What is business continuity?
Business continuity can be defined as 'the processes, procedures, decisions and activities to ensure that an organization can continue to function through an operational interruption'.
In other words it is about making proactive and reactive plans to help your organization avoid crises and disasters and to be able to quickly return to 'business as usual' should they occur.
Business continuity involves two distinct areas:
Business continuity planning - where a plan is developed that, when implemented, will help to prevent operational interruptions, crises and disasters happening and will help the organization quickly return to a state of 'business as usual' should any of these events occur. Once it has been prepared the business continuity plan must be tested and exercised to ensure that it will perform as anticipated.
Business continuity management - this is:
- The ongoing management of the business continuity plans to ensure that they are always current and available; and
- The ongoing management of operational resilience and process availability within an organization, with the aim of ensuring that the organization experiences the minimum possible day-to-day disruption.
Business continuity achieves various things for organizations, with the degree of success in each area dependent on the amount of effort, skill, resource and commitment provided by the organization for business continuity activities. There will be a number of outcomes in every business continuity program which are specific to the organization in question, but the following are outcomes which should be achieved by every organization which takes business continuity seriously:
A deeper and clearer understanding of the organization
The processes involved in developing the initial business continuity plan and then in maintaining and managing the BCP result in a clear overview of the overall organization; its structures, dependencies, suppliers and stakeholders. This information is not only essential for business continuity management it can also help planning and strategy in other non-related areas of organizational development and management.
Proactive measures are designed for the prevention of interruptions to organizational activities .
The essence of good business continuity management is the identification and implementation of measures which can be put in place to proactively prevent operational interruptions taking place, and to prevent crises and disasters occurring. Business continuity management, at its highest level, is about keeping organizations operating at their maximum capability.
Reactive measures are designed for recovery from interruptions to organizational activities.
Business continuity management programs includes plans for the reactive measures that will be taken should the proactive measures that are in place fail, become overwhelmed, or are bypassed by some unforeseen and unexpected crisis. Reactive measures enable the organization to return to an acceptable level of operations within a desired timescale following an interruption, disaster or crisis.
Business continuity management programs involve an exploration of organizational culture. Effective programs will utilise change management techniques to ensure that the organization encourages a culture where all employees are sufficiently aware of everyday risks and their individual responsibility to report, manage and mitigate risks.