Nothing is more important to an enterprise than its people and ongoing operations. There are plenty of reasons why an enterprise fails. Typically, it is because it can no longer afford to maintain operations, but the reasons for that failure typically involve the failure of management to properly assess its operations against the competition, its ability to innovate, and its ability to forecast its perspective of the market, the competition, and how it will navigate through those variables.
But there is another cause of failure. It should not be a cause of failure, but it often is: natural or man-made disaster that physically destroys some or all of the enterprise. The typical causes are fire, flood, storm or earthquake. However, even invisible effects take their toll such as extended loss of power, even though the enterprise‘s physical manifestation is intact.
The answer to overcome disaster and to recover and maintain at least critical-path operations of the enterprise is for management to impose the necessity of contingency planning. It must calculate what specific kind of disaster could interrupt enterprise operations, even for a short period of time, and what actions are necessary to reinstate those critical-path operations while full recovery from the disaster is played out.
Here are the Major Points of a Contingency Plan:
1. What are the critical-path operations of the enterprise? Some operations may be important, but not critical. Which operations would cause the operation to fail?
2. What types of disaster would cause failure of critical-path operations? Fire? Flood? Earthquake? Loss of power? Loss of road access to the site?
3. Can critical-path operations be initiated and maintained off-site if the site is too badly damaged for operations on site, or the site cannot be accessed? Can critical-path employees work at home? If the enterprise is a manufacturing plant, could tooling and material be delivered to another plant in the enterprise, or, if needed, can pre-planning negotiate with another company, even a competitor, to operate the tooling during re-construction?
4. Is there an adequate enterprise backup solution for recovery of critical-path data? Is it immediately accessible and can it be recovered on a timely basis to start-up and maintain critical-path operations? Is it off-site?
5. Is there potential loss of life on site in a disaster? Which employees might be more at risk by loss of life because of their location in the site? Are they involved in critical-path operations? Do they have back-up?
An enterprise contingency plan can only be as effective as its management team is dedicated to finding the brutally honest answers to these questions, then acting on the deficiencies to improve them now. The last point may appear callous, but it is an essential consideration. If current conditions of certain locations on site present the possibility of loss of life, now is the time to make safety corrections wherever possible. Immediately behind consideration of the safety of employees in a disaster is the safety of the enterprise critical-path data and their backup and recovery. If the current enterprise backup solution is ineffective against disaster, it should be replaced.