When creating plans for your organization’s response to an unexpected or disruptive event, one size does not fit all.

A global pandemic, cybersecurity attacks, climate disasters, supply chain disruptions, and more: threats to routine operations increase almost daily. Having a plan to assure your organization’s perseverance through uncertain times is not only wise—more and more often, regulators are requiring it for business operations

Operational resilience and business continuity both are measures that organizations can use to help with such risk mitigation. They can also help you avoid unintended consequences, missed opportunities, and operational failures.

Operational Resilience vs. Business Continuity 

Operational resilience is an organization’s ability to withstand and recover from (or adapt to) incidents that may cause harm, destruction or loss of ability to perform mission-related functions. More simply: operational resilience allows your business to keep working during turbulent times. It encompasses everything from operations to finances to cybersecurity; as well as governance, risk, and compliance. 

Maintaining your organization’s operational resilience among all business functions will allow your business to stay flexible, no matter the circumstance. 

Business continuity is more precise, where executives develop plans for specific scenarios and the steps your business can take in advance to minimize or eliminate that disruption. 

Business Continuity Management and Planning

Business continuity management (BCM) has three core principles, plus two more closely related programs that typically accompany a BCM program. Let’s start with the three principles:

Crisis management and communication enables an effective and cohesive response to an unexpected event. Crisis management occurs at all levels of the organization and includes efforts from all departments; the goal is to maintain stability for business operations and to prevent further damage after a disruption has happened.

Crisis communication depends on the crisis management team’s decisions. Encompassing all communications before, during, and after an event, crisis communications consists of internally and externally directed messages during any type of event that is deemed a crisis. 

Business continuity planning (also referred to as business recovery planning or business resumption planning) is the development of a set of instructions or procedures that describe how an organization will maintain its business processes during and after a significant disruption. 

A business continuity plan (BCP) focuses on the recovery of business functions, and includes steps an organization should take when planning inputs and outputs, information technologies, personnel resources, and physical work locations in the aftermath of a disruption.

IT disaster recovery (ITDR), also referred to as disaster recovery, is your set of policies and procedures for preparing for recovery or continuation of IT operations to support business functions. A disaster recovery plan (DRP) should spell out how to restore critical IT assets, and include all technology service providers to keep technical stakeholders in alignment. 

In addition to those three principles, we have two more closely related elements of operational resiliency:

Incident management (or incident response) includes identifying, analyzing, and managing the response to a disruptive event. Emergency response measures such as evacuation of facilities are usually included in incident management programs. 

Cybersecurity incident response refers to planning for, response to, and recovery from a cybersecurity incident such as a data breach, a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack, or a phishing attempt. 

The scope and approach of business continuity management can vary widely. But each organization should develop a business continuity plan tailored to its operations. The BCP should include a pandemic preparedness plan and a disaster recovery plan (DRP). 

Business Continuity Plans and Disaster Recovery: A Closer Look

It’s critical for businesses to have a set of instructions or procedures that describe how to sustain business processes during and after a significant disruption. To improve your preparedness, your BCP should include the following: 

  • BCM program governance, or identifying and formalizing program requirements, as well as determining oversight by a BCM steering committee or executive-level risk management
  • A risk assessment, which identifies and prioritizes potential threats and failure scenarios, and helps executives understand where the organization might be most vulnerable. Often referred to as a continuity risk assessment (CRA), this should include scenarios that pose a direct threat to operations. 
  • A business impact analysis (BIA), which serves as the foundation of a BCM program. This is a type of risk assessment that enables organizations to capture and measure the potential business impacts of a disruption. 
  • BCM program implementation and design, which defines the policies, standards and tools to support business continuity efforts. It should also include accountability for each department responsible for the three principles mentioned earlier:crisis management and communication, business resumption, and IT disaster recovery

While business continuity addresses how to keep all aspects of a business functioning amidst disruptive events, disaster recovery (DR) is a subset of business continuity that focuses specifically on preparing for recovery or continuation of IT systems after a disaster or outage

Conversations about business continuity planning and DR have become increasingly important as the world continues to grapple with conducting business during the COVID-19 pandemic. Suddenly, having a pandemic preparedness plan is critical for most businesses to continue operating as normal. Creating a pandemic preparedness plan relies on the same disciplines outlined in business continuity management, and should also be included in your organization’s business continuity plan (BCP).

Now that you know what a business continuity management program and a business continuity plan should entail, let’s consider why you should implement such a program at all. As is the case with most business decisions, the answer lies in risk. 

Business continuity management (BCM) and risk management

Without a business continuity management strategy, organizations are vulnerable to a number of risks. A risk management system implements responses for risks that have previously been identified and assessed, and is often crafted in tandem with a BCP. Together, business continuity management and risk management assure that your organization is well prepared for risk mitigation, or minimizing the risks associated with any disruption to routine operations. 

Conducting a risk assessment to identify and prioritize the threats and failure scenarios will help your organization to create a BCP that examines each area of risk to which your organization might be most vulnerable.

Types of business continuity risk

First is financial risk, defined as the possibility of unexpected costs or business losses. To minimize financial risk, your organization’s BCP should outline processes for responding to customer demands and maintaining a viable supply chain, understanding officer liability, and replacing lost assets. 

For example, if your organization provides a product to your customers, you must also ensure that your own suppliers can keep up with customer demand. Using contract provisions, you can hold your suppliers accountable for timeliness of delivery as well as for quality. 

Operational risk is an organization’s inability to provide core products and services as expected. This includes risks associated with technology or equipment, failures in internal functions, unexpected changes in leadership teams, single points of failure and external dependencies, productivity loss, and response loss. 

A comprehensive BCP ensures that the delivery of products and services continues during a disruption, and aims to minimize operational gaps and lower risks associated with readiness, planning and response. 

Finally, reputational risk refers to the negative opinions about an organization’s brand that can develop in response to poor business continuity planning. Handling an event or disruption badly can bring negative press, which can in turn contribute to a decline in revenue, unwanted social media attention, or a drop in market values. 

Thoroughly examining all the areas for potential risk within your organization can be overwhelming. Luckily, there are tools that can help you create a BCP/DRP that focuses on risk management and anticipating the unexpected. 

Tools for Managing Business Continuity 

Governance, risk, and compliance (GRC) software can provide you with a shared, enterprise-wide perspective of your business’s operational resilience. It can also enable you to identify risks quickly, get better insights, collect critical data, and execute your action plans. 

ZenGRC performs all these tasks and more, including audit trail documentation, unlimited self-audits, and integration with all your existing business applications. 

A software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform, ZenGRC helps you keep your business operations running even when your physical facilities are down, and can even give managers and your board of directors a user-friendly view of activities, time frames, and BCP and DRP key performance indicators on a centralized dashboard. 

ZenGRC helps conduct risk assessments, tests controls, finds compliance gaps, issues alerts when gaps occur, provides detailed risk mitigation and compliance checklists, and helps you manage your GRC workflows. Our solution frees you from having to perform so many of your most mundane GRC tasks—so you can focus on keeping your business, personnel, and customers safe and happy.

Worry free resilience and business continuity is the Zen way. Contact us today for your free demo.