What is a business continuity plan (BCP)?

A business continuity plan (BCP) is like a guide that helps a company keep running smoothly when unexpected things happen. This guide has important information that the company needs to know to keep working during such events.

The BCP tells us the most important things the company does, what tools and systems it needs, and how to keep them going. It thinks about all the things that could go wrong, like cyber attacks, pandemics, natural disasters, or mistakes people might make. Having a BCP is really important for a company to stay healthy and keep a good reputation. It helps reduce the chances of things like losing power or having problems with computers.

Usually, the people who work with computers a lot (IT administrators) make the plan. But the big bosses of the company also help by sharing what they know about the company and keeping an eye on things. They also make sure the plan gets updated regularly.

Why is Business Continuity Planning Important?

Business continuity planning is a smart way for a company to be ready for tough times. It helps the company understand what could go wrong and how to deal with problems during a crisis. Making a plan like this helps the leaders of the company react quickly and effectively when things don’t go as planned.

A BCP lets a company keep serving its customers even when there’s a crisis. It also makes it less likely that customers will choose to go to other companies because the company can still meet their needs, even in difficult situations.

Business Continuity Plan Elements

A business continuity plan (BCP) has important parts that help the company before, during, and after an emergency. According to a business continuity consultant, Paul Kirvan, a good BCP should have:

  1. **Initial Data:** Important contact information at the beginning of the plan.
  2. **Revision Management:** How changes are managed.
  3. **Purpose and Scope:** What the plan is for and what it covers.
  4. **How to Use the Plan:** Guidelines for when to start using the plan.
  5. **Policy Information:** Rules and guidelines.
  6. **Emergency Response:** How to handle emergencies.
  7. **Step-by-step Procedures:** Detailed instructions.
  8. **Checklists and Flow Diagrams:** Lists and visual guides.
  9. **Glossary of Terms:** Definitions of important words.
  10. **Schedule for Review and Update:** Plans to regularly check and improve the BCP.

Business Continuity Planning Steps

Creating a business continuity plan involves five steps:

  1. **Information Gathering and Analysis:** Understanding the impact and risks.
  2. **Plan Development and Design:** Creating the plan.
  3. **Implementation:** Putting the plan into action.
  4. **Testing:** Checking if the plan works.
  5. **Maintenance and Updating:** Keeping the plan up to date.

Business Continuity Plan Implementation

After starting the planning process, a company collects important data to understand what’s critical. The Business Impact Analysis (BIA) helps define crucial functions during a crisis, and the Risk Assessment (RA) outlines potential risks and threats. The next steps involve finding ways to deal with these risks and creating step-by-step procedures for response.

A good business continuity plan doesn’t need to be overly complex. Small businesses can use a one-page plan with essential details. These include the minimum resources needed, locations for continuity, necessary personnel, and potential costs.

Key Implementation Steps

  1. **Oversight:** Decide who oversees the plan, ideally involving business, security, and IT leaders.
  2. **Analysis:** Conduct the BIA to identify critical functions and the RA to understand risks.
  3. **Details:** Answer important questions about business continuity.
  4. **Action:** Create a BCP with specific actions and roles for each stage of an emergency.

BCP Testing

Since things in a company change, like technology and staff, regular testing and updating of the BCP is crucial. This ensures the plan is current and accurate. Testing can range from talking through the plan to a full run-through of a business disruption. If issues arise during testing, the plan should be corrected during the maintenance phase.

Here are the five things needed for a good check of a business continuity plan:

  1. Initial data at the beginning of the plan, including important contact information.
  2. A way to manage changes in the plan, like updating procedures.
  3. The purpose and scope of the plan, so everyone knows what it’s about.
  4. Instructions on how to use the plan, including when to start using it.
  5. A schedule for regularly reviewing, testing, and updating the plan.

Business Continuity Planning Software, Tools, and Trends

Help is available, from consultants to tools and software, to guide organizations through the business continuity planning process. The approach depends on factors like the complexity of the task, available time and personnel, and the budget. Researching products and vendors, evaluating demos, and talking to other users before making a purchase is advisable.

Business Continuity Planning Standards

Standards provide a starting point for business continuity planning. ISO 22301:2019 is a global standard for business continuity management. Other standards complement it, covering areas like guidance, business impact analysis, continuity of supply chains, exercise guidelines, and incident preparedness. Organizations can choose standards that best fit their needs.

Emergency Management and Disaster Recovery Plans

Emergency management plans help lessen the damage of hazardous events. Business continuity planning includes emergency management as a vital part. An emergency management plan, like a BCP, should be regularly reviewed, tested, and updated. It should be simple, flexible, and provide steps needed to get through an event.

Disaster recovery plans focus on making data accessible after a disaster. Business continuity has a broader focus that includes risk management, oversight, and planning for an organization to continue operating during a disruption. While disaster recovery plans are reactive, business continuity plans are proactive, focusing on maintaining operations during an emergency.

Disaster recovery plans are about getting access to data after something really bad happens. Business continuity is a bigger deal – it looks at managing risks, overseeing things, and planning so a company can keep working when there’s a problem.

Continual Improvement

Business continuity plans must be continually improved, and updates shouldn’t wait for a crisis. Staff involved in the plan should receive regular updates and business continuity training. Internal or external audits can evaluate the plan’s effectiveness and highlight areas for improvement.

This information is current as of May 2022.

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