Pandemic. Recession. Natural disasters.
All words that send shivers down the spines of businesses.
And whilst big events like these can’t always be avoided, we can make sure that we’re prepared.
With business continuity planning.
The pandemic brought to light the importance of robust business continuity planning. COVID-19 thrust businesses into a state of limbo.
And while some nosedived, others came out stronger than ever.
Those organizations equipped with mission-critical crisis management plans were ready to tackle the COVID economy head-on.
Those with outdated continuity planning soon discovered there was a long road ahead.
In this article, we’re going to deep-dive into the world of business continuity planning.
More and more leaders are realizing that the best continuity plans require us to make provisions not only for short-term disruptions, but long-term transformations.
And at the center of it all? Digitization and automation are fuelling the future.
- what is business continuity?
- What is a business continuity plan?
- What should be included in a business continuity plan?
- Why is business continuity planning important?
- What is business continuity software?
- Why use business continuity software?
- How to choose business continuity software?
- 5 best business continuity planning software
What is business continuity?
Business continuity (or BC for short), is the act of being able to resume and maintain core business functions in the event of a major incident. Business continuity is important both in times of short and long-term disruption.
For example, in the event of a fire, flood, or cyberattack. Or—in the case of a long-term disruption—an unprecedented event like the COVID-19 pandemic or a national financial crisis.
Achieving business continuity means being able to keep those mission-critical business functions going, no matter what. That usually means keeping manufacturing processes, HR teams, customer support, and sales running adequately despite the circumstances.
Of course, every business is different. You will need to identify the most critical business functions in your organization and prioritize those in your unique business continuity plan.
That way when business is disrupted, your business will be prepared to recover quickly, resume services, put customers first, and avoid lost revenues.
What is a business continuity plan?
A business continuity plan (BCP) is simply a proposed strategy for use in times of severe disruption. It contains the actions and steps that an organization will take in order to achieve business continuity. A business continuity plan is essential for longevity.
Your continuity plan needs to outline exactly how your business will continue operating. This is not the same thing as a disaster recovery plan, but it will include one. Your BCP should include comprehensive contingency measures that will allow processes to continue.
Everything from supplies to equipment, storage facilities to data backups. The best continuity plans prioritize availability, operational continuity, and disaster recovery.
What should be included in a business continuity plan?
Your business continuity plan should include information that can be used as a reference for when you’re facing a crisis.
Think of your plan as an actionable handbook that will help your organization identify and overcome disasters efficiently.
Key features of a good business continuity plan
In general, every continuity plan needs to take into account these five core features.
1. Risk management plan
Put steps in place to mitigate risk. Focus on the health and safety of people, operational risk, and company assets. What can you do to protect each of these things?
You might choose to consider some of the following options:
- Cross-training personnel in case of staff shortages
- Spreading critical functions and resources across multiple sites
- Stocking up on essential equipment and components
- Backing up your IT systems
- Sourcing secondary suppliers
- Security systems
When it comes to risk management—especially when considering operational risk—the key idea is to minimize, or better eliminate, any single points of dependency.
2. Business impact analysis
A business impact analysis identifies and quantifies the potential impact of any major loss or disruption to usual business operations. This is a crucial part of any continuity plan as it supports the entire process.
Your BIA should locate mission-critical processes and activities and set them within a recovery timeline. You’ll want to factor in the impact of supplier disruption and closures, and put in place viable alternatives.
3. Incident response plan
An incident response plan includes actionable information to help organizations respond to crises with the utmost immediacy. This should include the circumstances under which the plan becomes active, the types of situations that may be encountered, and details the staff members responsible for seeing the plan through.
Your incident response plan ascertains who and what is critical in times of disruption, and sets out how changes will be communicated to internal staff and external contacts alike.
4. Business continuity strategies
You’ll also want to outline, in detail, all the strategies you plan to mobilize as part of your continuity agenda. In other words, what will you actually do when disruption hits?
If we take the pandemic as an example, it was those businesses with robust work-from-home contingency plans already in place (with the software ready to go) that came out on top.
