Ensuring business continuity is crucial for a company to function correctly and respond efficiently to crises. Why is this important, and what should you pay attention to when creating a Business Continuity Plan?
Every business is exposed to crisis situations; some are universal, some industry-specific, e.g., droughts or intense hail storms in agriculture. Risks also occur on a more general level, such as in the cyber security layer.
Table of contents
- What is a Business Continuity Plan: how to safeguard critical business functions
- Risks that Business Continuity Planning should address
- What should Business Continuity Plan include?
- Business Continuity Plan vs Disaster Recovery Plan
- Business Continuity Plan on cloud solutions
What is a Business Continuity Plan: how to safeguard critical business functions
A Business Continuity Plan (BCP) is a written document indicating how an organisation responds to a crisis. It outlines how to restore the company’s operability step by step. BCP, to be effective, requires not just a one-off implementation but continuous improvement and adaptation to new threats.
A strong Business Continuity Plan safeguards the company on at least four levels: business, financial, related to the organisation’s stakeholders, and internal procedures.
The Business Continuity Plan on a business level supports the organisation’s strategic objectives and protects its reputation. A good plan increases resilience to attacks and creates a competitive advantage. Potential contractors will be more interested in doing business with a company that is prepared to deal with potential crises.
Business continuity planning reduces financial losses – direct and indirect costs associated with a crisis. It also minimises the company’s legal exposure, such as the need to commission expertise when a rapid and decisive response is required.
Every crisis creates uncertainty among employees, sometimes leading even to decision-making paralysis. If employees know how the organisation intends to deal with the situation, anxiety can be reduced, allowing them to continue with their assignments. In the case of natural disasters or major accidents, the Business Continuity Plan helps to reduce the risk of death or injury. It also protects property and the environment and increases confidence in the organisation.
Internal processes perspective
Creating a Business Continuity Plan helps to find gaps in the system and, therefore, better prepare for the emergency. It results in the company’s ability to act effectively during disruption and proactively control risks and establish business continuity plans.
Risks that Business Continuity Planning should address
An efficient crisis management plan should take into account scenarios such as:
- natural disasters (earthquake, flood),
- building failure (fire, structural collapse),
- transport accident (e.g. for freight forwarders),
- theft or destruction of physical documents,
- theft of company devices,
- a hacking attack on an IT system.
What should Business Continuity Plan include?
An adequately designed Business Continuity Plan should be comprehensive, realistic, effective and implementable. What steps should be taken to create such a plan?
Definition of objectives and business processes
The Business Continuity Plan applies to all key departments of the company, so it should ensure the continuity of core business processes at its highest level. There is no single model that can be applied to all organisations. Each company should define objectives according to its risk assessments.
Establishment of a crisis management team
When a crisis arises, it may be too late to identify a leader who will be the most competent person to implement the BCP. It is good practice to build a team of business continuity management who will start to work together when facing an emergency. Such a team must have a leader capable of making decisions and executing the plan effectively.
Carrying out a risk analysis
Business Impact Analysis supports the identification of potential threats to the company and, in a further step, the preparation of a scenario for responding to them. Such an analysis can also include plans to recover critical business functions, business operations or set an recovery time objective.
Identification of the company’s core functions
The next step is to identify the company’s core functions, i.e., the minimum activities necessary to stay afloat. This is the most individual point of the whole plan, linked to the sales and marketing strategy. The core functions of an e-commerce company will differ from those of, e.g., a freight forwarding firm.
Taking all stakeholders into account
When preparing the BCP, remember to consider the needs of all stakeholders. Depending on the crisis, it may affect parts or the whole company. For example, a disruption in a supply chain first affects purchasing departments that provide needed components to the company on time. It is on their shoulders to find an alternative solution. The response time determines whether another department of the company – production in this case – is exposed to downtime and delays. A longer-lasting malfunction affects the shipping department, which cannot fulfil orders on time, leading to a situation with customers waiting for ordered products. At this point, the sales or after-sales department becomes involved in the case, and we have almost the whole company engaged before long. The plan should include steps to reduce potential tensions and implement early warning systems so the other units can be prepared in advance to respond efficiently.
Checking whether the plan addresses business functions
No essential business function should be left out of the Business Continuity Plan. For each part, you should assign the following:
- level of business risk,
- impact on stakeholders,
- the steps needed to recover from a crisis,
- financial resources required to implement the plan,
- possible external resources (organisations, institutions) with which cooperation is a must.
Employees’ training and plan updates
For the plan to be implemented smoothly in the case of an emergency, it is necessary to provide regular training to all staff and update the BCP in response to changing sources of potential crises over time.
Business Continuity Plan vs Disaster Recovery Plan
When discussing the Business Continuity Plan, we often come across the term Disaster Recovery Plan, a component of the BCP. Disaster recovery planning only covers the digital layer of the business and aims to get the IT system back up and running as quickly as possible after a disaster, such as a hacking attack, a server room fire or an error on the part of the service provider. Here you can read more about the DRP: Disaster Recovery Plan – how to keep applications available when a failure strikes.
Business Continuity Plan on cloud solutions
The use of cloud solutions such as Google Cloud Platform helps mitigate the risk of data loss during a cyber disaster. Physical servers are located in data centres distributed around the world. Thanks to data redundancy, backups are located in different locations from the system, ensuring that even the physical destruction of some devices will not result in data loss. However, it is important to remember that it is up to the app owner to ensure data security and the need to develop BCP and DRP. The plan must also anticipate that failure may occur on the service provider’s side.
Public cloud platforms are well-secured, making a hacking attack on the infrastructure almost impossible. However, another issue is the security of the application itself, for which the company is responsible. Suppose the security is not sufficient and, in addition, the application owner does not have a Business Continuity Plan or a Disaster Recovery Plan. In that case, they should start implementation as soon as possible.
In addition, Google has a team of cyber security specialists (Google Cybersecurity Action Team). They advise GCP clients on security strategies, implement instructional programmes, train on threat mapping and rapid response, or share best practices for designing secure applications.
The role of the Business Continuity Plan is to ensure the safe operation of the company and key business processes. Having a crisis response plan allows employees to take reasonable and planned steps in the case of a crisis. One of the biggest threats that companies face nowadays is cyber attacks. Since virtually any company – even minimally digitised – can fall victim to a hacker, having a business continuity planning process in place should be a priority not only for IT companies.