7 Tips for running a successful business continuity test program
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7 Tips for running a successful business continuity test program

We asked one of our business continuity customers about the value of business continuity testing and how to put your business continuity and disaster recovery plans into practice.

Find out her top seven tips for running a successful business continuity test.
Published on
June 1, 2021

Why testing is important

Australian businesses have overcome extensive obstacles recently including remodelling their future business continuity plan.

Speaking to many industry experts, a global pandemic was far down the list of possible disasters to prepare for, but they have managed to pivot quickly. We spoke to one of our business continuity customers to gain her insights into this period. With 20 years’ experience in the business continuity and resilience space, she found there were seven key things she has learned from her organisation’s testing journey during this time and her top recommendations to consider when running a test.

1. Stakeholder buy-in is essential

You can do this by publishing a 12-month testing activities calendar and making sure that the scope of each activity is simple and high-level, and agreed to by participants. That way, everyone you need to have involved in each activity has already been engaged, knows what to expect, and doesn’t have any excuse not to attend when their time has been locked in well in advance.

2. Fully – and we mean fully – plan for each test.

Are you fully prepared for the specific group of people participating in the test? How can they get there via public transport; is there any parking available; what do they get to eat; what specific equipment and technology do you expect them to bring with them or should they expect to be available on site? Make sure to go through with each member of your team what is going to happen on the day – communication is key! A test will not be as helpful if the people participating don’t know what is expected of them.

If the team members are unsure of their roles during a test, imagine what delays will occur during a real disaster declaration

3. Use each business continuity test as an opportunity to review your business impact assessment (BIA)

Businesses make a lot of assumptions about what their employees actually need and use every day. The tests are a chance to make sure these assumptions are correct. The expert said they used to take stationery with them to their disaster recovery (DR) site – including letterhead and particular types of envelopes. It turned out that one used it and, in fact, stationary wasn’t really used by anyone in the business anymore. Reviewing your business’s list of items is so important – make sure you bring only what is required. If you’ve chosen a good provider, the dedicated DR site should provide most of what you need.

4. Be aware of the differences and limitations of your DR sites and the impact that might have

You might be using these sites for a month or longer – is the configuration of workspaces and desks going to be an issue for staff? What about catering for staff allergies or physical limitations like getting up and down flights of stairs? This might sound trivial but knowing where to get the best coffee and lunch is something to consider too!

5. Undertake frequent checks of your DR sites

Things can change in these buildings regularly, so you don’t want a surprise when you turn up on the test day. That might be a new system for security and access; changes to parking conditions; or a different configuration to the workspaces and meeting rooms. Being across these updates will be vital for your test to run smoothly.

Key insight Business continuity testing requires a high level of coordination between your staff and the provider, or you won’t get the results you’re after.

6. Effectively capture lessons learned during the test

It’s important to make each test a feedback and learning exercise. The expert recommends surveying all the participants directly after a BC exercise to get their specific feedback and also ask them ‘how did you feel about this’ – which gives really good insights on any unexpected cultural or emotional impacts from the testing exercise.

7. Make sure to test your working from home business continuity testing scenarios as well

When just a few people are only occasionally working from home, they usually put up with inconveniences and lack of access to systems and data. That means the business might not otherwise hear about these problems if you don’t regularly test working from home BC scenario.

Since the pandemic, working remotely is now common for many industries and their business continuity plan should reflect this shift. Asking key questions like does everyone have access to all the resources and specific devices or equipment they need to do their work? How do you effectively manage a team that is transitioning to a remote environment? For example, if you have customer service agents taking difficult or stressful calls at home, how comfortable will they feel taking these without the support of their colleagues around them?

How we help

Testing your business continuity plan can be overwhelming but working with the right provider can help you run a smooth program.

Interactive has had over 30 years of experience as a business continuity, data centre and disaster recovery service provider. We’ve designed our facilities with our clients in mind. We offer generous office space, specialised amenities and can modify or adjust anything in the environment to ensure you and your staff have the best experience. We also have premier backup infrastructure and security is an element we are proud of, however, it is really our people who set us apart as a provider. They are experienced, dedicated and committed to helping our clients.

Download our free Business Continuity Template

The best time to plan for a crisis was yesterday.

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