Throughout the life of any business adverse events are bound to happen, and the disruption of operations is inevitable. Even if it is not a catastrophic event you might see in a disaster movie, without the proper preparation even the most innocuous-seeming event can cause an organization harm through damage to critical functions, danger to essential personnel, or disruption of daily operations. Business continuity planning is the recognition of this reality, and the process of taking steps towards mitigating the amount of risk and damage to a business in these situations.
In higher education, the risks are more diverse than those you would find in a typical organization. Because an institution of higher learning must operate as a business, school, and research facility all at once, there are considerations that are completely unique to continuity planning in this space. However, many of the business continuity best practices, and steps for developing a business continuity plan remain the same.
In order to have a complete set of continuity plans for an institution of higher education, each department must put together a business continuity plan (BCP) for their unit. Those will be collected together in a unified document, the Enterprise Continuity of Operations Plan, or ECOOP (sometimes also known as an Enterprise Business Continuity Plan, or EBCP). This article will go over the main business continuity planning steps for a typical unit’s BCP, in order to provide a starting point. If you want to read a guide that goes into more detail, check out our ebook, A Complete Guide to Continuity Planning in Higher Education.
It’s important to note that the process of continuity planning will be ongoing — you don’t just run through some steps from beginning to end and then call it good. There will be a number of irons in the fire at the same time, and ongoing tweaks and changes will need to be made as your plans are exercised and re-evaluated.
The first step is to identify all of your department’s critical functions and operations, as well as essential personnel. You will then look at the various risks to those processes. Consider the ways in which various events could either cause damage to equipment or prevent operations from continuing. Think about the costs that will be associated with each risk.
Once you have identified each of the critical functions and the risks that are present, you will need to conduct a gap analysis to compare your department’s continuity requirements with its current plans and resources. As you take steps towards mitigating or eliminating these risks, you may also need to secure additional resources where necessary.
As you start to develop the specific strategies and plans for recovery, recording them in your BCP throughout, you will be able to identify gaps and seek out additional information from the relevant persons. You will also need to obtain executive sign off and work with other departments and the continuity manager who will be coordinating campus-wide efforts and compiling all BCPs together for the ECOOP.
It is not enough to put together a BCP and then wait for something to happen. You will need to conduct exercises and tweak the plan as necessary. There are a number of ways to exercise a continuity plan, ranging from table-top exercises to full “as live” walkthroughs. This will help educate everyone as to their roles in an emergency situation, as well as identify gaps or problems with your current plan. Any issues can be tweaked before exercising the plan once more and solutions to gaps or problems identified during the exercise should be added to your continuity plan.
A crucial aspect of continuity planning is reporting on resilience. Reporting is essential for gaining institution-wide support, as well as guaranteeing compliance with various federal and state regulations. After events, you will have to fill out specific reports that detail how plans were executed, what went well, and what needs to be fixed before future events.
Of course, these steps only scratch the surface of how to create a business continuity plan, but they should give you a good starting point for further research. What does a good BCP look like? An effective BCP will instill a culture of resilience in your institution from top to bottom. It will have a clear purpose and cover every mission-essential operation in your department, providing the best chance of maintaining continuity during and after events, and a full recovery afterward. It will include special considerations for protecting both staff and students, and detailed plans for continuing communications and disseminating information during and after adverse events.
Kuali Ready is designed with all of these features in mind. With regular status updates, you can keep track of your progress as you build your business continuity plan; compile pertinent information from relevant persons through simple question-based forms, and pull reports at any time to deliver to leadership. Kuali Ready is an easy-to-use cloud-based solution you will be able to access from anywhere at any time. Most important of all, it minimizes time spent away from the other essential aspects of your job. Read more about Kuali Ready and request a free trial today.