Business continuity strategy: Options, best practice approaches and examples
There's no shortage of things to consider when you're upgrading your business continuity strategy.
- What should your plan cover?
- What are the critical inputs to the business continuity strategy?
- What are the different approaches and solutions available?
- What should the recovery strategies look like within your business continuity plan?
When it comes to business strategy, preparing for the unexpected is a necessary step, but can be a neglected element of strategic planning. Business continuity strategies ' sometimes referred to as disaster recovery planning ' can be one of the tricky jobs we push to the bottom of the list. Because these unexpected events are, by their very nature, unpredictable, they are difficult to anticipate and account for when planning. This can make developing business continuity strategies a challenge that we put off until we have no choice but to tackle it.
And yet the benefits of having a robust business continuity strategy are legion. Your organization minimizes the cost and impact on any business performance during disruption. You are confident that you take a consistent approach to business continuity planning across your sites, entities or geographies. Your clients, suppliers, shareholders and other stakeholders are reassured that your business continuity approach is comprehensive and meticulous.
The process of developing a business continuity strategy may also have wider-reaching benefits, encouraging as it does a wholesale review of your risk, supply chain management, and resource management approaches.
Here we aim to make this process painless by exploring the various options available for business continuity planning, sharing tried-and-tested approaches and giving best practice examples.
What Business Continuity Strategy Options Exist?
There will be significant differences in approach developing business continuity strategies. The various methods are dependent on the nature of your business, the country or countries you operate in, and the prevailing external landscape when developing or updating the plan.
There are, though, some accepted standards and definitions of business continuity. The International Organization for Standardization (ISO), in its ISO 22301:2019 standard, describes business continuity management as 'Requirements to implement, maintain and improve a management system to protect against, reduce the likelihood of the occurrence of, prepare for, respond to and recover from disruptions when they arise.'
Before you decide on the best continuity strategy for your business, you need to identify your objectives and any interdependencies that may impact the order of the actions you take. Is your primary focus immediate crisis management, restoring IT and systems, or the swift resumption of business? This will impact your priority actions in the event of any business interruption.
Essential Steps To Include In Your Business Continuity Strategy
No matter your sector, your immediate priorities for business continuity, or the nature of the disruption faced, some core elements and steps should feature in every business continuity strategy. You need to:
- Identify the potential risks to your business. These will vary according to internal and external factors, and some will have more significant potential impact than others. Assess the implications of these risks to prioritize your response to them.
- Determine who is responsible for creating BCPs for each of these risks.
- Ensure you have a comprehensive view of your entire organization. Accurate data on all your legal entities is a prerequisite for successful business continuity planning.
- Put in place arrangements for back-up power, communications, IT and remote working. Think about ways you might work if some of your core team are unavailable. Technology can be an essential partner here, enabling, for instance, e-signatures to ensure business decisions can be made even when people are isolating, working remotely or otherwise unavailable.
- Plan for recovery. Recovery strategies in business continuity are vital. The immediate disaster response is only the first stage, and business continuity recovery strategies are as important as managing the initial crisis. Set up a team responsible for the various elements of your recovery ' these should include specialists in areas including IT, health and safety, communications and HR.
- Regularly review your plan to ensure it remains current. Threats to your business change over time; so does the structure and nature of your organization itself. Things like your contact list and your critical functions may have altered since you last checked your plan.
Central to this is the integrity of your entity data. Accurate data underpins your plan; do you have a comprehensive picture of all your subsidiaries and their key information? Of course, the systems themselves that carry this data are also under threat from any business interruption. Your entity data management software, CRM solutions and other systems should be audited and checked to ensure they continue to operate in the event of any disruption.
- Schedule recurring surprise BCP tests. These drills should be a non-negotiable element within your business continuity strategy.
Harness Technology To Support Your Business Continuity Plans
As the coronavirus pandemic ' the most salient example of business interruption this year ' took hold, organizations with robust systems buoying their operations found themselves better-placed to weather the storm, with best-in-class providers supporting their clients via online support and guidance.
Diligent and our cloud-based software, including Entities, our entity management solution, delivered this type of support, partnering with clients to help them through the crisis. Robust entity management and proactive governance solutions help businesses ensure their business continuity planning strategies are comprehensive and reliable, giving assurance that they'll be ready when disaster strikes.
Contact us to request a demo to see how our suite of cloud-based governance and compliance software can underpin your business continuity strategy, giving you the best chance of uninterrupted operation in a crisis.