What is the primary goal of business continuity planning?
In this article, we’ll answer that question and more, covering topics such as:
- The advantages of business continuity planning
- What to include in a business continuity plan
- Other strategies that can mitigate the effects of business disruptions
We’ll start, of course, by learning about business continuity planning itself.
What Is the Primary Goal of Business Continuity Planning?
Business continuity planning aims to maintain continuous business operations during disasters, emergencies, and other business disruptions.
Disruptions to an organization’s normal operations can be very costly, both in the short and the long terms.
If a particular disruption negatively impacts the customer experience, for instance, then those customers can easily abandon the organization permanently.
The result: lost market share, lower profit margins, and a competitive disadvantage.
Business continuity plans mitigate these problems through…
- Risk prevention and mitigation strategies. The best way to decrease the effects of a disruption is to avoid it entirely. With the right work processes and procedures, workplace-related hazards, for instance, can often be dramatically reduced or even completely avoided. Though risk management is technically a separate discipline from business continuity management, in this case the two share the same goal: minimizing the effects of business disruptions.
- The protection of key business functions and assets. In the event of a major disruption or disaster, an organization must take swift action to protect the most critical business functions and assets. If the supply chain is disrupted, for example, organizations should have alternative sourcing solutions in place to prevent the interruption of service delivery. Or if the physical worksite becomes compromised, remote working can enable employees to stay productive no matter where they are.
- Actions designed to restore lost operations and assets as quickly as possible. The protective measures mentioned above, such as remote working or alternative supply chain sourcing, should only be temporary. The sooner an organization can return to normal operations, the better. The business continuity plan should also outline a course of action designed to restore those functions as quickly as possible – in some cases, this may be the only course of action included in the continuity plan, depending on the plan’s purpose and scope.
Business continuity management and planning can help organizations react efficiently and effectively to unplanned disruptions, reducing losses and, ideally, ensuring that those disruptions have little to no impact on the organization’s ability to operate.
What Should Be Included in a Business Continuity Plan?
The nature of the solution will depend on the nature of the disruption.
However, most continuity plans follow the same steps:
- Analysis of the potential impacts of disruptions. A business impact analysis projects the potential impacts that a disruption would have on an organization’s operations, as well as its financial impacts. This information will help business continuity planners establish restoration timelines and prioritize the plan’s sequence of events.
- Assignment of a business continuity team. A business continuity team will be responsible for the coordination and implementation of the plan. Each plan should provide the contact details of that team, while also describing the management structure and the roles that each team member will play.
- Protection and restoration activities. As mentioned above, the protection and restoration of business functions will form the core part of the business continuity plan. These actions should be tailored to fit a specific scenario, such as a natural disaster, as well as a specific business unit.
- Training, testing, and exercises. Planning should not be purely theoretical. It is important to actually test the plan and perform exercises, in order to determine the plan’s feasibility. Exercises can help continuity teams identify potential issues, while also familiarizing them with the content of the plan. These types of training activities should be performed on a regular basis to ensure that team members stay competent and proficient.
- Regular updates. The plan should be continually updated to ensure that it stays relevant and useful. If, for instance, the plan calls for the use of software or personnel that are no longer available, then the continuity effort could be completely compromised.
It is also important to note that business continuity plans differ from other types of risk mitigation strategies, such as emergency response plans and IT disaster recovery plans. Though some business continuity professionals include these types of plans under the same category, others develop separate plans.
In such cases, other response plans can include:
- Emergency response plans. These plans outline the actions to undertake immediately following an emergency, such as a fire or a natural disaster.
- IT disaster recovery plans. IT disaster recovery plans are plans to be implemented by IT departments, aimed at recovering lost data, restoring the IT infrastructure, and so forth.
- Crisis communications plan. If a business is impacted by a disaster or another disruption, it is imperative to communicate effectively, efficiently, and appropriately, which is why it is important to have a crisis communications plan.
To streamline the organization and maintenance of these plans, it is often useful to keep them separate. Having redundant plans, after all, will only raise the administrative workload and increase the potential for errors.