Putting together a business continuity or crisis management plan is for some organisations just a box-ticking exercise. It is about fulfilling a requirement rather than creating something useful, which means that when an incident occurs, few people know where the plan is, which page to go to or what to do. Not ideal in a stressful situation.
It All Starts at Management Level
The decision to create a crisis management plan is often taken at the highest level of the organisation, but just because something is created at a strategic level does not mean the operational or tactical level will find it beneficial or commit to using it.
In organisations where the crisis management plan is seen as a requirement rather than a valuable and vital asset, it is rarely beneficial to just move the files and folders to a more accessible location. The fact that your employees do not know how to access documentation that will ensure an efficient response is a consequence of a much bigger problem, namely that crisis management is not a priority in the business.
In other words, it is a management responsibility to publicise the crisis management framework within the organisation.
Where to Locate the Crisis Management Plan
It is your responsibility as the crisis manager to make sure that people know during an incident that there is a plan to be followed, where it is, how it can be accessed and most importantly, what their part of the plan is. Because these plans often have different chapters for different roles, it is akin to finding a needle in a haystack during a pressured situation.
It should be quite self-explanatory that filing a large document in a dusty folder or on top of a shelf can only be counterproductive. However, storing it digitally in a SharePoint site that no one knows how to access is just as bad. Not only does it mean that your well thought out plan won’t be used as well as it should be, it is also highly unlikely that it will be updated when needed, leaving you with an obsolete document.
How to Best Store Your Crisis Management Plan
Firstly, the plan must be stored digitally, so that people can access it regardless of location. Secondly, it should be organised in chapters or sections relevant to the roles and responsibilities within the organisation.
An evacuation plan, for example, would be relevant to everyone in the company as they would need to know what to do in case of a fire. The person on the security team would need to see the part that deals with alerting and calling out the crisis management team, and you, the response manager, would need to see everything. This structure allows everyone to focus on their role and responsibility, and makes it easier to complete all relevant tasks.
The plan itself does not necessarily have to be a document per se, but it must be accessible and quickly present the user with the part that is relevant to them. The actual location of a plan in an ideal world would be in a software system that has a defined hierarchy, providing users with their part of the plan automatically.
Using a cloud service as SharePoint has clear disadvantages. You want the plan to be a living, breathing document that automatically gives access only to the parts that are relevant to your role. Practically speaking, if a crisis happens, your team is tasked with poring through a lengthy document, meaning that something critical could be missed.