Other strategies to consider include:
- Mutual-aid agreements
- Cross-training employees
- Outsourcing staff
- Secondary suppliers
- Alternative procedures
- Work-from-home infrastructure
5. Recovery plan
A business recovery plan is responsible for minimizing financial losses and downtime, and getting operations back to a semblance of normalcy as quickly as possible.
Your BRP should outline all the steps your organization must take in order to get up and running after a major disruption. It should put in place measures and techniques to help you respond effectively to crises and hasten recovery times.
Try to identify:
- Key resources and equipment that will help recover your operations
- Key staff who will be paramount to operational recovery
Why is business continuity planning important?
Effective business continuity planning is important for all organizations, no matter their size. For SMBs, startups, and enterprise organizations alike, business continuity planning is all about maintaining your regular operations in times of crisis.
Continuity planning is essential for so many reasons. It ensures that staff know their roles and responsibilities, and that all those mission-critical services and systems are accounted for.
Other important benefits include:
1. Helps plan for the unexpected
When you think of the word crisis, what springs to mind? People knowing exactly what to do and taking everything in their stride? No? Didn’t think so.
Business continuity planning helps you plan for the unexpected so that unexpected events don’t cause a total ruckus. By laying out procedures ahead of time, when a crisis hits, the hard work has already been done. All you have to do is thank your past self and follow instructions.
2. Increases ability to bounce back
Since you’ve already planned for the unexpected, your continuity plan will help you bounce back nice and quickly. Think of continuity planning as an investment into your organization’s own future.
With actionable steps in place, you’ll be able to return to business as usual, continue providing high-quality services for your clients, and prevent any excessive financial losses in the process.
3. Protects organizational reputation
Companies that bounce back quickly get a good name in the process. When a crisis hits you want to be able to continue serving clients and customers as close to normal capacity as possible.
The longer it takes you to recover, the more time, money, and reputation you lose to poor planning.
Fortunately, today there are numerous software solutions to help you with this planning. Pick the right one, and all of the above becomes much easier.
What is business continuity software?
Business continuity software is specifically designed to enhance business continuity planning and management.
Available both as SaaS and on-premises software models, the right tool can make the planning process both more efficient and more accurate.
This greater level of accuracy is achieved through data-driven business impact analyses and automated processes. Continuity software can document and store critical business information, accurately identify a business’s level of risk exposure, and help organizations respond to threats.
Other benefits include:
- Ensure data is accurate and well organized
- Protect against data center breaches
- Compliance management
- Aids communication
For businesses currently planning their own continuity strategies, continuity software makes for a fantastic complementary tool. If you’re looking to strengthen your software compliance even further, why not support this with robust QA testing? The software will enhance your existing continuity plan with precision analytics and organizational tools to facilitate the whole planning and execution process.
Types of business continuity software
There are two main types of business continuity software.
Program management tools are designed to support and assess recovery plans. These tools gather and organize program data, assess risk using precision analytics, and conduct comprehensive program evaluations that identify any compliance issues.
Program management software offers organizations the power of data and in-depth insight into their strategic strengths and weaknesses.
Plan development software helps businesses develop, store, and develop their recovery plans from scratch.
Features include contact lists, dependency lists, and plan storage. Each software provider will offer a slightly different range of features so pick one that meets your unique business needs.
Why use business continuity software?
In our increasingly digitized world, it makes sense that business continuity would take a software approach. More and more businesses have been shifting from manual recovery approaches to automated software-heavy strategies.
Because software aids rapid recovery. It helps organizations protect their mission-critical applications and provides data protection from cybersecurity attacks. In fact, there is an entire software ecosystem now designated to disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS).
These software tools constantly backup services, applications, data, and infrastructures, so that when a crisis hits, all critical functionalities are protected. Business continuity software helps organizations identify threats and protect organizational data.
Benefits of business continuity software
Advanced business continuity software comes complete with tons of great benefits.
1. Consolidated access
With business continuity software, you’ll get access to your very own emergency action plan. All your plans and documents will be stored under one roof, making it super simple to pull up the exact information you need, any time.
