Business Continuity Planning - Helper Zhou from Sigma International
Business Continuity Planning - Helper Zhou from Sigma International

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Business Continuity Planning - Helper Zhou from Sigma International


A panacea to today's constant economic, social and political upheavals that threaten business continuity

There are risks or events businesses can foresee and then there are those they can't: the so-called 'black swans' that spring from nowhere; the high-profile, high-impact, unpredictable and rare events.

Research shows that SMMEs in South Africa have a concerning high failure rate of 70% within first year of operations and 50% cannot surpass five years. Whilst lots of reasons have been noted, a closer look indicates that Business Continuity Planning (BCP) is one of the missing links that unfortunately has been relegated by both corporates and small businesses alike. The 2013 KPMG report shows that many businesses across Africa are at risk of an inability to responding in a planned and organised manner to major incidents with direct impact on their core business activities.

This leaves businesses exposed to danger when unexpected events adversely impact businesses in many ways which include: revenue loss, reputational costs, temporary suspension of operations, and in some instances ultimate closure of business.

The unexpected can happen to any organisation, at any time. While you cannot control the unexpected,
you can control how you respond.  The recent terror attacks in Europe, ravaging Canadian fires, hacking
of the Democrats e-mails and growing regulatory restrictions are just but a few examples of unexpected disruptions yet with far reaching consequences. As such BCP is more than just a buzzword, but rather a strategic tool any forward looking organisation must have. In the developed world, the 9/11 terror attacks as well as the 2007-9 global financial crisis was enough a wakeup call, and now the majority of all types and sizes of businesses generally embrace business continuity planning into corporate planning to ensure that businesses keep standing in the midst of any sort of disruptions they may encounter from internal and external caprices. Notwithstanding this concerning reality, it's sad to note the current level of shocking dereliction by many businesses in Africa and particularly in South Africa as they are conspicuously not keen on developing and implementing a sustainable BCP plan.

"We learn from history that man can never learn anything from history," said Georg W Hegel and this seem to be the case with many businesses across South Africa.  Their operations are exposed to unwarranted danger when various events occur and they end up resorting to knee-jerk responses. This danger is testified by the rate at which many businesses found it hard to respond to a litany of recent developments like the weakening rand, Uber revolution, El Nino induced drought, the Brexit, and union led strikes.

The abrupt import ban by the Zimbabwean government is one example that demonstrates the essence of a robust continuity plan for all organisations. Reports indicated that businesses in Musina alone lost about R100 million and more than 50 small businesses closed. The protests that erupted affected cargo
transporters from South Africa and beyond, that use the Beit Bridge border post, one of the biggest ports of entry in the region.  Many businesses were said to be stuck with perishables, some had ordered stock on credit and had no market to sell these items. A legal challenge was also created, as these businesses were now in danger of violating their service level agreements with suppliers.

The recent tornado destruction presents yet another warning regarding lack of BCP. Reports indicate that the mall in Thembisa was ravaged, affecting a number of business operators, with 400 people being isplaced. A simple prognosis will tell anyone that businesses in the mall were forced to stop operating forthwith and those without insurance for such eventualities will find it hard to crawl back into business. On the other hand, the businesses in the area, which were spared damages, have yet another intense hurdle of drastic drop in revenues since the displaced 400 people (consumers) are no longer available.

As can be seen, it can take just one disruption and like volcanic eruptions the entire business would be gutted by the proverbial inferno. Yet with up to date BCP, businesses can navigate past such turbulent times. These recent events must present enough an impetus to the South African businesses on ethinking BCP as a strategic tool that can save them from tottering all over when the unexpected strikes. Many international organisations have sung from the same page regarding the essence of BCP as a continuity management plan, with ISO 22301, asserting that "Most organisations will, at some point, be faced with having to respond to an incident which may disrupt or threaten the day-to-day operations of their business".

However, one of the worst pitfalls many organisations have trapped themselves in is mistaking risk management plan and disaster recovery plan to be the equivalent of BCP yet the duo are but pieces of the overall puzzle. The BCP looks at each and every aspect of the business and assesses the impact of various disruptions to these key organisational pillars with enterprise-wide lances. After conducting the impact analysis, the company will be in a position to identify and rank various disruptions based on severity, thus aiding the development of a methodical drill, which will continuously be stress tested to ensure its robustness when various eventualities occur. This means that businesses can easily determine value at risk and formulate a pragmatic integrated response plan to mitigate the forecasted impact on the business as a whole.

If you want your company to effectively spring back from any disruption to its operations, then you need to think real and think business continuity planning!


Business Continuity Planning - Helper Zhou from Sigma International

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