Organizational Change WalkMe TeamUpdated September 2, 2021

A Business Continuity Definition for the Digital Age

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A Business Continuity Definition for the Digital Age

In this article, we’ll explore a business continuity definition that is relevant for the modern professional.

It is critical to maintain business operations during disruptive change, crises, or disasters, which is the primary focus of business continuity efforts.

However, before actually implementing a business continuity or disaster recovery plan, it is important to understand the purpose of this business discipline.

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A Business Continuity Definition for the Modern Age

Here are a few important definitions and key concepts that can lay the foundation for business continuity, disaster management, and related business disciplines:

  • Business continuity and business continuity management. When circumstances result in the disruption of normal business operations, it is absolutely essential to protect, maintain, and restore affected business functions as efficiently and effectively as possible. This is the main purpose of business continuity planning, which systematically prepares for disruptive changes before they actually occur.
  • Disaster recovery and emergency response. Many business continuity plans respond to crises or disasters, with the aim of recovering lost operations, functionality, data, and any other compromised business assets. It is important to note, however, that there are quite a few different types of business continuity plans that can cover different scenarios. Some of those will be emergencies, requiring rapid emergency response and disaster recovery efforts. Other types of disruptions, however, may not be categorized as emergencies and, as such, will entail a different type of response. 
  • Business continuity plans. Business continuity plans each have a definite purpose and outline a course of action aimed at fulfilling that purpose. Each plan will have a definite scope and strategy. These often include, as mentioned, the protection of key business functions, the restoration of normal business operations, and the reduction of damage to the organization.

Business continuity efforts should revolve around key practices and principles, which we’ll cover next.

Key Principles for Maintaining Continuous Business Operations

Many different circumstances can disrupt an organization’s ability to function normally and deliver value to its customers, including digital disruptions, natural disasters, and cyber attacks. 

  • The customer experience. An organization must protect and maintain its ability to deliver products and services to its customers. If those are compromised in any way, then the organization’s marketplace performance can become threatened. However, it is also important to recognize that the customer experience is inseparable from the organization’s actual deliverables. If any other aspects of the customer experience are affected, such as customer care or technical support, then these can also have a detrimental effect on marketplace performance.
  • The employee experience. The employee experience directly affects their productivity and performance – which, in turn, impact the organization’s ability to operate effectively. There are a variety of strategies that can help reduce the negative effect on employee performance, and these strategies will naturally vary depending on the circumstances. Telecommuting policies or relocation procedures, for instance, can help employees stay productive when disruptions impact their ability to work on-site at the office. 
  • Digital functions and assets. In the digital age, every organization relies heavily on digital technology to function normally. Any disruptions that affect IT systems can significantly interrupt operations, which is why it is imperative to develop IT disaster recovery plans. However, as we will discover below, there are other steps that an organization can take to mitigate risk and minimize the effects of IT-related disruptions.

Protecting these functions is one of the most important areas to focus on during business continuity planning. Once they have been protected, it is important to perform recovery and restoration activities, which will help to minimize the fallout from business disruptions.

How Digital Resilience Can Improve Business Continuity

Cyber resilience is a term that often refers to plans and systems designed to mitigate the impacts of cyber attacks. While these are absolutely crucial to have in the digital era, improving an organization’s digital capabilities and systems can improve performance during disruptions, often in unexpected ways.

Below are a few key concepts that can improve digital resilience, which, in turn, will improve business resilience in the face of disruptions.

  • Digital transformation. Digital transformation refers to the use of technology to improve many areas of a business, which can include everything from the customer experience to internal business operations. Though digital transformation efforts can vary widely in terms of their strategic aims, one of the most common goals of a transformation initiative is to improve the organization’s overall digital capabilities – that is, its level of digital maturity.
  • Digital maturity. Digital maturity models provide a framework for understanding an organization’s overall digital capabilities. At the bottom of the scale lie organizations with limited or no digital capabilities. At the other end of the spectrum, however, organizations have advanced capabilities, with fully integrated technology stacks, digital-first business processes, and so forth. It is also worth noting that digital capabilities depend not only on the actual technology implemented within an organization, but also on employees’ digital skill levels, which is why digital adoption strategies are so important to maintain.
  • Digital adoption. Today, organizations regularly adopt modern digital technology, which is why digital adoption has become such an important part of the digital transformation process. Organizations that can successfully integrate new technology into their workplace will have workforces that are more proficient, productive, and agile. The result: improved organizational performance, agility, and resilience. 

Ultimately, an organization that improves its digital capabilities and its digital resilience will fare better at all times – both during normal times and while facing disruptions to their business.

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