The short answer: BCP stands for business continuity planning, a management discipline focused on minimizing the negative impacts of business disruptions.
But that definition can only take us so far.
In this article, we’ll explore the long answer to that question, covering…
- The basics of business continuity planning and management
- Key elements to include in a business continuity plan
- Why this field is more relevant than ever
To start off, let’s cover a basic definition of business continuity planning.
What Does BCP Stand For?
Business continuity efforts are activities designed to help an organization operate smoothly during disruptions that can interfere with normal business operations, as mentioned above.
When a disruption does occur, the organization will implement a business continuity plan, which is designed to accomplish several goals:
- React swiftly and decisively to disasters, emergencies, or other disruptions
- Assign and train a business continuity team to conduct the response efforts
- Protect and preserve the most critical business functions
- Perform restoration and recovery activities
- Operate in sync with other response efforts, such as emergency response plans or IT disaster recovery plans
Ultimately, business continuity is intended to reduce losses and ensure that a business returns to normal operations as quickly as possible.
There are, however, quite a few other benefits to business continuity planning.
Why Does Business Continuity Matter?
Disruptions that interfere with a business can cause significant financial losses, or worse.
Protection against these losses is perhaps the most important reason to invest in business continuity management, but there are other advantages to consider.
- Regulations in several industries, such as healthcare or finance, mandate that organizations have business continuity plans
- Organizations with continuity and disaster recovery plans will earn more trust from their customers, which can provide an edge in the marketplace
- Having a pre-planned course of action removes the need to create a response plan on the spot, an approach that can be extraordinarily costly
- Certain types of continuity plans can improve the health and safety of workers, contributing to a safer workplace and increased confidence from employees
Since there is no way to know when a disruption could occur, businesses should have a complete response plan beforehand.
What Are the Main Elements of a Business Continuity Plan?
Here are a few of the most important components included within business continuity plans:
- A description of the plan, its purpose, and its scope
- An assigned business continuity team
- Training and exercises to ensure the team’s competency
- Actions designed to protect key business functions
- Restoration and recovery activities
- References to related documents and plans
These plans will often begin by notifying the business continuity team of the incident, emergency, or disruption. Then the plan will outline a sequence of activities specifically related to the disruption covered by the plan.
What Types of Disruptions Are Covered by Continuity Plans?
A wide variety of circumstances can interfere with business activities, from natural disasters to chemical spills to IT hardware failure.
Business continuity plans may address any of these, but it is important to note that there are other types of response plans.
Emergency response plans, for example, are implemented within the first few minutes or hours of an emergency situation. A fire drill is a well-known example of an emergency response plan.
These types of plans focus on the protection of human life and business assets. When relevant, these plans will be followed up by business continuity plans, disaster recovery plans, and other related responses.
All of these response efforts work in conjunction with one another, but these responses are not the only way to cope with disruptions.
How Else Can a Business Prepare for Disruptions and Disasters?
Organizational resilience is a comprehensive, multi-disciplinary approach aimed at minimizing the negative impacts of disruption.
A business that wants to truly stay prepared will certainly implement business continuity plans and other response plans.
However, there are many other ways to maximize a business’s ability to operate and withstand the impact of disruptive changes.
- An organization that is more digitally mature will be able to deal more effectively with disruptions to IT
- A fully digital workplace will be able to work from home more effectively, which can be a very effective continuity strategy in certain circumstances
- An organizational culture that is pro-learning will be able to adapt more quickly to rapid organizational changes, new workflows, and new processes – a common scenario during disruptive changes
- A robust information security program can prevent and mitigate cyber attacks, an ever-present threat in the modern era
- Risk management can predict and mitigate a wide variety of other threats that can disrupt an organization’s normal operations
In short, it pays to be as proactive as possible and to develop resilience strategies that proactively aim to prevent and reduce the threat of disruption before it occurs – as well as a series of business continuity plans.