In May 2021, I attended a Gartner seminar about technology trends and where things are likely headed over the next 5 years. There were tons of takeaways, but what stuck with me the most was a list they briefly addressed on one of their slides. The Gartner seminar encouraged business leaders to think about how specific external forces would impact our company. The 6 core factors I was reminded to dwell on as a small business leader were:
- Our customers
- Our resources
- Our processes
- Our products
- Our partners
- Our competitors
These 6 factors are useful as an informal checklist to consider how any decision or event might affect my company. Some of these items might be considered too shorthand for some, as “our resources” is intended to encompass business assets, such as our staff, funds in the bank, and our equipment and tools.
In my opinion, it’s important to keep this list as short as possible, so you can successfully run through it in its entirety and make high-level assessments. I would want to consult this list whenever I’m grappling with a business decision or something unplanned.
After the seminar, I started thinking about how this practical checklist was at risk of being underutilized in many ways without some accountable effort on my part. I ran through some mental exercises to help commit it to memory. I also printed the list and put it on my wall next to my desk. I started considering how I could introduce this as a checklist to other processes in my company. The first opportunity that came to mind, and what became an increasingly ideal fit, was to incorporate this into our Business Impact Analysis (BIA) process.
What is Business Impact Analysis?
A BIA is a formal process that is used as part of Business Continuity Planning and Disaster Recovery Planning. The goal of a BIA is to try to predict the consequences of a disrupted or degraded business function.
If done properly, you will understand the financial, operational, and reputational harms that can result from a part of your business failing or becoming significantly degraded. Armed with this knowledge, you then can work to measure the risk probabilities of this event happening.
Executing a BIA well will help identify multiple potential impacts, helping you prioritize them based on both their likelihood of occurrence and damage to your business. This context allows business leaders to prioritize their limited resources to address the most impactful concerns.
My Go-To Shortcut to Everyday BIA
Frankly, most businesses don’t have the luxury of conducting a formal Business Impact Analysis campaign, nor the subsequent quantitative Risk Assessment. Nearly everyone recognizes that these processes have value, but only a small subset of businesses have the means and understanding required to do this right. That is why the informal checklist below resonated so much with me:
This checklist is an approximation of a BIA that with practice, a decision maker could run through within minutes any time a new crisis or quandary comes across their desk.
For the checklist to have an impact, it should be at your fingertips and consistently applied. That will reinforce the areas of inquiry that need to be assessed with your team. The more practice you log applying this exercise in your business, the more prepared everyone will be to think through a broader set of factors when weighing any decision.
While it wasn’t Gartner’s core intention, their seminar made me think and consider how a general framework for myself and my team would bring great value to our everyday deliberations. I still do greatly value the formal BIA process. However, integrating the BIA process into everyday decisions with a lightweight checklist considerably increases the odds of frequent application by myself and my team. Armed with this list during our considerations, we are going to make far better decisions in my business.
I invite you to give this checklist a test run when weighing your next business decision. Reach out to me on LinkedIn and share how it helped you achieve a more informed outcome!