The dream of the paperless office remains a dream, but paper is no longer central to the functioning of most businesses. We rely instead on the information stored electronically inside our computers. This gives us access to more information than ever before, but also makes us completely dependent on the computers being available. No company can afford to stop conducting business just because the network goes down, though. Every company should have a business continuity plan (BCP) and a disaster recovery plan that lets it continue functioning while technical issues are addressed.
Keep Local Copies of Critical Information
Off-site storage may be the most secure way of keeping backups safe, but they’re no help when the network’s down. You should have copies of critical information available locally. The copies can even be printouts (as long as they’re fairly current). The key point is to make sure you can look up information you need to support customers.
Define Manual Processes
You want to be able to do more than look up information. You still want to conduct business, which means being able to take and process orders manually. For older businesses, this can mean retaining old procedure manuals from before the electronic systems were deployed; add instructions to support getting the manually recorded information into the electronic systems when they’re back online. Newer businesses may need to invent manual workarounds. In both cases, be sure employees have access to the instructions.
Conduct a Rehearsal
It’s also helpful to periodically conduct a rehearsal to make sure employees understand the process; since it’s not one they do on a daily basis, it won’t come naturally to them. The rehearsal should include the cleanup step of getting the information into the computers to make sure the manual process collects all the data needed for records to be accepted.
Developing the business continuity plan isn’t a one-time activity. As your company grows and new features are added to online systems, the BCP should be updated to include the new functions and processes. Because of the difficulty of manual operations, your BCP analysis may identify processes that you’ll put on hold during a crisis. You can use this insight to investigate whether there are ways to streamline and simplify the process, making it easier for your employees whether they’re working in a crisis or during routine operations.
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