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Often corporate business continuity plans are taken for granted, and their mandated annual maintenance is not considered critical or profitable. Developing and maintaining these plans is seen as another low priority action item on an already too big to-do pile. In fact, given tough economic times, even the jobs of the people who are responsible for these tasks are at risk as companies look to trim costs through the reduction of the non-revenue generating positions. This perspective greatly underplays the value that a valid and tested business continuity plan, and just as importantly, the person who owns it, can bring to the company.

Make no mistake, a solid business continuity plan and the guidance of its owner can prevent crippling financial losses and greatly support cost reduction initiatives and profitability.

Here are some of the ways the business continuity plan, and owner, can move from being a cost center to a cost reducer and even revenue generator during non-crisis times.

Win new business by using the business continuity plan as a sales differentiator

Companies are slowing down their spending and are reviewing every buying decision with greater scrutiny. The competition for these few available dollars is intensifying as every company is looking at the value each of their suppliers are bringing to them. Leveraging the business continuity plan as a differentiator can help your company stand out as a leading and trusted supplier. Having a valid and tested business continuity plan demonstrates to potential customers that your company is prepared to meet the agreed upon obligations on time, no matter what unexpected events may happen. Simply put, it emphasizes that doing business with your company is more likely to keep their business operating smoothly.

Sales is always looking for a reason to get in front of their current and potential customers in order to build closer relationships to gain their trust. We all know that offering a quality product at a fair price gets sales in the customers’ door; it’s gaining their trust that closes the deal. How can a business continuity plan help build that trusted relationship with the customer?

  • Have the business continuity owner meet with the key sales people and managers and explain this strategy to help them in this endeavor. u Once invited to the sales meeting, open the discussion with the customer by asking if they require their vendors to have a tested business continuity plan and why it is important?
  • Show your company’s plan along with the last test with all of the good and not-so-good results. It lends credibility.

Save costs through insurance reduction

Corporate insurance is expensive and getting more so every year. Leveraging the business continuity plan, as well as its owner’s knowledge of the environmental and business related risks, can help the company reduce the cost of insurance, directly enhancing the company’s bottom line. How do you get started?

  • Talk to the corporate treasury department and have them present a sanitized version of your business continuity plan to the insurance company.
  • Give special attention to the frequency of tests and the results, as well as any research that was produced regarding the likelihood of each risk.
  • Simply having an up-to-date business continuity plan may qualify the company for discounts and can be used in cost negotiations.

Reduce corporate risk through verifying that suppliers have a valid and tested business continuity plan

Just as you positioned the value of your company’s business continuity plan to gain new customers, you can leverage the company’s business continuity owner to evaluate their preparedness to meet contractual obligations and find the best suppliers. His or her knowledge and experience also can be critical in maintaining your own company’s normal business operations. This can be as simple as asking the business continuity owner to work closely with the purchasing department to verify that each of your core suppliers has a valid and tested business continuity plan.

Minimize the corporate impact of a reduction in force by using business continuity owner’s knowledge of where to cut costs with the least impact on the business

While any company layoff is never a good thing, undertaking it blindly makes matters worse. Often corporate mandates acrossthe- board cuts such as “reduce headcount by 10 percent in all departments.” What looks good on a spreadsheet is often not the best thing to do from a business perspective. The business continuity owner has an opportunity to help executive management focus the needed reductions by using his/her in-depth knowledge about all of the business’s critical processes and people. How can this expertise be leveraged?

  • Utilize the business continuity plan as a map of the business. With this map, you can help the company avoid deep cuts in the critical business processes and people and look to other, not so critical areas to make up the balance of required reduction.
  • An added benefit is that since the business continuity plan was most likely designed before any reduction in force was considered, the core business processes already have been identified and agreed upon which can help keep most of the company politics to a minimum as you look for the other areas to make the reductions during this stressful process.

As demonstrated above, valuable knowledge and resources within a company are often overlooked and/or underutilized. Don’t let that happen to your business. These suggested strategies can greatly help a company to successfully navigate through this tough economic time.

Eric Pitcher is vice president of technology strategy at CA, responsible for setting and communicating CA’s recovery management plans across the business unit, throughout CA and to partners and customers.