Business continuity, disaster recovery, and organizational resilience all take different approaches to the same problem – ensuring that businesses can protect key operations, recover lost functionality, and maximize performance when disruptions threaten the organization.
Business continuity and disaster recovery plans are essential for a number of reasons:
- Certain types of disruptions and disasters can occur without warning, offering little time to prepare a strategy or a course of action
- Having a prepared plan of action can help organizations respond quickly and efficiently, reducing the negative impacts of those disruptions
- Many industries actually require that organizations actively maintain business continuity plans
- Having disaster recovery and business continuity plans can improve clients’ trust, as well as the organization’s reputation
Of course, to gain these benefits, it’s necessary to have a solid understanding of business continuity and disaster recovery, which we’ll define in this article.
Business Continuity, Disaster Recovery, and Organizational Resilience
Below, we’ll look at some of the most important management disciplines that are designed to help businesses cope with disruption and disaster, starting with business continuity itself.
Business continuity management is the management discipline tasked with developing business continuity plans and ensuring that organizations can respond effectively to a wide range of disruptions.
To that end, business continuity professionals perform a number of important tasks:
- Predict and analyze the potential impacts that various types of disruptions can have on a business
- Develop business continuity plans, which define specific actions designed to minimize those impacts, protect key business functions, and restore normal operations
- Design additional response plans and activities that address disasters and emergencies
- Delegate responsibilities to a business continuity team, then provide training to that team to ensure that they can perform their duties effectively when needed
- Conduct tests and exercises, which can improve employee competency, while also assessing the feasibility of the proposed plan
In many cases, business continuity is used interchangeably with disaster recovery, crisis management, and related disciplines. However, they are technically different, as we will discover below.
Disaster recovery, as the name suggests, is specifically aimed at recovering lost business functions and assets in the event of a disaster.
Since the nature and the impacts of such disasters can vary widely, disaster recovery plans will also have different goals and strategies.
Some may focus on IT-related disasters, such as data breaches or IT-related incidents, while others may focus on natural disasters, such as floods and fires.
Each disaster recovery plan should address a certain category of disaster, then outline activities intended to protect and restore lost functionality as soon as possible.
In many cases, disaster recovery efforts will be preceded by emergency response plans.
An emergency response plan outlines a series of actions to take immediately after an emergency or disaster occurs.
These response efforts are designed to:
- Protect human life and health, first and foremost
- Take steps to protect key business functions
- Initiate actions to mitigate future damage and risk
Severe weather events, such as earthquakes or tornadoes, are classified as emergencies and require an immediate response.
Since the protection of human life is paramount, the first steps usually involve protective actions, such as sheltering in place or building evacuations.
Only after an organization has implemented this response can disaster recovery efforts begin.
Risk management is related to the other disciplines mentioned above and is equally important for minimizing the negative impacts of business disruptions.
However, risk management focuses on a broad range of potential risks, such as uncertainty in the marketplace, digital disruption, disasters, or project failures.
Risk management plays a role in decision-making across many areas of the organization, following steps such as:
- Establishing the scope of the project in question
- Identifying and assessing potential risks
- Implementing risk avoidance, prevention, or mitigation measures
This process comes into play during a wide variety of business endeavors, including business continuity and organizational resilience.
However, in contrast to the disciplines we have discussed so far, risk management is often proactive rather than reactive. That is, risk management activities aim to minimize or remove threats, though response plans can certainly result from risk assessments.
For instance, if risk assessments identify a particular type of workplace accident as a threat, then the organization may choose to implement certain protocols or procedures designed to prevent those risks. Those measures, in turn, would likely be further augmented by the other types of response plans covered above.
Organizational resilience takes a holistic approach to minimizing the threats associated with business disruption.
There are different schools of thought on how to model organizational resilience, but the underlying purpose is the same – minimize the impacts of business disruptions through a comprehensive, multi-disciplinary strategy.
For instance, we have seen that several different approaches can help minimize the negative effects of disruptions.
An organizational resilience strategy would take this further, by initiating activities in a variety of areas, such as:
- Human resources
- Crisis management
- Financial health and viability
- Information security
- Change management
By taking such a comprehensive approach, organizations will be far more prepared to prevent and mitigate business disruptions – and handle them if they do occur.