Running an institution effectively involves making smart, informed plans and following them. Your institution may have a plan for hiring new professors, for managing research, or for soliciting donations—but do you have a continuity plan in place? This type of plan helps your institution continue moving forward despite adverse events. Paul Diamond, Kuali Ready creator and former continuity manager at UC Berkeley, once said, “Continuity planning helps you to do tomorrow what you were doing yesterday, no matter what happens today.” In a webinar hosted by Kuali, Tufts University shared the following thoughts on how to enhance your business continuity plan.
Tip #1: Identify Your Team’s Responsibilities
When you’re assembling the continuity planning team, make sure that you have enough full-time faculty or staff on the team to oversee any issues that arise. You’ll also need a director, preferably an emergency management specialist, to provide the team with leadership.
Much of the team’s time will be taken up with adjusting or adding to the current continuity plan, working with individual departments and building out features of the plan as new buildings are added to the institution. An institution is constantly facing change, including technology changes, staffing changes, and new competition. It’s the job of the continuity planning team to build a strategy and present it in a way that helps each department pursue continuity and stability.
Tip #2: Connect Effectively with the Departments
Ideally, the senior leaders at your organization should speak to the department managers and ask them to contact the emergency management office about department-level implementation of the plans. “When we first reached out to the departments, we went through the senior leaders,” explains Matthew Hart, an emergency management specialist at Tufts University. “We didn’t reach out directly to the managers responsible for developing the plans; we had the senior leaders ask them to reach out to us. They had to initiate that communication, so that it wasn’t us going to them and asking them to do something, it was their senior leader asking them to talk to us first.”
Tip #3: Provide Training Sessions
If you’re using a continuity plan that involves software or special tools like Kuali Ready, you’ll need to provide training for your institution’s staff and faculty. You can offer workshops and encourage participation in various ways. At the first session, introduce the attendees to the concept of continuity planning and its importance. Then, explain how the tools and software you have chosen help to implement your plan. Advise the attendees on how to use the technology and key resources you are presenting.
Keep the sessions fairly short, about an hour or so, and let everyone know that your emergency management specialists and continuity planners are available to help them as they work through their own department-level implementation.
Tip #4: Encourage Compliance
You may find that you have a department or group within your organization that seems resistant to the continuity programs and policies. You’ll also discover that other departments are naturally more eager and excited about the plan. It’s okay if all departments don’t show the same level of engagement, but there are a couple ways you can seek to improve compliance.
The office of emergency management and continuity planning should be reporting annually to the leaders of the institution. Let them know where each department stands with regards to plan status and cooperation. That way, each department head can see what the other departments are doing.
“We share [the plan status of each department] with all of the senior leaders, so that not only can they see how they’re doing, but they’ll also be able to see their peers,” says Hart. “We hope to create some healthy competition.” At Tufts, the senior leaders approved this policy and are able to enforce compliance as they see fit within their respective departments.
Tip #5: Ensure that the Plan is Actionable
When an emergency situation arises, how do you activate the plan? How does it come off of paper into real-life, meaningful actions that support your organization’s daily functions? “We see these plans as options for how to cope with certain situations,” says Matthew Hart. “If something happens and you need to change the way you’re doing business, how do you communicate with each other?”
Since each department’s function is different, each continuity plan will look different. Some may include specific steps to follow or “if/then” scenarios. Others may simply be about a chain of communication—who would you wake in the middle of the night to address an issue? Who would need to be part of a conference call about an impending or occurring disaster? It’s vital that your emergency management team be available to help the departments develop plans that will actually work in a crisis.
Adopting a continuity plan for an entire institution is a big job. You’ll need all the support you can get from your team, your organization’s senior leadership, the department managers, and the individual faculty and staff. Fortunately, there is also a useful tool from Kuali to help you develop and implement a masterful business continuity plan. Additionally, you can learn more about how Tufts improved their BCP by watching Kuali webinar featuring Tufts. With careful thought, strategy sessions, and a tactful approach, you can provide your institution with an effective defense against calamities.