Business continuity management (BCM) is the method that businesses use to plan, prepare for, and recover from potential threats that could hinder business operations, including data breaches and natural disasters. BCM includes crisis and emergency management, disaster and business recovery, and contingency planning. The company’s BCM process is outlined within its business continuity plan (BCP), which includes an outline for a variety of potential risks and disasters that could negatively impact or damage the business as well as various courses of action that the business would take to respond to the disruption in the most effective and least damaging way. Business continuity management and planning is important because, without a specific plan of action and identification of recovery resources, business threats could cause a detrimental loss of business and could even result in the closing of the company in some cases.
The business continuity planning life cycle consists of an ongoing five-phase process: risk assessment, business impact analysis, strategy and plan development, implementation, and maintenance.
In the risk assessment phase, internal and external threats that could negatively impact the business are identified, assessed, and documented, including cyber-attacks and data breaches, natural disasters, IT outages, supplier failure, and more. These threats could specifically include impacts due to the working facility being unavailable or unusable, business operations interruptions, technology failures, or internal issues within the organization such as financial instability.
Once all possible threats are identified, they are further analyzed in the business impact analysis phase in order to provide an accurate estimation of how much of an impact the threat will have on the business in terms of business lost, lawsuit expenses, fines, and more. The threats with the biggest impact should be prioritized for solutions, as these could have the greatest loss. The business impact analysis should also include impacts such as loss of reputation and customers as well as increased expenses, compliance and regulatory obligations, and timing. Timing is important to consider in a business impact analysis because a large loss during a business’s peak season would result in larger losses than an off-season impact.
Once all of the threats are thoroughly analyzed, solutions are planned in the strategy and plan development phase. Each listed potential threat will have a disaster recovery solution created that would help keep the business alive and inaction in the event of a disruption due to an internal or external threat. The best solutions will have pros and cons as well as implementation implications listed to provide the business with the most information to select the best option in an event. Recovery resources will also need to be identified in order to outline who or what specifically will be needed to resume business operations. These resources may include specific employees, third parties, records, machinery, office space, technology, and more. In this phase, the recovery time objective (RTO) should also be analyzed to uncover the amount of time for recovery before the business receives a negative impact. RTO can include time frames from immediately after an event to days later.
With all of the threats fully analyzed and solutions prepared for each, they are then put into the implementation phase. Here, the BCP is formalized and the associates are trained on how to handle business threats in accordance with the plan. Testing and exercises are also implemented to ensure that the courses of action are feasible and effective. Testing should be documented, and the course of action should be modified based on testing results to further enhance the plan’s effectiveness.
Business continuity planning is not a one-time action—the plan must be regularly revisited, updated, and tested to ensure that it is still valid and accurate. This process occurs in the maintenance phase. Many businesses create a business continuity plan but fail to keep it up-to-date, which often makes them unprepared to respond to a real threat if or when one occurs. Over time, a company’s potential threats and possible solutions may change. Without revisiting the BCP, it is impossible to be fully prepared for a business threat in the event that one does occur.
Business threats cannot be prevented from occurring, but understanding these threats and creating strategized responses within the BCP can help to drastically reduce or resolve potential damages and business losses.