Tuesday, 22 January 2013

What is business continuity (BC)?

Donna Monkhouse, Your BC Eye
As we head towards Business Continuity Awareness Week (BCAW), the BCI’s annual global awareness raising campaign for business continuity (BC), it makes sense to begin with a simple question:  What is business continuity?
If you look at the main BCI website and take a look at their official BCI Statement, they talk about their vision to promote the art and science of business continuity worldwide.  As a discipline, business continuity can seem like a complicated subject, but actually when we strip it back to its bare essentials, we discover that business continuity is really very straightforward and founded upon good common sense.
In a nutshell, business continuity is about taking responsibility for your business and enabling it to stay on course whatever storms it is forced to weather.   In true war time spirit, it is about “keeping calm and carrying on”.

What is BC more specifically?
Essentially, it is about building resilience in your business; it’s about identifying your key products and services and the critical activities that underpin them and finally, once that ‘analysis’ is complete, it is about devising plans and strategies that will enable you to continue your business operations and enable you to recover quickly and effectively from any disruption whatever its size or cause.  It gives you a solid framework to lean on in times of crisis and provides stability and security.  In fact, embedding BC into your business is proven to bring business, commercial, financial, legal benefits and advantages and will help you to support and protect your employees as well.
Most business owners would probably agree that this is something they should be doing, but more often than not, particularly in the case of SMEs, they put what appear to be (on the surface at least) perfectly legitimate barriers in place like lack of time, high costs and a shortage of general, freely-available advice, support and guidance.  But are these barriers not just simply weak excuses?  Does business continuity not save more than it costs in the long-term?  Is it really a cost or is it an investment?
You don’t need to bring in specialist consultants or create a dedicated team or even have a full-time BC Manager on your payroll.  Success is not determined by a high spend; success is determined by the decisions and actions you take.  And we know for a fact that those businesses that practice good BC can embark more confidently on new business ventures and can afford to be more innovative and creative because they know their business inside out; they know its strengths and its weaknesses, but more importantly, they know that whatever challenge or indeed disruption they face, they will continue to operate and that has to be a good message to any stakeholder in any business.
What are the key benefits of BC?
It helps you to understand what is important to your business and therefore supports better decision-making. 
  • It provides assurance and protection to your staff
  • It protects and enhances your company’s reputation
  • It sends out a strong message to your stakeholders that you are serious about the resilience and sustainability of your business
  • It enables you to continue fulfilling your obligations to your customers
  • It encourages you to test/exercise your BC strategies, which supports the embedding process; raises awareness; makes sure everyone knows and understands the part they have to play in BC; and it strengthens your resilience
Who does it affect?
In the case of business continuity, size really doesn’t matter!  Whether you a large corporate, an SME or indeed a sole trader, whether you work in manufacturing or health care or indeed whether you trade locally, nationally or internationally, business continuity is something you need to be thinking about.
But who has responsibility for business continuity? 
Well the short answer is EVERYONE!  In larger organizations, you might have a dedicated BC Manager that has overarching responsibility for developing and implementing a BC programme; in other organizations, the role may be assigned as part of other responsibilities. Ultimately, however, we all have a role to play in ensuring the continuity of our organizations, even by starting with the basics of backing up your data.  However, key to BC success is adoption at the top.  If the bosses are not behind your BC programme, it probably won’t work.  Success hinges on a top-down approach; on adoption across the whole business; on a widespread understanding of the importance of good BC practice and of course, finally on full organizational cooperation.
Where can you find out more?
Well there are lots of points of reference, but I think one of the best opportunities around at the moment to find out more about Business Continuity Awareness is the Business Continuity Awareness Week that runs 18th– 22nd March 2013. This annual event aims to increase the awareness and understanding of business continuity across the globe. Boasting a wide range of FREE activities from events to webinars; research to an online crisis simulation game and much more, it is definitely the place to go to get in the know!
However, there are more good sources for either some free on indeed low-cost advice, including:
§  Business Continuity for Dummies – available in book stores and online to buy
§  Local Resilience Forums (UK)
§  The Good Practice Guidelines, the comprehensive and independent body of knowledge for business continuity, which draws upon the considerable academic, technical and practical experiences of Business Continuity Professionals  (new version due to be launched in March 2013)
So in summary, business continuity really does make business sense.  It is not technical, it is not expensive and it is not complicated, but it does save time, it does save money and it does protect your business.

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