It’s better to not have it and not need it, than need it and not have it — as the saying goes. When it comes to operating a business, ensuring business continuity when the unexpected happens, whatever it may be, means having a business continuity plan in place. You may not know when you’ll need to put your plan into effect, but it’s always best to be prepared and well-equipped for any and all contingencies.
What is a Business Continuity Plan?
A business continuity plan is a plan of action for any circumstance that interrupts business operations. A BCP must take into consideration various unforeseen events that may adversely impact business operations, such as cyberattacks, disease outbreaks, fires, natural disasters, and other threats. It includes policies and protocols that outline the appropriate responses to various situations to keep the business going (in any capacity and if possible); minimize downtime, losses, and damages; protect, property, and assets; and help the business recover as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Keep in mind that a business continuity plan is different from a disaster recovery plan. A BCP is a comprehensive approach that includes guidelines for how to appropriately respond to specific disruptive events — how to keep the business going, in particular — and the steps for the resumption of normal business operations.
Why is a Business Continuity Plan So Important?
The year 2020 saw countless businesses struggling to survive the challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. Many businesses faced the difficulties of transitioning their operations into remote or work-from-home setups; others were either forced to temporarily cease operations or eventually shut their doors for good. The dire need for a business continuity plan was acutely manifested by this unexpected, global health threat that has since redefined what “normal” life is for everyone.
Needless to say, having a business continuity plan offers the best odds of surviving and recovering from an unforeseen and disruptive event. With a BCP in place, a business can ensure that:
- A resilient and appropriate response is in place to keep the business intact and eliminate confusion and uncertainty among staff
- Essential functions are maintained
- Money, time, and company reputation are saved
- All data and information are kept secure
- Downtime, losses, and/or damages are minimized
- People are protected
- Recovery occurs as quickly as possible
What are the Components of a Business Continuity Plan?
Here’s your guide to the main components of a business continuity plan.
- Business Continuity Standards
Business continuity standards are provided by the ISO (International Organization for Standardization) in the ISO 22301 Series, which “ provides a framework to plan, establish, implement, operate, monitor, review, maintain and continually improve a business continuity management system (BCMS). It is expected to help organizations protect against, prepare for, respond to, and recover when disruptive incidents arise.”
- Business Continuity Development
Developing a BCP involves two essential steps: a business impact analysis (BIA) and risk assessment. A BIA takes a look at all the possible weaknesses of an organization/business, and considers all the possible impacts of a disruptive event on each department and the business as a whole. Through the BIA, a company can identify which systems and functions should be prioritized in the business continuity plan.
A risk assessment, on the other hand, identifies all potential threats and the likelihood of these threats to the organization, its staff, operations, properties, assets, technologies, and customers.
- Business Continuity Management
Business continuity management refers to the entity -- an individual, a team, or a software -- that will implement and manage the BCP. Business continuity management also involves communicating the plan to everyone, testing the plan through exercises, and updating it whenever necessary.
- Business Continuity vs Disaster
A business continuity plan must include a disaster recovery strategy. On its own, a disaster recovery plan does not translate to a business continuity plan, but it is a critical component of a BCP.
Disaster recovery involves the deployment of solutions to gradually restore normal business operations. These solutions often include data backup and recovery through cloud technologies and virtual servers, getting systems back up and running, restoring systems and data access, and reconnecting employees to each other, to business systems, and to their customers.
Business Continuity Management Benefits
- Prepared to Handle Unexpected
With a BCP in place and all employees properly informed about what to do during a disaster or crisis, the protocols can be implemented smoothly and achieving the goals of the BCP can be maximized. Preparedness means that all decisions that have to be made in response to the disaster or crisis are guided by guidelines outlined in the BCP, and confusion and panicking can be eliminated.
- It Will Better Preserve Corporate Reputation and Revenue Stream
Knowing how to properly respond to emergency situations or disruptive events demonstrates a company’s resilience, capabilities, and steadiness. Implementing a strategic BCP also ensures uninterrupted, albeit minimal, business operations, and the eventual restoration of “business as usual.”
- A Guarantee of Continued Service During and/or After a Disaster
Even with only the essential functions and operations maintained, a BCP allows a company to continue providing service to its customers, thereby reinforcing the business’ reliability and customer trust. A business can stay relevant and competitive even amidst a crisis when it’s equipped with a business continuity plan.
- All Necessary Safeguards Will Be In Place
In addition to insurance, a business continuity plan covers contingencies that will protect the company against loss of customers, operational difficulties, loss of market shares, and damage to reputation, among others. Insurance against disasters or other known threats provides protection only up to a certain point. Having both means that a company will have more, if not all, of their bases covered.
Final Thoughts: Always Plan Ahead To Avoid Looking Back With Regret
A company may never know when it will need to implement a business continuity plan. The plan may simply remain filed away for an undetermined length of time — and it’s a good thing, of course, if an organization doesn’t find itself in need of a BCP. But when disaster strikes, it pays to have a plan, in more ways than one.
Any unforeseen disruptions to business operations can cause setbacks and losses, and recovery is not always guaranteed. Whether a disruptive event is a minor or massive one, a business continuity plan ensures that basic functions, at the very least, are maintained and full-scale operations can be and will eventually be resumed. With a solid BCP, you can have your operations back up and running more quickly so that any negative impacts from the unforeseen event are minimized.