Today’s rapidly evolving business landscape obligates companies to plan strategically so that critical operations can continue even during a crisis. From natural calamities to cyber threats, unpredictable events cause disruptions that can damage a business of any size.
A business continuity plan ensures that a company remains resilient to disaster, can minimize operational downtime, and prevent financial and reputational loss.
This article explains everything you need to know about business continuity best practices and how to implement them to achieve business success.
What Is Business Continuity?
Business continuity (BC) refers to all the practices an organization implements to maintain uninterrupted business operations in the face of disruptions, such as natural disasters, cyber attacks, or other emergencies. These activities include identifying and protecting critical business functions, sensitive data, and supply chains so the organization can return to normal functioning as quickly and smoothly as possible.
Business continuity is closely related to disaster recovery (DR). Both are needed to establish an ironclad IT system that can withstand the most modern of threats, but differ in their scope and the aspects of crisis management they focus on.
Learn more about those differences by reading our post Business Continuity vs. Disaster Recovery.
10 Business Continuity Best Practices
It is important to remember that business continuity planning is not a one-off event but a mindset. Companies must regularly test, revise, and update their systems and procedures to remain flexible and resilient in adversity.
Below are business continuity best practices to ensure an uninterrupted business flow.
1. Implement Risk Assessment and Business Impact Analysis (BIA)
Risk assessment and business impact analysis (BIA) involve identifying potential threats before they happen and assessing their impact on business operations. BIA focuses on defining business-critical operations and evaluating the consequences various risks have on financial performance, information security, and company reputation.
2. Develop a Strategy
After identifying potential risks, companies must develop strategies to mitigate each one. This includes establishing measures that reduce the impact of these threats and protect business operations in various scenarios. Risk mitigation involves diversifying the supply chain, maintaining redundant data and IT, regularly revising IT security policies, and patching and updating all systems.
3. Define Roles and Responsibilities
This step includes establishing roles, responsibilities, and procedures in case of disruption. Your BC plan should detail the steps staff should follow before, during, and after a disruption, including the response procedures that promptly remove confusion and resolve issues.
4. Establish Clear Communication
Communication during an emergency must be clear, timely, and consistent. The communication aspect of a company’s BC plan focuses on the hierarchy and frequency of reporting in case of an emergency and which communication channels to use to avoid further damage to systems and operations.
5. Train Your Employees
Employees should be trained and made aware of their roles and responsibilities during a disaster. The company should hold security awareness training frequently so personnel can bolster their knowledge and skills on what to do in an emergency to minimize the negative consequences and downtime.
6. Test the Plan
The business continuity plan should be regularly tested to ensure its effectiveness and address potential weak spots. The BC plan can be tested through simulations of different disaster scenarios, company-wide drills, and specific IT security testing methods such as vulnerability scanning and penetration testing.
7. Review and Update the Plan
A business continuity plan must be a work in progress and regularly updated to ensure procedures are robust enough to sustain cyber attacks, natural disasters, and human error. As the range of threats expands, technology also advances to develop new systems and processes. A BC plan must remain relevant and effective in such a dynamic environment.
8. Collaborate with Partners and Vendors
Vendors and partners play crucial roles in the supply chain and in achieving and maintaining business continuity. Companies should continuously work with suppliers, service providers, and partners to ensure their practices align in case of potential disruption.
9. Create an IT Disaster Recovery Plan
An IT disaster recovery plan is an essential component of the business continuity & disaster recovery (BCDR) plan, which typically focuses on restoring IT infrastructure and operations. Disaster recovery involves implementing strategies that include data backups, systems recovery, and the protection of IT assets to ensure they can be quickly restored in an emergency. An effective IT disaster recovery plan is essential for minimizing downtime and mitigating financial losses.
Businesses are migrating to the cloud for the flexibility, scalability, and cost-efficiency it offers. However, cloud computing implementation presents unique security concerns and challenges.
If your IT infrastructure includes cloud services, learn how to mitigate security threats by creating a strong cloud security strategy.
10. Establish a Crisis Management Team
Companies should assemble a crisis management team which will be responsible for implementing the business continuity plan. This team will make crucial decisions during a crisis, activate the BC plan, and coordinate efforts across departments. For the team to function effectively, each member must understand their roles and responsibilities and have a deep understanding of all procedures, including communication protocols, situation assessment steps, and resource allocation guidelines.
Mastering Business Continuity
Implementing a business continuity plan is not just a precautionary measure but a fundamental aspect of modern business management. Businesses that anticipate, prepare for, and respond to crises are the ones that will ultimately maintain operations and recover from adverse events. With a business continuity plan in place, companies achieve resiliency and safeguard their assets in an unpredictable world.
Prepare your organization for any circumstance with our business continuity plan checklist (includes a free downloadable PDF).