An effective Business Continuity Plan (BCP) typically includes IT disaster recovery plus contingency/backup plans for critical business operations. Most BCPs focus on restoring key business functions in terms of relocating facilities, machinery, people or equipment so that the operations necessary to keep the business alive can be carried on even if the business is hit with a flood, fire, blizzard, etc.
This is all very important to have in place. But what many BCPs do not consider is loss of key people in the organization. The BPC may have answers to “what happens when the warehouse is under water?” or “what happens when the online order system goes down?”; this presumes the disruptive vent will be some sort of physical “disaster”. But what about the question “what happens when the only person in the company who knows how to make product X leaves? or gets sick?”. What happens if the CEO / owner of a company leaves or passes on? Then what?
This very important question of Succession Planning needs to be factored into your Business Continuity Planning strategy. As part of Business Impact Assessment and Risk Analysis, you need to look for key areas of the business / organization where there is a key individual who has exclusive skill or knowledge which are vital to keeping the business running. This could be in senior management or on the floor or in sales; it could happen anywhere in the organization.
When vital knowledge or skills are held by just one person, this is a risk to the business which needs to be addressed in your Business Continuity Plan. Beyond planning for fire and floods, what happens if one of these key individuals suddenly is not there? They could be snapped up by the competition or they could be run over by a bus; it doesn’t matter why, the fact is they were there yesterday but today they are not and because of that the key function they were performing is also not there. What happens next is key to maintain the resiliency of your business or organization. There needs to be an effective plan in place to keep this key process/function running. Succession Planning means you have someone else being trained as a back-up for the key individual, some who may or will one day take over their role in the organization (an apprentice to the master, or expert-in-training). The fact is, that effective BCP requires that you are not reliant on any one person to keep the origination operational. This very important area should not be overlooked when conducting the Business Impact Assessment which will fame out the requirements for the BCP. Remember, people are your most valuable asset.