After the disruption caused by the events of 2020, continuity planning became a hot topic - for about two months. Despite historic unrest, disease uncertainty and political instability, the Google Trend report for ‘business continuity’ shows a short burst of increased interest that quickly returns to pre-pandemic levels:
That’s human error number one. We’re quick to adapt, but we’re also quick to forget. Both are useful from an evolutionary standpoint, but when it comes to preparing for future threats to business continuity, they can get in the way of preparedness.
Your current business continuity plan probably accounts for keeping mission- critical applications up and running. If it doesn’t also prevent our double-edged evolutionary traits from getting in the way of recovery, it’s incomplete.
Here’s how to account for human error with your 2021 business continuity plan, and prevent people from making pivotal decisions in ‘fight-or-flight' mode.
Create a single source of truth
If you haven’t created and disseminated an employee-facing business continuity planning document, do so. At a minimum, employees should know exactly where to go for information when faced with a continuity-related decision. Host a workshop or make an announcement upon its creation.
Ideally, there should be at least one designated point of contact listed in the document. Humans are hardwired to ask questions, so even the most straightforward documents might need clarification. Ensure that there is someone available to do so.
Train your staff
Plans should be inclusive in nature and language, taking every stakeholder into consideration – including their level of technological aptitude. When it comes to business continuity in a remote setting, an organisation is often only as strong (and secure) as its least tech-savvy link. Make training a priority to bring everyone to a baseline that you’re comfortable with, and do it proactively.
Team leaders know best about individual strengths and weaknesses, so involve them when looking for remote collaboration software or training providers. Opt for intuitive solutions with strong support offerings.
Research suggests that we’re better at learning-by-doing than learning-by- watching, so it’s no surprise that so-called ‘business continuity tabletop exercises’ are popular. Run through a mock continuity scenario with your staff. Once it’s completed, identify areas for improvement, and include them in the business impact analysis (BIA) that you’ve hopefully also created.
You’ll be heading potential errors off before they can cause problems in a high- stakes situation. Humans learn from mistakes - just make sure the learning takes place when mistakes don’t matter.
Automate where possible
One of the best shortcuts for eliminating human error is removing humans from the equation entirely. Small IT departments can’t - and shouldn’t be expected to – keep up with maintenance and security requests that could mean the difference between costly downtime or data breaches. When entire departments are forced to work remotely, it’s unreasonable to expect that they will be able to address the masses of support tickets that will arise.
Automating or outsourcing as much maintenance as possible is crucial, especially as geographical flexibility becomes an increasingly valuable characteristic of hardy businesses. As an added bonus, it’ll make secure scalability far simpler.
Accounting for the ‘human’ in ‘human error’
The more prepared and proactive you are when it comes to your organisation’s business continuity plan, the less human error there will be to contend with. Revisit your plan and continuity training on a regular schedule to keep processes front of mind and mitigate the risk of errors.
Throughout the process, ensure that your organisation keeps humans as the focus – and not just the damage they could cause. Business continuity plans are often set into motion in stressful and emotionally taxing situations, so finding ways to support your team’s technological needs while respecting their lives outside of work is essential. We may have evolved into adaptable survival machines, but employees experiencing undue pressure are still less productive, and less happy.