Addressing the What-Ifs
Creating A Comprehensive Business Continuity Plan Prior To The Pandemic Made Adapting Easier
A pandemic? That rarely happens. What are the chances?
When Deeley Insurance Group sat down in 2017 to create a business continuity plan, they started with a boilerplate guide for dealing with interruptions like power outages and natural disasters. It was basic, but better than nothing. That initial plan served as a launchpad for a robust, customized continuity plan the team prioritized building in fall 2019.
The timing couldn’t have been better.
“If we had not taken the time to diligently work through our plan and update it, I believe we would have struggled with transitioning our team to a remote environment and communicating with the public,” says Jennifer Powell, Deeley’s Operations Analyst.
In those early meetings, they often questioned why the “pandemic” portion of the plan was so lengthy. “It seemed so unlikely,” Powell relates. However, the new plan was extensive and explored a range of scenarios, hashing out procedures for managing four levels of emergency. “Thank goodness,” Powell says, “we had the steps and procedures in place.”
A business continuity plan is essential for protecting your team from threats that are as everyday as a loss of electricity or internet connection and as complex as dealing with a tropical storm and global pandemic at the same time.
With a plan, you can adapt, innovate, and overcome.
“What we do in the insurance industry is plan for the unimaginable,” says Laura Deeley Bren, President at Deeley Insurance Group. “You can be sure if you have a plan and stay flexible.”
A business continuity plan is insurance. It’s a matter of managing risk and putting tools and resources in place to address both the hiccups and the worst-case scenarios.
Set Plan Goals
Deeley began the planning process by considering what their plan had to accomplish. “We knew we needed to elaborate on the boilerplate plan we had and customize it for our operations,” says Matt Jones, Sales Manager, relating that the original document didn’t fully flesh out business interruption scenarios.
Ultimately, the plan needed to include “exhibits” to assure business continuity.
A – activating the plan based on four scenarios (see Cover the Big 3 and 4)
B – assembling a list of the staff’s personal contact information
C – aligning vendors for restoration and relocation
D – creating a communications plan for internal and external stakeholders
E – establishing a claims response procedure
Additionally, the leadership team identified these crucial success factors:
- Capability to implement the plan with and without warning
- Procedures to continue business operations in case of emergency
- Critical tasks that must be executed within 24 hours of an interruption
- Regular risk analysis of possible alternative operating facilities
- Continuing to develop, maintain, and review the plan and processes
Cover the Big 3 and 4
When planning, Deeley took into consideration three key components: 1) human resources, 2) physical resources, and 3) business continuity. How would an emergency affect employees, customers, and the workplace? What must be done to sustain operations if an event occurs that impacts any of these elements?
The plan accounted for four scenarios: 1) a single event isolated to the facility lasting under two hours, 2) a single event isolated to the facility, 3) a catastrophic event, and 4) a pandemic.
Assemble a Team
Deeley established a Business Continuity Plan Assessment Team to regularly update procedures and huddle when an event occurs. They designate which team member will handle which items and then the team moves forward through the steps.
Think Outside the Box
“What’s the craziest thing that could happen?” Powell prompts, relating that the first iteration of their business continuity plan didn’t account for pandemics because the possibility seemed so far-fetched. “Think of the most unexpected situations you could face,” Powell says, “and how you would adjust your operations. Document them, so you have details laid out in your plan in case you need to pivot.”
For example, if you rely on seasonal staff from other countries and travel is shut down, who will work in your business? If your supply chain cannot provide the products you need to operate, what is the alternative? If you must change your business hours, how will you let the public know about this? Powell reminds us, “You never know.”
During the planning process, account for all technology—hardware, software, phones, and other systems necessary to work in a remote environment. Deeley recognized during the rapid transition from office to home that not every team member was equipped with a laptop. So, desktop computers and monitors were sent home with some employees. (Adapt and overcome.) However, when revisiting the plan to address what worked and what did not, the company made plans to migrate all staff to laptops.
Stay Consistent, Yet Be Flexible
With a business continuity plan in place, everyone understands how to respond when an interruption occurs, whether big or small. Messaging is crucial when communicating in-house, and to vendors, customers, or other stakeholders. “Consistency is critical because we want to walk clients through difficult times and deliver the same message,” Jones relates.
By their nature, business interruptions are unexpected and can introduce a range of variables. A continuity plan that allows a business to shift from one scenario to the next helps maintain consistency while staying flexible.
“While we were following the plan to address the pandemic, a tropical storm stirred up along the East Coast and came over top of us, putting us in a position where we had to activate a different part of our plan,” Jones says. “The reality was, we had to implement two phases of our plan simultaneously, which speaks to the importance of outlining different scenarios. We were able to hop onto a different phase to address the new incident.”
Revisit the Strategy
A business continuity plan is a working document. You’re never done. Deeley is committed to reconvening the Business Continuity Plan Assessment Team twice a year to thoroughly review the plan and identify areas to improve.
Jones reflects, “If I had to score how we did with the continuity plan during the pandemic, I’d put us up there at a nine out of 10. We stayed current with what was happening through reliable media sources, we passed viable information on to our people and posted on our social channels, and we transitioned and implemented the plan. This allowed many of our associates to work remotely and communicate with clients without interruption.”
By putting the work in ahead of time and adjusting when necessary, Deeley’s customer service never lapsed. They were always connected, always available.
The Time to Prepare Is Now
A Business Continuity Plan can give you peace of mind knowing that your business is ready—no matter what lies ahead.
Ready to take the first steps? Get started today.
Already have a plan? Make sure you update with insights you gained during the pandemic. And focus on thinking outside of the box—what details you can add to help execute your plan with fewer hiccups.