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Staying operational: the importance of contingency planning

In project management, foresight is essential. Indeed, a detailed plan for any project – no matter the scale – is crucial to its successful completion or ongoing success. But, as much as we’d like to, it isn’t possible to prevent factors beyond our control affecting our plans.

And that’s where contingency planning – often referred to as business continuity planning – is vital. Take, for example, the weather. It is, of course, completely outside of our control, yet can wreak havoc on a variety of projects, across numerous sectors. Who amongst us hasn’t seen an event postponed due to poor weather, or worse, read about a business struggling to rebuild after a natural disaster? 

But these issues – be they freak weather conditions or unplanned power outages – needn’t impede projects. And a logical, carefully considered business continuity plan is the strongest weapon in any project manager’s arsenal against the unknowable. 

What is contingency planning?

Also known as a business continuity plan, a business continuity strategy is a formal plan, intended to address any eventuality that may hinder a project or ongoing business. Essentially, a strong business continuity plan allows a company to stay operational in the wake of a disaster, saving time, revenue and maintaining strong public relations. 

Typically relating to projects or businesses that require power, heating, refrigeration, or ventilation, contingency planning is a means by which to protect against any unforeseen hazards that may damage productivity, perishables and equipment, or even cause harm to individuals. 

For example, a company handling perishable goods needing to be stored at specific temperatures – perhaps frozen foods – would be devastated by an unexpected fault with either their refrigeration or power sources, potentially leading to catastrophic loss of products, and, by extension, revenue. 

It would be similarly true in the instance of business continuity and disaster recovery, wherein a carefully considered business continuity strategy would minimize potential disruption to a project or business caused by either flooding or blizzards; outdoor projects, such as construction, are particularly susceptible to such incidents. 

What should be included in a contingency plan?

In devising a practical, actionable business continuity plan, it’s important to think longitudinally; considering a variety of potential outcomes, based on specific factors of your business or project. 

For example, in the same way that a company handling perishable goods would need to consider the effect a sudden power outage would have on stock, an IT firm needs to take into consideration the impact a loss of power would have upon critical systems and plan for such an eventuality. 

A good business continuity plan imagines a variety of potential events – from natural disasters to human error – and puts actions in place in the event that they happen; emergency generators if flooding disables a substation, for example. 

Essentially, a business continuity plan is an exercise in asking ‘what if’ for a variety of hypothetical scenarios and providing an answer for each. 

For example, the question ‘what if flood water risks damaging critical assets?’ could be answered with ‘dehumidification equipment could be immediately deployed’. And so on.
Contingency planning is, in essence, a case of calculated anticipation, considering potential threats to your business or project and suggesting suitable countermeasures.  

It’s difficult, not to mention mentally taxing, to contemplate potential risks posed by floods, fires, storms or power outages, but a meticulous business continuity strategy can ensure that neither productivity, critical assets, nor, above all, employee safety is compromised.

Whether it’s an emergency generator, industrial cooling or heating equipment, every business contingency plan will require a bespoke approach, based on specifics, so when you’re compiling your business continuity strategy, be sure to consider every possible eventuality – it’ll be of enormous benefit, should the worst happen.

At Aggreko, we’re experts in delivering on contingency planning, with practical options for emergency power and temperature control, and are able to enact your business continuity plan within hours of an emergency. Contact us today to discover how we can help your business when you need it most.