You’ve worked diligently to improve your systems and processes, and now your AP department is efficient, productive, and running like a finely tuned instrument. Excellent! However- are you prepared for trouble? Could you withstand several days, or even weeks, of a system shutdown or other catastrophic disruption of business? How quickly can you get everything back up and running after the zombie apocalypse hits?
OK, so maybe the chances of being overrun by zombies are pretty small, but what about other disasters? There are a number of very real situations that can occur and can bring your AP operation to its knees. A system hack, on-site fire, or severe weather catastrophe to name a few. Even less cataclysmic events like senior management change or the sudden resignation of key employees can have a significant impact on your business flow. Although these situations are rare, when they do occur the effects can be devastating.
The best offense is a good defense
Unlike the unsuspecting movie and TV victims of a zombie attack, there are preparations you can make now to minimize the impact on your business. Begin by taking steps to decrease the odds of certain events from even occurring in the first place.
• Make sure your computer systems are secure. Talk to your IT staff to confirm that proper firewalls and other electronic safeguards are in place to prevent an external cyber-attack that could result in data loss or corruption.
• If your office is located in a high-risk area for severe weather emergencies, make sure your building and equipment are prepared.
Think like a Boy Scout – Be prepared!
If the worst does occur, your primary focus is obviously the safety of the employees and staff. Beyond that, you will want to minimize downtime and get your systems back up and running as quickly as possible. This is especially important for Accounts Payable, a business-critical area. The best way to accomplish that is to have a complete disaster recovery plan in place BEFORE you need it. Most companies have such a plan in place. However, it is typically a generic plan that addresses overall business operations but may not contain information focused specifically on the needs of the Accounts Payable department. A few things to consider as part of your plan are:
• Don’t reinvent the wheel – Review your company’s established plan and identify risks or gaps impacting AP that need to be addressed.
• System backups – Ensure you do not lose critical data by creating a backup copy every night. Consider an offsite system backup or cloud storage for your most critical systems and data and for vendor history data.
• Alternate locations – If your current office building is unavailable, what options do you have for working in another location? Can your employees work from home and if so, what accesses and equipment will they need? Are there security implications?
• Departmental communication – This is key in the wake of a disaster. Make sure you have a chain-of-command call list that can be accessed in an emergency and that it is up to date with current contact information.
• External communication – How will your vendors and business partners be kept in the loop? You may want to establish a designated employee to handle all vendor communication.
• Incoming mail – AP receives mail, including invoices, on a daily basis. Ensure that a plan is in place to continue or to re-route.
• Create a checklist- Document step-by-step actions needed to get your systems up and running if business is interrupted for one day, one week, or one month. (Depending on the timeframe, these checklists may be different.)
• Identify and prioritize – Which facets of the Accounts Payable operations are critical? Which are high, medium, or low priority? Knowing this will help determine how to proceed.
• Can we get the check in the mail? Vendor payments are critical and cannot be delayed too long without negatively impacting business. Examine your options for continuing to make payments.
• Flexibility in standard business rules – In the event of a disruption, are there any business practices or policies that can be relaxed? For example, can invoice approvals be waived or minimums adjusted for a period of time if needed?
• Financial recovery – Will you have access to cash needed to pay vendors? Ask your financial institutions about their own business continuity plan and how it impacts your accounts and the business you do with them. They can also work with you to develop secure financial recovery arrangements.
• Document and disseminate – When your plan is complete, make sure it is well-documented. Take the time to review it with your staff. You should be comfortable that it is understood by all employees.
Take the time now to ensure that your AP department is prepared for the zombie apocalypse. With preparation and consideration ahead of time, you can have a plan in place that provides security and confidence that business disruption will be minimal. However, if you neglect this important activity, your department may be vulnerable to natural disasters and man-made events – whether living or undead.
Halloween is fast approaching – avoid your zombie apocalypse – Contact us now!