Improving the Business Continuity capabilities of SME companies

Better engagement and services are needed for the SME sector

Small and Medium Sized business | business continuity and resilience Despite the progress made on the implementation of BCM within organizations over nearly two decades, the depth and breadth of planning in smaller firms remains a cause of concern.

These businesses are the backbone of the economy employing more people and delivering the essential ingredients of modern life in all its flavours.

SME data 2014 - UK


SME companies employ more people and generate larger revenues than the corporate sector.  We are also seeing growth in the sector with wider economic change influencing employment practices and how larger firms work with their supply chains and these factors are changing how the business is evolving.
Smaller firms operate in climate where resources and expertise are often limited and for many there is a tendency not to have the planning in place to fully understand the threats to their business that surround them. This lack of planning can also limit identification of new opportunities and this can result in inertia along with a rather fatalistic approach developing.  
Over the past 10 years more focus has been placed on the supply chain risks in business and some SMEs have implemented BCM programmes following pressure from larger customers and the requirements introduced by increased certification and compliance expectations. However, for many the BCM planning in place tends to be limited in scope and may not deliver the best performance or value for the business.
Many BC and resilience service companies have tried to target the sector with mixed results. Our general research shows that the smaller the firm the more difficult it can become to connect and embed BCM into the operations of the business.  This is despite the relative simplicity of the process compared to the corporate or government organizations. The research shows this situation exists for three principle reasons.
1. Failure to understand the impact of events and the cost of recovery.
2. Reluctance to commit time and resources to what is perceived as an expensive process.
3. Overestimating their ability to cope well should a major event affect them. 
Plans on a shelfThere is another factor that affects many SMEs and that is a belief that they already have a 'BCM plan' or perhaps more accurately something they 'think' might be a BCM plan! 
It has been fairly common in our discussions with businesses to find firms 'relying on a document that was done years ago and lies, gathering dust, on a shelf or in a filing cabinet.  
It might have been a reasonable, or even great, once, but it is no longer fit for purpose and actually only stands as prop to delude management into thinking they actually have a 'plan'.  If you doubt this, just ask your SME partners for the latest BC test results.  If you are lucky you might get something relating to IT, but for most part you'll just get a blank stare or flustered response.  
As the world becomes increasingly demanding and the expectations of business and government increase, if an SME want to be successful it will need to implement, embed and update BC processes far more proactively.
It might sound like we are being overly critical of the sector, but to balance this we also need to look at the support available.  Local authorities promote BCM nationally, there is government advice from most agencies and there have certainly been enough in the news over the past few years to demonstrate the sense in having some planning and capability to manage and recover from a disruptive events that could hit any firm.  
So what is missing?
One answer might be the right kind of tools and resources that are easy to use and priced in a way that is more suitable for these smaller businesses.  
It is clear to us that when organizations start developing their BCM capabilities the time and resources required can be significant for the smaller business. Firms may bring in a consultant or attend training events, both of which can really help, but soon thousands of pounds are is being spent on the development of the BCM programme.  This money is precious to SME's and there are other demands for it that can bring benefits too.
We should also realise that SME's are a critical part of the economy with a large proportion providing essential products and services that are embedded in the supply chains of our largest organisations.  In addition to this factor careful consideration should be given to the potential of the wider benefits to communities of having more efficient and robust local infrastructure.  Over time we feel that smaller firms will have to evolve their capabilitities, but those willing to address their issues sooner, rather than later stand to gain a real market advantage.    
This brings us to the questions we need to answer...
What can we do to help SME firms better understand and prioritise what they need to do to improve their resilience? 
What products and services need to be developed to help them?  
Can new technologies help in bringing down the costs and while improving
With over 5 million smaller businesses in the UK answering these questions is essential if we are going to develop our national resilience and critically wider business performance in the coming years.  Getting the answer right is also significant for the owners and investor in these firms to protect the investment made and maximise the returns gained.
We firmly beleive that there the SME sector really needs to look carefully at how it manages risk and resilience.  Business owners should be asking themselves some tough questions about just how well prepared they are? What they can do to improve their capabilities and how how well they can reassure clients and other stakeholders that they are running a resilient business.   
If you would like to know about how our SME work is developing please do get in touch with us directly.