As the Cedar River returns to its banks, Cedar Rapids is slowly returning to normal; so is GreatAmerica. After a week away, team members enthusiastically filtered back into the GreatAmerica building earlier this week. Typically silent elevator rides were buzzing with chatter of the past week’s displacement and excitement. Though it was abnormal for the hundreds of GreatAmericans to not work from our offices, it went unnoticed by the thousands of customers we interacted with that week. We have the work of our business continuity team to thank for that.
The plan was first tested eight years ago, when a 500-year flood of the Cedar River left 8 feet of water in our lobby, and forced our evacuation for over three months. Our customers were unaware of our displacement back then too.
But this time, the Cedar River only threatened to lap at our building’s sandbagged walls. Still, all riverfront buildings were evacuated and prepped for the worst. That included the GreatAmerica building.
So, what did we do? Our continuity plan was activated and team members began working from backup sites as early as the Friday before the flooding was to happen. While our building stayed dry, we were out of the building all week as the river crested, then receded and downtown Cedar Rapids was put back into order.
So what does it take to be prepared? Leaders gave these three pieces of advice for companies just starting to think about continuity planning:
Lesson #1: Start Small
At first it is overwhelming to think about planning for every possible scenario. The leaders I talked to said what is important is to start with just a few scenarios and start thinking about where you would go, how you would access your data and how you would communicate it to your team members.
Lesson #2: Plan Ahead & Plan to Adjust
Have a plan, but be ready to make adjustments. Because it is impossible to factor in every scenario, make sure the people on your teams know where the plan ends and who should be making the game-time calls where there are gaps in the plan.
Lesson #3: Customer Service is Central
Maintaining levels of customer service during a less-than ideal situation is going to be difficult, but make sure that is central to your continuity planning. It will all pay off when your customers don’t feel a single hiccup and don’t even know you are experiencing issues.
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