What Is Business Continuity?
Business continuity is a company or organisation’s ability to retain and maintain essential business functions during a disaster as well as how well it can recover from the situation. By ensuring that there are sufficient business continuity resources in place, an organisation can prevent serious interruptions to mission-critical operations and services.
Why Is Business Continuity Needed?
Having a business continuity plan means your business can react and adapt to situations and interruptions, such as cyber attacks, extreme weather events, power outages, political unrest and more. Having a plan in place means financial losses can be avoided, time can be saved and reputations protected, which is beneficial to your business, employees and customers.
Protecting reputation and third-party relationships
Businesses need to prevent unwanted downtime to ensure that critical functions and services aren’t affected. Any suppliers or external stakeholders that your organisation works closely with will also suffer the consequences of business disruptions, meaning your reputation is at risk too. A good response to interruptions will instill confidence in your brand and could attract new business and solidify your relationship with current clients and service providers.
Protecting employee well-being
Without business continuity, communication could break down as employees scramble to try and restore order, while no one will know who to report to or what actions need to take place which could affect the well-being of the employees under your care. Every employee should know how to move forward with operations in an emergency, with a clear hierarchy structure in place. Pre-planning and preparedness are crucial when the unexpected happens.
Ensuring regulatory standards are met
Globally, there are corporate governance regulations that require directors and key stakeholders to exercise reasonable care, skill and diligence to mitigate risks facing an organisation. With an effective business continuity plan in place, you can ensure you’re meeting the requirements of a growing body of legislation.
What Is a Business Continuity Plan?
A business continuity plan is a document used by organisations to outline procedures to follow during emergency disruptions. This comprehensive document covers a wide range of contingency plans to ensure that all areas of your business are covered, including business processes, assets, human resources and business partners to ensure a consistent and effective response.
How Do You Begin a Business Continuity Plan?
The first step is to conduct a full Business Impact Assessment (BIA) which predicts the consequences of a significant disruption to your business processes and clarifies the potential losses that could be incurred in each circumstance.
Please see this guide for a comprehensive list of what to include in a BIA.
Writing Your Plan: Step By Step Instructions
- Identify your business-critical processes — Critical business processes are those necessary for the survival of the company in the case of loss of revenue, customer service interruption or reputation damage. E.g. Manufacturing — what you would need to keep your production line going. Finance — how to recover important documents that contain sensitive information. IT — is home working feasible for your business?
- Specify the target recovery time for these processes — How long would it take for the loss of a business-critical process to do irreparable damage to your business? Your target recovery time for each process you identified should be within this window. Determine how long you could tolerate a disruption: this is known as a recovery time objective (RTO). Your business continuity plan should enable you to mitigate disruptions within this time window.
- Define the specific resources needed for each process — Once you’ve identified how long you’ll need to restore a process, you’ll need to outline everything you’ll need to do so, and plan within that time frame. You could split this into internal resources (key people in your organisation, passwords, office space, specialist equipment) and external resources (e.g. supplies, transportation). Along with identifying how readily available they can be, and for how long you’ll need them.
- Describe the steps needed to restore each process — If your business is disrupted by an IT failure, fire, flood or an extreme weather event, what is your plan to address this? Devise a backup plan for each key operation you have, detailing who to contact, what resources you’ll need, and how much you might need to spend in order to restore each process.
- Decide on a schedule to update the information — Once you’ve compiled the above 4 points, you’ll have a strong business continuity plan that you can action. But it won’t be bulletproof forever. As your business evolves, so will the technology it uses and the relationships it has. Therefore, you need to plan ways to keep the information up-to-date. It might be that you decide on a regular date that the whole plan needs to be revisited, whether that’s yearly, quarterly or even monthly. Alternatively, you might decide it’s better to update small elements of the plan as and when they change: e.g. if a password to a critical folder is changed, there’s someone in your organisation who is responsible for updating your business continuity plan accordingly.
Remember The 4 P’s of Business Continuity Planning
Use the four P’s below when reviewing the initial draft of your business continuity plan to ensure you’ve considered the impact on each of them at every stage
People — This covers your staff, customers and clients.
Processes — This includes the technology and strategies your business uses to keep everything running.
Premises — Covers the buildings and spaces from which your business operates.
Providers — This includes parties that your business relies on for getting resources, like your suppliers and partners.