What Is BCP? A Quick Guide to Business Continuity Planning

What is BCP and why is it more relevant than ever? 

As many professionals know, disruptions to business operations can be very costly. 

Preparing for disruptive events can significantly mitigate risks, reduce damage, improve customers’ trust, and more – which is the purpose of a business continuity plan.

In this quick guide, we’ll explore the basics of business continuity management and why it is so important to stay prepared for business disruptions.

What Is BCP?

A business continuity plan (BCP) outlines a series of actions to take when certain events disrupt normal business operations.

A BCP should accomplish several goals:

  • Protect critical business functions. Some business functions are more critical than others, such as those that revolve around the delivery of goods and services. Continuity plans address specific types of disruptions, how these disruptions will impact different business units, which business units are most important, and which actions to take in order to protect those functions.
  • Minimize negative impacts to the organization, its operations, and its performance. One of the biggest benefits to having a business continuity plan is that it can minimize damage to the organization during disruptive changes. Though it is not always possible to prevent certain types of events from affecting the business, there are often ways to reduce negative impacts. In certain situations, business continuity efforts can even mean the difference between failure and survival.
  • Assign roles, responsibilities, and tasks to a business continuity team. Business continuity plans will be implemented by an assigned team. That team’s composition will vary, depending on the nature of the disruption, and each team member will be assigned specific duties to perform during the response. 
  • Define training activities and exercises for team members. Employee training, as mentioned below, ensures that employees can stay prepared, perform their tasks effectively, and operate efficiently during the response effort. Without that training, employees will not be able to react effectively or swiftly – precisely when speed is of the utmost importance.
  • Perform recovery and restoration activities. Once key personnel have been notified, critical business functions have been protected, and other essential activities have been performed, then it is important to begin recovery operations. The nature of these activities will depend on the nature of the disruption, which is one more reason to have multiple continuity plans that cover multiple scenarios.

The complexity of these plans will vary, depending on the organization’s scale, the type of disruption being addressed, the industry, the amount of effort the organization puts into the creation of the plan, and so forth. 

The Importance of Creating and Maintaining BCPs

Organizations that create and maintain business plans will…

  • Improve an organization’s ability to function during disruptive events
  • Increase customers’ trust and bolster the organization’s reputation
  • Ensure that organizations stay compliant with the regulations for their industry
  • Increase an organization’s chances of successfully surviving certain types of disruptions

It is also important to actively maintain these plans and regularly update them, since they can become dated and obsolete. Plans that revolve around cyber attacks, for instance, rely on digital technology, which changes continually. In such cases, plans that rely on outdated technology or solutions will be far less relevant than more current plans.

How to Create a Business Continuity Plan

There are several steps to follow when developing a business continuity plan:

  • Assess the potential impact of certain types of disruptive events, such as natural disasters, power outages, or supply chain disruptions. A business impact analysis will project the potential effects of disruptions, by assessing risks and potential losses. An analysis will provide important information that can be used to develop prevention, mitigation, and recovery strategies. They should be as in-depth as is reasonably possible, covering a variety of potential scenarios, timing, duration, and other relevant variables.
  • Design recovery strategies aimed at protecting the most critical business functions and restoring lost functionality as soon as possible. First and foremost, organizations must protect critical business functions during a disruption, in order to maintain operations. Then it is important to develop strategies for relocating operations, restoring lost business functions, and any other activities required to protect key business units and restore normal operations. For instance, initiating remote working policies can allow businesses to stay functional when employees cannot work on-site, as organizations discovered during the COVID-19 crisis.
  • Create a plan of action that will be implemented by business continuity teams. The plan will describe the sequence of actions to take in the event of a disruption, communication protocols, and the responsibilities of team members. One of the most important tasks to start with is notification – that is, contacting business continuity team members, business leaders, customers, and other relevant parties. 
  • Develop and conduct training for those teams, well before they are needed. Employees should become familiar with a plan before it is ever needed. Providing preemptive training can ensure that employees stay prepared and can perform their duties effectively when the time comes. 

In some cases, organizations will develop these plans internally. In other cases, however, they may hire agencies that specialize in business continuity management (BCM). 

Chris is the Lead Author & Editor of Change Blog. Chris established the Change blog to create a source for news and discussion about some of the issues, challenges, news, and ideas relating to Change Management.