Note: The inspiration and tips for this blog post came from a Kuali Ready webinar presented by Mary Lou East-Emmons of Indiana University and Beverley Wyatt of Ohio University. We want to give a big thanks to them for their excellent webinar presentation!
Does your institution have a continuity planning website? For over a third of higher education professionals, the answer is no. Even for institutions who have a continuity plan in place, the current website may not possess all the features or information that it needs to have.
Business continuity planning, or BCP, involves all the processes, strategies, and responses necessary to deal with possible threats to an institution or a company. Essentially, BCP is being ready to deal with any negative event that impacts your business— events like a fire or flood, a break in the supply chain of goods or materials, the sudden loss of a large percentage of the workforce, staff, or student body, or serious damage to buildings, machinery, or IT infrastructure. Well established business continuity plans ensure your school can focus more on teaching, and less time worrying about “what if” scenarios.
Discover 10 helpful tips for building your own business continuity planning informational portal, where everyone at your institution can go to find information about your business continuity plans.
Tip #1. Enlist the Support of Leadership
Depending on your audience, business continuity planning can sound a little dry and boring at first, so you may have some difficulty ensuring the involvement and compliance of all necessary personnel. To circumvent this issue, find a way to strategically use the leadership at your institution, such as vice presidents, presidents, managers, chancellors, or others. Ask these leaders to give you some pithy quotes, personal stories, or testimonials about risk awareness and preparedness, and then include those quotes on the website. This way, the faculty and staff at the institution will know that you and your BCP team have the full support of the leadership. They will begin to understand just how important these plans and strategies are to the future welfare and mission of your institution.
Tip #2. Know Your Audience
To whom are you directing the information on your BCP website? Who needs easy access to the strategies and plans that have been painstakingly crafted by your team and other departments? Is it other employees, upper-level administrators, faculty and staff, or coordinators and response teams? Identify your target audience and tailor the entire website to that audience’s needs. Others may come and go on the website out of curiosity, and that is fine; but the site should be designed for the people who will need it and use it most often. Be prepared to expand your reach to avenues such as social media networks, internet video channels, and other popular online connection sites, where many millennials like to find updates and information.
Tip #3. Create a Clean, Simple Website
Make your BCP website as clear and simple as possible. A clunky site that is hard to use and difficult to navigate is a roadblock to users and may prevent them from finding the vital information they need. Ensure that the content writers for the webpages, documents, and plans use clear, concise wording and an engaging tone. Include some appealing charts and images to visually engage with users. A webpage with a clean, minimalistic look is easier for people to browse than a crowded or unattractive one.
Tip #4. Start with the Big Picture
Instead of jumping right into the nitty-gritty details of response strategies and recovery plans, begin with the big picture. On the home page or landing page of the website, talk about some big risks or threats and show users the need for business continuity planning. Lay out some groundwork and some basics for risk assessment and response, then begin to drill down to the details with forms, training videos, response plans, and policy documents.
Tip #5. Remember to Include an FAQ Page
Do you keep receiving similar questions about your institution’s business continuity plans? Write down those questions and the answers, and include that information on your website’s FAQ page. If possible, implement a search feature associated with the FAQ page so that people can quickly find the responses to their questions. Once they have the information they need at their fingertips, they won’t need to contact your team as often, which will free up your time for more vital concerns.
Tip #6. Keep the Website Updated
Once you have built your business continuity planning website and designed it effectively, you may feel like sitting back and relaxing for a bit; but chances are, the first plans you created and posted on the website need to be reviewed and updated. Maintaining the website is an ongoing process, and there will always be elements of a strategy that need tweaking, or new plans that must be developed and included in response to new potential threats. If you do not keep the website fresh, current, and progressive, you’ll find that people cease to use it, which also means that they may not know how to respond to an emergency or where to find help if a problem occurs. Think of your BCP website as an ongoing process rather than a project with a definitive end.
Tip #7. Define the Terms
To coordinators who are involved in business continuity planning every day, certain terms become as familiar as their faces in the mirror. However, to others at the institution, those abbreviations, acronyms, and terms seem like a foreign language. Consider having a page that defines BCP terms alphabetically, in simple language, so users can build the vocabulary they will need to understand detailed continuity plans.
Tip #8. Include Training Videos
It’s helpful to have training videos on your website. Some individuals learn better and retain information more effectively when they are hearing the information and seeing a person speak, rather than simply reading words. Keep the videos short— a few minutes at most— and offer basic information about business continuity planning, critical risk factors, and other key terms. This way, new employees and long-term employees can stop by the website and brush up on the details of the current continuity plans for your college or university.
Tip #9. Partner with Internal Audit
If your institution has an Internal Audit department, you can partner with that group to gain more cooperation and support. Internal Audit has a vested interest in each department’s readiness in case of disaster or disruption. Team up with them to find out which departments already have plans in place and which ones still need to develop them.
Tip #10. Ask for Feedback
Are you unsure how to gauge the effectiveness of your BCP website? Ask people at your educational institution or your business to help you out. Create a scavenger hunt of sorts and find out how long it takes people to locate specific forms or pieces of information on the website. Send out a three-question survey to discovery how often people use the site and how the implement the information they find. With that feedback, you’ll be able to tweak the website’s form and function to better serve its intended purpose.
Having a digital center where your institution can store and manage its business continuity plans is crucial. This is where Kuali Ready, in addition to a well-designed information portal comes into play. Kuali Ready is an intuitive and easy-to-use continuity planning solution that gives every department at your school the tools they need to prepare for and even thrive after extraordinary events. Kuali Ready will help you identify critical functions by department, analyze the impact of disruption to those functions, plan strategies to quickly resume operations after a disruption, guide the implementation of your resiliency plans, evaluate their effectiveness, and manage your plans over time.
Coupled with a great informational website, Kuali Ready will be serve as one of your institution’s most valuable tools. Remember, your efforts directly affect the future health of the institution. As you consider risks, enact preventative measures, and upload documents and training videos, keep in mind that the efforts of your team may one day save the entire institution.
These 10 tips on building your own business continuity planning information portal were taken from a webinar hosted by Kuali Ready, on November 29, 2016. The webinar was entitled Lessons Learned While Creating a Campus Website in Support of BCP and was presented by two BCP industry leaders, Mary Lou East-Emmons of Indiana University and Beverley Wyatt of Ohio University. In the webinar they shared a wealth of knowledge on how an institution can get started in building a business continuity planning information portal. They also shared hands on examples of their own BCP information portals.
Two other BCP industry leaders and attendees on the webinar, Michelle Behne from California State University, San Bernardino and Jerica Deitrick from the University of Iowa, also shared the links to their own BCP websites after the webinar so we could share them here.
BCP in higher-ed industry leading examples
If you’d like to see how Indiana University has made their Kuali Ready hosted business continuity plans so easily accessible to all 7 of their regional campuses, you can see that here:
https://one.iu.edu/ (search for “Ready” in the search box)