You often hear the term “disaster recovery plan” in reference to computer systems, but have you ever considered how the concept may be important to your daily financial and accounting operations? Illnesses, accidents, and employee resignations can happen at a moment’s notice without warning, forcing companies to react quickly with reduced resources. If not handled correctly, unexpected events can disrupt your business and negatively impact your company.
While finance and accounting departments may not be the main profit-generating areas of your business, they are still vital and continuously provide management with the tools needed to make everyday decisions in all areas of the company. In order to minimize any negative impacts that unexpected events may cause within your financial department, we recommend implementing our four steps for disaster recovery planning.
1. Understand the Job Responsibilities of Your CFO/Controller
In privately-owned companies, the CFO/controller usually plays a significant role in the business and wears many hats as far as the workload is concerned (including accounting and financial tasks). But, what if your CFO/controller is unexpectedly out of the office for a lengthy period of time? Who will cover their important financial duties?
At a minimum, we recommend creating a document detailing the responsibilities and essential tasks that are performed by the CFO/controller. The document should include the names of any other employees that know how to handle the CFO/controller’s duties and upcoming deadlines. It should also include information on where to find important files.
It’s important that the CFO/controller job responsibility document is updated immediately if any of the responsibilities or tasks change. Be sure that a copy of the document is retained by human resources and other managers within the company for reference.
2. Understand the Job Responsibilities of Your Employees
CFO/controller job responsibilities aren’t the only ones you should worry about. In order to fully prepare for the unexpected, documentation of your employee job responsibilities is very important. A document should be prepared by each individual that outlines their position, responsibilities, tasks, and due dates. The documentation should include sufficient explanations and instructions to complete their assigned tasks.
If there is not a centralized location where employee files are kept, the location of any required files should be listed in the job responsibility document. While it may seem like a tedious task, the final document could prove to be an incredibly valuable piece of information in the event of an unexpected disruption.
3. Cross-Train Your Employees
Depending on the size of your financial department, cross-training is a great option for ensuring adequate workload coverage. If there is only one person trained to do a particular, essential task, an absence can create a significant impact. Not only does cross-training provide employees with the opportunity to gain more experience, it also encourages them to increase their knowledge base in a team environment.
For cross-training to be the most effective, it’s important that the trained employees periodically perform the assigned tasks. By performing the task regularly, the procedures will stay fresh in their minds and the task will be easy for them in the event that they have to fill in for another employee. At the very least, we suggest that the task is performed quarterly.
4. Formulate a Plan
Once your job responsibility documents have been completed and your employees have been cross-trained, consider formulating a plan that outlines a process that can be implemented when disaster strikes. It’s much easier to formulate a plan when you aren’t under pressure or scrambling to allocate limited resources. Your plan should:
- Identify the Leader — Who will lead and oversee the plan? This person should be familiar with the job responsibilities that the department staff will assume when the plan is implemented.
- Prioritize Responsibilities — Which tasks need to be addressed immediately? Prioritizing responsibilities will allow employees to understand what needs to be done first and what can be completed as time allows.
- Include Details — Are all the tasks, files, and deadlines accounted for? Detailing everything will ensure you and your financial staff don’t miss anything as they implement the plan.
- Offer Solutions — Are there tasks in which you could utilize outsourced, trusted business advisors to support your financial department? You can rest assured that the work is being done by a trained professional while relieving some of the pressure from your staff.
In addition to creating a plan, be sure to openly communicate it with your employees. Since they handle a lot of different tasks on a daily basis, they may provide valuable insight into what may have been overlooked in the plan. Plus, taking the initiative to ensure stability and continuity shows that you not only care about the company, you care about the well-being of your employees.