Continuity vs. Resilience: what’s the difference?

All businesses face a number of risks and disruptions—from preventable threats like human error to uncontrollable risks like natural disasters. The question is not “will my business be impacted by a disaster?” The true question is “how will my business be impacted by a disaster, and how can negative impacts be prevented or reduced?”


Because risks and disruptions are guaranteed for all businesses across all industries, it’s important for every business to analyze the risks they are most (and even mildly) susceptible to, create a response plan, and execute a solution that minimizes impact. This level of preparation is necessary for a business to survive an event and continue operating at an effective level.


So, what is the difference between the businesses that are prepared for a disruption and those that aren’t? The businesses that survive have both business continuity and business resilience.


Because these terms revolve around business survival in the face of threats and disruptions, they are often misunderstood as interchangeable terms. Though they are related to one another, there are key differences between them that are important to understand in order for both areas to be effective.


What is business continuity?

Business continuity is created through a business continuity plan. In this plan, the organization identifies any potential threats and risks that could reduce normal operations. This also includes identifying any internal weaknesses that need to be addressed.


Once these risks have been identified, the next step is to create a set of processes for how the business will proceed with operations (as close to normal as possible) should any of these disruptions actually occur. Having a business continuity plan ensures that the business is able to recognize threats and respond appropriately in a systematized way. This ensures that there is already a plan in place rather than the business having to respond reactively to threats.

Creating a business continuity plan includes all the following:

  • business impact analysis

  • risk assessment

  • risk management

A key part of business continuity also includes rehearsing the responses and response times to ensure maximum efficiency and effectiveness. These rehearsals also provide the business with the opportunity to tweak their responses as needed before an event occurs. It is not enough to simply have a plan in place—everyone must understand their role should an event take place and be able to smoothly transition into a proper response system.


What is business resilience?

Where business continuity is how the organization identifies and prepares to respond to threats, business resilience is how the business adapts and responds to threats when they occur. Because some threats may require a new approach, resilience is about the business’s flexibility to adapt to new environments and continue operating at the highest possible level. In other words, business resilience requires business agility. The business must be agile enough to quickly implement new strategies and responses in order to adapt.


Business resilience is important for both day-to-day and long-term solutions. True business resilience takes unpredictable timelines into consideration and ensures that the business is able to continue operations, even if an event goes on longer than predicted. A clear example of this is COVID-19. A large majority of businesses were not at all prepared to respond to a pandemic. Others with some advance preparations were not fully prepared because their response plan was short term. They did not have a plan in place for what to do should the pandemic continue on long term.


Business resilience can help companies respond to a variety of disruptions, including:

  • Technology failures

  • Supply chain failures

  • Compliance failures

  • Economic turbulence

  • Terrorism

  • Cyberattacks

  • Civil emergencies

  • Pandemics and natural disasters

Creating a business resiliency strategy includes all the following:

  • Business continuity plan

  • Disaster recovery plan: a plan for recovery from disasters

  • Value protection plan: a plan to ensure stakeholders are protected during disruptions

  • Exploitation plan: a plan that helps organizations identify and exploit commercial opportunities that may present themselves during substantial disruptions

As you can see, business continuity is a key part of business resilience. You cannot have business resilience without having business continuity. In order to properly respond to threats and disruptions and to have a business with a high level of agility that can shift gears when a new strategy is needed, you must have them identified with a plan to respond.

Business continuity and business resilience come together to create an effective, total-package response plan to address and combat risks and disruptions and to continue operating at the highest level until the risk has subsided.

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