This year will go down in business continuity planning history. The first weeks of 2020 ushered in a growing pandemic from the COVID-19 coronavirus, earthquakes in Puerto Rico, flooding in the south, and tornadoes in Tennessee. As a managed services provider (MSP) or value-added reseller (VAR), you’re probably tempted to give an I-told-you-so to businesses that put off contingency planning, but the last thing they need right now is dressing down. But you can take the opportunity as a trusted advisor to make sure they are prepared when — not if — the next disaster hits.
The Business Continuity Market
In early 2020, global consultancy firm Mercer surveyed companies around the world to learn how many were prepared for downtime from events such as the spread of coronavirus. They found 51 percent have no plans for how to address this type of emergency. Furthermore, 92 percent say working from home is their primary option when working at the office isn’t a possibility.
Circling back to why 2020 will go down in history, however, what if your employees can’t work at home either? Or, worse yet, what if your employees’ homes aren’t there at all?
A business continuity plan has to take all contingencies into account, and right now, businesses are probably realizing they didn’t even imagine some of the events that could bring operations to a halt. With the challenge of business continuity at hand, it’s a good time for VARs and MSPs to offer their services to build plans or update those that are inadequate.
A Good Business Continuity Plan Starts with an Assessment, Not a BDR Contract
You can’t help a business create a plan for how to keep operating in an emergency if you don’t understand its mission-critical operations and unique circumstances. Bill Bedsole, President of the William Travis Group, suggests that your team perform the assessment to eliminate biases or blind spots that your client may have.
For MSPs and VARs who sell backup and disaster recovery (BDR) solutions, it’s imperative that you realize that, although they are an important part of an overall business continuity plan, your clients are counting on you to provide more. They’ll expect you to cover everything they need to keep business running in an emergency.
Enables Teams with Tools and Communications
Cloud solutions and VPN make it easier for teams to access the information they need to do their jobs remotely, but a comprehensive business continuity plan will also include where they will work.
If your client wants to plan for teams to work from home, ensure their business continuity plan includes provisions for equipping employees with tools, laptops, devices or materials they need. Also, plan for alternate locations where people can work, if needed, and think through how to ensure those sites are equipped to accommodate employees and workload.
Business continuity plans should be organized to help eliminate the need to scramble when an emergency occurs. Guide businesses into making decisions in advance, training employees, and give them a way to quickly respond when disaster strikes so that panic doesn’t lead to unwise decisions.
A business continuity plan also needs to establish how your clients’ teams will communicate. Think through what your client will do if phone or internet service is disrupted, and put necessary infrastructure and instructions in place. In addition to internal communication, outline a plan for staying in touch with customers and partners so that your client can assure them that business continues and inform them of changes in venue, contact numbers, shipping schedules, and other vital data.
Another part of business continuity planning is determining who will be responsible for updating and executing the plan. A powerful example is the COVID-19 coronavirus. No one knew it even existed six months ago, but now, someone has to update a business’ continuity plan, addressing how to keep operations running if their area is subject to quarantines or if the majority of your client’s team takes PTO to recover from flu-like symptoms.
Also, don’t forget to establish who holds the purse strings if leasing an alternate location, replacing damaged equipment, or hiring temporary help becomes necessary.
As a trusted advisor or, more formally, a Business Continuity as a Service provider, define the role you will play, such as monitoring and maintaining solutions, so they’re ready when needed, walking your clients through plan updates and testing, and your responsibilities if disaster strikes.
Don’t Wait for Another Disaster
Demonstrating the importance of a business continuity plan won’t be easier than it is right now. You don’t want to approach this in an ambulance-chasing manner to capitalize on your clients’ misfortune, but you can come alongside them as a trusted partner to help them through a difficult time — and make sure that, next time, the situation won’t be as bad.