Manage all your plans from one place and access information in a flash when under pressure.
2. Incident management
Most business continuity software tools include incident management features. These tools allow organizations to restore essential business operations and reduce any financial losses accrued in the process.
3. Emergency management notifications
In times of crisis, communication is key. And emailing every employee is both time-consuming and unreliable.
With business continuity software, it’s easy to communicate important changes to employees. Emergency notification systems, messaging templates, and text alerts are all common continuity software features.
How to choose business continuity software?
When shopping around for business continuity software it’s important to identify your unique criteria. Amazing software features are important, but there are other factors to consider as well. Factors like vendor reputability and security.
Things to look for in business continuity software
When searching for new software make sure that you’re looking for:
- Agility - Will this tool scale and change with your company’s operations?
- Security - Data backup, system security, encryption, data retrieval.
- Communication - Look for software that excels both in its operational and communication functions.
- Quality assurance - QA is imperative to business continuity, so make sure that your business is undertaking robust quality assurance of its business continuity output. You might even want to consider partnering with a designated QA solution.
Questions to ask software vendors
Remember it’s not just about features. Make sure that the vendor you’re choosing to invest in is reputable, robust, and stable.
Here are some questions you might want to ask software vendors as you shop around.
- Do you own your entire tech stack? - Try to find out which system components are provided by third parties and which are in-house. Has the software undergone sufficient usability testing?
- hat level of support do you offer? - Make sure that your software vendor is offering 24/7 support every day of the year. After all, nobody can predict when disruption is going to occur.
- Are you financially stable? - This one you might not want to ask outright. But there are ways to gauge the financial status of a vendor. Ask if they consistently operate profitably and if they would be happy to provide a financial history.
5 best business continuity planning software alternatives
Feeling overwhelmed and not sure which software is right for you?
We’ve put together a list of five top business continuity programs to get you off on the right foot.
Quantivate is governance, risk, and compliance (GRC) software. This software is a great enterprise risk management option. It is specifically targeted towards IT risk management.
Quantivate will help you identify, assess, and mitigate business risks via process and scenario-based assessment modeling methods.
Top features include:
- Risk assessment
- Real-time monitoring
- Issue management
- IT risk management
- Incident management
- Internal controls management
- Operational risk management
- Planning tools
LogicManager is a cloud-based risk management solution. The tool helps users assess high-impact risks and allocate resources accordingly.
This tool comes with pre-built risk reports and a dashboard from which users can perform audits and assess compliance standards, incident management, and task tracking.
Top features include:
- Risk maturity modeling
- Assessment templates
- Incident web-forms
Assurance Software is a leading provider of business continuity management (BCM) and disaster recovery software aimed at banking enterprises.
Assurance provides business continuity management solutions across consulting, software, managed services, and staffing. This tool is designed to balance risk and resiliency to help protect an organization’s bottom line.
Top features include:
- Information distribution
- Automated plan approval workflows
- Tracking and visualization
- Plan revision histories
- Easy plan updates
Fusion Framework System
Fusion Framework helps align strategic objectives with risk management techniques. Users can analyze, assess, and monitor risks and integrate their data for increased accuracy.
The idea is to create a foundation of shared information from which better metric-led decisions can be made.
Top features include:
- Audit management
- Audit trail
- Business process control
- Disaster recovery
- Incident management
- Incident reporting
- Investigation management
- IT risk management
- Operational risk management
Catalyst is an SaaS business continuity software solution. This tool is designed to mitigate operational risk and make sure that employees are informed before, during, and after any major incidents. That way, operations can resume as soon as possible.
Top features include:
- Backup logs
- Continuous backup
- Secure data storage
- Multiple system support
- Local server options
Business continuity planning has taken on a whole new meaning since the pandemic. Today’s businesses need robust, data-led continuity plans in place to survive major disruptions—just like COVID-19.
Choosing business continuity software is an individual process. The key is to choose a tool with the right combination of features and operational support to help streamline your business operations under any circumstances.
And don’t forget to give your vendor the once over before parting with any cash.