What does a business continuity plan typically include?
Since a business continuity plan is aimed at maintaining normal business operations during disruptive changes, disasters, and emergencies, these plans outline activities intended to minimize the effects of those disruptions as much as possible.
These activities will vary from plan to plan, since the nature of a disruption will also vary and require different types of responses.
However, they often revolve around:
- The preservation of the most critical business activities
- The recovery of lost business assets, data, and functionality
- Restoration of the rest of the business
A business continuity plan may also be preceded by an emergency response plan, in the event of a disaster or life-threatening emergency. Those plans are specifically intended to protect human life and business assets. Though they are closely related to business continuity plans, their purpose is different.
Below, we’ll look in more detail about what content should be included in a business continuity plan, as well as what should be included in other related plans.
What Does a Business Continuity Plan Typically Include?
The format and purpose of a business continuity plan will differ slightly depending on the nature of the plan, the business continuity plan template being used, the scale of the business, and so forth.
However, almost all business continuity plans revolve around the same goals – therefore, they include much of the same content.
Here are some of the most important items that are typically included in a continuity plan:
The Purpose and Scope of the Plan
General information about the plan should clarify:
- The purpose of the plan
- Which business units are covered
- The plan’s most recent revision date
All of this information will help readers determine how relevant the plan is to them personally and when the plan should be used.
In most cases, businesses will have multiple plans that cover specific business functions, as well as different plans to implement during different scenarios.
Information About the Business Continuity Team
The business continuity team will be responsible for activating and implementing the plan.
Plans will outline all pertinent information about the team, including:
- Names and job titles
- Roles and responsibilities
- Contact details
As with the other elements of the plan, this information should be kept up-to-date in order to minimize mistakes and potential errors.
Training and Exercises
Training helps to improve employee productivity during the plan’s implementation, which can have a large impact on the plan’s results.
Simulated exercises and drills can also be used to test the proposed plan’s feasibility and identify potential issues.
In this section, it is important to outline the content of the training, as well as a periodic training schedule that outlines how often the training should be conducted.
The Plan Activation Procedures
The plan activation procedures will outline which activities to undertake when certain criteria are met.
For instance, if a fire occurs, then the plan activation procedure could include:
- An emergency response plan, such as the triggering of a fire alarm and building evacuation
- The notification of key parties, such as the fire department, local authorities, and the business continuity team
- Activities designed to protect key business activities and assets, such as IT functionality and data
Each business continuity plan will address a different scenario, so the exact nature of the continuity efforts will vary. These will be discussed more in the next sections.
Activities Intended to Protect Critical Business Functions
It is important to protect an organization’s ability to deliver value to its customers, which is why business continuity plans should protect:
- Product and service delivery
- The customer experience
- IT assets and functionality
- Workforce productivity
To continue with the previous example, a fire may severely obstruct an organization’s ability to operate.
However, taking immediate action can ensure that businesses can still operate to an extent. Remote working or relocation, for example, can enable employees to continue working even if the main worksite is compromised.
Recovery and Restoration Procedures
Disaster recovery is often included as a part of a business continuity plan.
These efforts are aimed at returning the business to normal operations as quickly as possible.
Using information gained from a business impact analysis – a detailed prediction of the potential impacts of a disruption – business continuity professionals will outline recovery timelines and objectives.
As mentioned above, remote working or temporary relocation can help an organization protect its most important business functions.
Full recovery from a fire, however, will almost certainly take more time, depending on the extent of the damage. After all, returning to full operations will entail either the complete relocation of the business or the repair and restoration of the former facilities – either one of which will be a time-consuming endeavor.
These steps, as well as those covered above, can dramatically improve an organization’s ability to withstand the negative impacts of a disaster – or any other disruption, for that matter.
Logistical Information and Documents
A business continuity plan will also include administrative and logistical materials, often in an appendix.
This section can include forms, templates, references to additional plans, contact lists, and any other useful information.
The key is to make this document a one-stop resource, so that business continuity teams and business leaders can find everything they need inside a single document. After all, searching for additional information will take extra time and only make the response effort less efficient.