Are your Business Continuity Plans Green?

How many times today did you see an ad that promoted a “green” product or boasted the efforts of a company that is doing its part to save our environment?

Everyone’s interest in “going green” reminded me of Biby Associates’ long-time commitment to conserving paper, especially when dealing with those ever-changing, tree-eradicating business continuity plans.

Every once in a while, we run into a company whose business continuity plan is thousands of pages! That makes a great fire starter in case you’re stranded in the middle of a blizzard.

Joking aside, regardless of the company’s head count, I can’t envision a response and recovery plan so thick. Imagine the printing, binding, and distribution costs associated with such an unusable document. Not to mention the environmental impact.

So, what is a green business continuity plan? I’m not talking about using a word processor to create, store, and (ugh!) print your plans. I’m proposing that you design, create, and update them for 99 and 44/100 percent use in the virtual world.

Aside from saving trees and landfill space, there are many, good reasons for creating and using your business continuity plans in the digital realm.

Being mindful of today’s economic climate, let’s look at the one benefit that goes directly to your bottom line… saving money. A lot of money. Your IT infrastructure is already in place. You have strong Internet and intranet presence that you use to communicate to your customers and to your employees and other stakeholders.

Using your Intranet site to distribute response and recovery plans to your employees is both smart and conscientious. They should be able access any part quickly and download pertinent aspects to a thumb drive or PDA for access in case the emergency takes your network down.

An online platform easily and inexpensively supports a vast array of color graphics such as line drawings, photographs, and flow diagrams to enhance user comprehension. For example, you can incorporate a range of colored hot spots in a floor plan to indicate types of medical or fire suppression equipment.

Serving your plans online provides other real benefits: First of all, they’re automatically backed up as part of your data backup and retention procedures. Secondly, using a simple document management process, you can coordinate and control updates much more easily than via the traditional paper tiger. And where else can you achieve instantaneous world-wide distribution?

Of course, certain parts of your plan should be printed so they’re always at the ready. Examples include your emergency contact list and bomb threat checklist. Other areas, such as life safety protocols and diagrams, along with evacuation routes should be posted conspicuously in public areas.

Converting your paper-based plan to the online realm does require that you spend some time to properly design the interface to ensure your users can navigate the document easily and quickly. Information is organized and presented differently online. If it’s cumbersome to use, they won’t use it. [I’ll spend more time on the design subject in another article.]

Next time you consider updating your plan, think about how you can convert it to online form. Meet with your in-house Web design person and IT to identify the implementation process and timeline. Review how much you’ve spent historically on your paper-based plan so you’re better prepared to sell the idea to upper management or to your Board.

The sooner you start, the sooner you’ll be “in the green.”