Please note that this is a page from a previous version of Continuity Central and is no longer being updated.

To see the latest business continuity news, jobs and information click here.

Business continuity information

How many organizations really have business continuity management?

Patrick Roberts looks beneath the headline figures published in the recent 2013 Chartered Management Institute UK business continuity survey.

The 2013 Chartered Management Institute business continuity survey was published recently and, once again, much of the reporting and comment surrounding its release has focused on the increase in the number of respondents claiming to have business continuity management (1). This year’s headline figure was 63 percent, up from 61 percent last year and the third annual increase in a row. However, behind this very positive picture is the uncomfortable fact that the response rate to the survey has fallen almost every year and is now only 2.5 percent, down from nearly 15 percent ten years ago. Great care must therefore be taken in making inferences from the results of the survey and, in particular, assuming that the results for the very small proportion of organizations responding to the survey are representative of the whole sample. This article suggests one way of estimating more accurately how many organizations in the sample really have BCM.

At one extreme, inferring from this year’s results that 63 percent of the 25,000 organizations that were sent questionnaires have BCM makes the heroic assumption that organizations with and without BCM are equally likely to respond to the survey. However, common sense would suggest that organizations that are interested enough to have adopted BCM are probably also more likely to respond to a survey specifically about BCM. Taking the argument to the opposite extreme, if one assumes that none of those that failed to respond to the survey have BCM then only 1.6 percent of organizations in the sample have BCM, down from 2.5 percent last year and 6.8 percent ten years ago. The real proportion of organizations with BCM presumably lies somewhere between these upper and lower bounds.

One approach to trying to achieve a better estimate of the proportion of organizations that have BCM arises from recognising an apparent anomaly in the results of the survey over the last two years. Starting in 2012, the survey asked “How long has your organization had BCM?” In that year 61 percent of respondents stated that they had BCM, and 40 percent of these indicated that they had had BCM arrangements in place for less than four years. A quick calculation would suggest that the number of organizations having BCM four years ago should therefore be about 60 percent of 61 percent, i.e. 36 percent; whereas the 2008 survey actually gave a figure of 47 percent. What has happened to the other 11 percent? There are (at least) two possible explanations for this discrepancy:

  • Approximately 25 percent of organizations that were doing BCM in 2008 have since abandoned it; or
  • There is a significantly higher response rate to the survey from organizations that have BCM.

Clearly a number of organizations will abandon BCM at some stage after adoption but the figure of 25 percent over four years seems extraordinarily high; so it seems very unlikely that this effect alone can explain a significant portion of the discrepancy. The rest of this article therefore focuses on the alternative explanation.

Over the period 2008-12 the overall response rate to the survey roughly halved but, if one assumes that the relative response rates of organizations with and without BCM remained constant, it is possible to calculate what this ratio is. Some fairly laborious calculations reveal that the apparently contradictory figures for 2008 and 2012 can be reconciled if organizations with BCM are about ten times more likely to respond to the survey than those without. This, in turn, implies that of the 25,000 organizations that were sent a questionnaire in 2012 about 12.75 percent have BCM: a considerable reduction from 61 percent but still somewhat higher than the earlier estimates of a lower bound. Of course what, if anything, this tells us about organizations that were not invited to take part in the survey is another question entirely and beyond the scope of this article.

Applying this same correction to the results from the previous ten years yields the following figures:


Proportion having BCM























These revised figures also explain another anomaly in the CMI surveys, namely the way in which the proportion of organizations with BCM has changed over the last few years. Studies of the adoption of innovations (ranging from domestic appliances to manufacturing technologies to management practices) generally find an s-shaped pattern of diffusion over time, as shown below.

How many organizations have BCM?

In this model of diffusion there are periods of slow change at the beginning and end of the process and rapid growth in the middle. So, taking the results of the CMI survey at face value, the most obvious interpretation was that the adoption of BCM had saturated at about the 50 percent level and there would be little further adoption in the future. But this explanation was confounded by the fact that, since 2010, we have seen significant increases each year. However, the revised figures would allow an alternative explanation; that we are actually still in the early stages of the diffusion process and just entering a period of rapid growth. So, whilst in some ways the idea that so few organizations actually have BCM could be seen as quite a negative finding; I would argue that it actually points to a bright future for our discipline and our profession.

Patrick Roberts is a director of Cambridge Risk Solutions www.cambridge-risk.com.

(1) The question has been asked in a number of different formats over the years including respondents being asked if they are “aware of a specific Business Continuity Plan (BCP) covering critical business activities”; and, more recently, “whether their organization has specific BCM arrangements covering their critical business activities.”

Make a comment.

•Date: 27th March 2013 • UK •Type: Article • Topic: BC statistics

Business Continuity Newsletter Sign up for Continuity Briefing, our weekly roundup of business continuity news. For news as it happens, subscribe to Continuity Central on Twitter.

How to advertise How to advertise on Continuity Central.

To submit news stories to Continuity Central, e-mail the editor.

Want an RSS newsfeed for your website? Click here