was 12 inches of water that nearly brought the company down.

Looking back two months earlier, Jawtech’s leadership could say the company survived the disaster but not without consequences, some of which may turn out to be long lasting. But what Jawtech now has, that was previously lacking, is a backup plan for the next time an unexpected disaster strikes.

Jawtech is not the company’s legal name but its experience is one that’s replayed countless times across organizations all over the world. It shows why risk management is critical and why Boost Midwest works with small and mid-size companies to create operations contingency plans that meet their specific business needs. Below are key foundations of an operations contingency plan based on the most up-to-date best practices.

5 Key Foundations of an Operations Contingency Plan

1. Plan for All Scenarios.

Scenario planning is an exercise in anticipation and response. This is where you identify, assess and prioritize all the possible risks that your organization could face in all the different emergency scenarios. Natural and human-made disasters, intentional disruptions, and critical equipment and resource breakdowns should all be on the list. Plus, it’s crucial to involve all team members, since every department and role is more likely to know the risks that would affect its area of operations. This will also ensure that the most critical questions are addressed and the contingency plans developed are realistic and correctly scaled.

Another question to ask is, what constitutes a disaster that kicks the contingency plan into action? You may be surprised at how different people define an emergency or disaster. This should be codified at the top of the emergency response manual of your organization. This is the next step in preparing for disasters.

2. Create a Disaster Response Manual.

This is a document that should be drafted with input by every department connected to operations —even for responses not for their particular area of concern. The manual should list all roles and responsibilities, the response protocol for each disaster, and be kept up-to-date through regular reviews.

Who is responsible? Who is accountable? This should be laid out in black and white so the entire organization knows who, when, and where to turn for specific scenarios. Even the custodial staff should know whom to call after working hours if disaster strikes. Also, best practices call for one person to “own” the manual, and for it to be accessible in digital and print format to all employees.

During normal operations, businesses don’t operate alone, and this should hold true during emergencies, too. Your organization is part of the larger community and can play a critical role during disasters that strike more than just your operations.

Businesses have a unique opportunity in identifying capabilities that can help during emergencies,” states in “Leadership in Business Resilience.” How your organization responds to disaster can influence your entire community in a positive or negative way.”

3. Make a Recovery Plan.

Once the initial emergency is over, how will your organization resume normal operations of its essential functions? Recovery planning lays out the step-by-step procedures for the recovery and operation of all essential business functions. This piece of the plan is fluid rather than static, because recovery measures are based on what is occurring on the ground in real time. The decision and initiation of the appropriate action will depend on what specifically is happening now.

Who are your recovery partners? These are companies who specialize in services like decontamination, repair, recertification, cleaning, data recovery, public relations, and so on. They are your key partners to include in the planning process.

In addition, the National Incident Management System, created in 2003 by the Department of Homeland Security and continuously updated, links government agencies and private sector organizations to coordinate a response to disasters. This resource should not be overlooked.

It’s worth repeating the importance of including who makes the hard decisions and who is accountable. However, the “who” should not be a particular employee but the position they hold, so the entire response manual isn’t outdated when a key employee leaves the company.

4. Conduct a Stress Test.

To ensure that your response plan will adequately cover all scenarios, your organization should test and then evaluate each one to uncover any gaps and ensure employees are sufficiently trained.

This is a rehearsal of potential disasters and your organization’s response and will help management and team members gain confidence in the plan. It also will foster a culture of cooperation during disasters, when communication is critical to the response and recovery.

Stress testing your plan will also verify that everyone fully understands what constitutes a disaster, knows what they are responsible for, and the specific steps to take.

5. Review and Update.

As important as creating an operations contingency plan is its review. Changes in personnel, organizational structure, technology, outside vendors and even local government may call for plans and partners to change.

Create a review schedule that includes stress tests, to update and verify that the organizational responses to disasters still meet its needs.

For a free consultation on how to prepare for emergencies and keep your business resilient through appropriate disaster management, contact Boost Midwest today.

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Ready to learn more about how Boost Midwest can help you optimize your project management and operations?

Schedule your free consultation call with us today using our Quick Schedule Link here.

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