As a college-educated computer scientist, Bastian Späth understands how IT solutions are developed from the ground up. For more than 15 years, he has spent every workday collecting requirements, finding ideas, developing designs, setting up projects and getting them safely across the finish line.
Business continuity management: ready for the worst-case scenario!
You cannot afford to be careless about business risks. For example, business can take a permanent hit if your company's IT is down for several days. Precautionary measures, on the other hand, can be taken quite pragmatically: develop a contingency plan, test it and be ready to execute it in an emergency. That is what business continuity management is all about.
Cyberattacks, ransomware, the failure of a central server due to defective hardware: there are many scenarios that can bring an IT system to a sudden halt. A careful risk assessment and targeted contingency management are therefore necessary for mission-critical applications such as freight forwarders' transport management systems (TMSs) and electronic data interchange (EDI) solutions. They have to answer the following questions:
- How do business processes work when IT systems or partners fail?
- What alternative methods can the company use to access its data in the event of a system failure?
- How can operations continue despite disruptions without violating the company’s obligations to its customers and partners?
- How many consecutive days of IT downtime can the company withstand without suffering irreparable damage?
Seriously addressing these issues is the first step in effective business continuity management. It sets you up to keep your business running in an emergency.
Business continuity management requires knowledge
What are the critical systems? Where are your processes potentially weak? If you want to develop a successful contingency plan, your analysis will have to include everyone who transfers data to you or needs data from you. This approach will quickly identify areas that require a backup solution that you can start with the push of a button, so to speak. In system alliances, all the partners depend on each other. They exchange data and goods every day. That puts them in a position to benefit technically from their central data platforms in an emergency: every important piece of order information runs through these hubs – and is thus redundantly available there, outside each partner's own systems. In addition, an alliance's central platform will generally be very fail-safe since its plays such a significant role for the network.
Define simple solutions
Emergencies demand a fast response. That is why contingency plans need to be simple to work quickly. One approach can be to save as much information as possible in basic lists. The lists can be printed out and stored in case of a possible power outage. Labels on packages can guide the transport process as well. If they contain all important order and routing information, a freight forwarder can continue operating even without a scanner. If they can also manually create and send waybills and change statuses, they will be able to survive without a TMS for even longer. There are simple alternatives to TMSs and scanners: cloud systems with synchronised master data can quickly fill in for the TMS, while plain smartphones with an active SIM card can replace scanners.
Prepare pragmatically for emergencies
Companies should not set up a complete redundant IT system, if only for cost reasons. However, if you purchase simple backup solutions, set them up and keep them operational, you can still continue business operations, albeit with some restrictions. You will, however, avoid breaching contracts due to system outages and thus reduce your risk of liability. Regular checks of contingency plans also ensure that they will work when needed.
Business continuity management has an important maxim: get a solution in place before the problem happens. If you wait for an emergency to start looking for alternatives, you will have already lost valuable time. And that also increases the risk considerably.