Incidences such as terrorist attacks and natural disasters have put the spotlight on the vulnerability of businesses to disruption. Research published by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) in 2010 identified extreme weather as being the most common disruption to businesses. The CMI’s research also found that the number of organisations withspecific business continuity plans covering operations has fallen slightly from their findings in 2009. However, conversely it was revealed that those managers who had established and activated their business continuity management plans were in agreement that it does effectively reduce the impact of the disruption. The establishment of an effective business continuity plan cannot guarantee freedomfrom the effects of failure. What it can do is provide a considered and planned method of dealing with failure in the most effective way to meet the organisation’s defined priorities. Effective continuity management offers a demonstrable benefit to the business continuity of any organisation.
Business continuity is based on the principle that it is the key responsibility of anorganisation’s directors to ensure the continuation of its business operations at all times. The British Standards Institution Code of Practice for Business Continuity Management, BS25999-1, defines business continuity as: An holistic management process that identifies potential threats to an organisation and the impacts to business operations that those threats, if realised, might cause, and whichprovides a framework for building organisational resilience with the capability for an effective response that safeguards the interests of key stakeholders, reputation, brand and value-creation. Business continuity goes beyond planning for a reaction to a physical disaster to include consideration of wider issues, such as the impact of the loss of key staff or the damage to corporate image,reputation or brand through negative publicity.
1. Define scope and objectives
As with all projects, it is essential to define and agree the scope and objectives before commencing the project activities. Because business continuity includes many inter-dependant elements, limits of responsibility must be agreed. It is essential that senior management support, and have ownership of,the business continuity process. Appoint a champion on the senior management team and ensure that they understand their role in setting policy and in ensuring that the plan is adopted and maintained throughout the organisation. A team with cross-function experience and sufficient seniority should be appointed to manage the planning process.
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The team needs to have, or be able to quickly develop, skills in the areas of risk assessment, risk management, business impact analysis, disaster recovery and crisis communication. Overall business objectivesmust be clear. Objectives may be set based upon a number of pre-determined high-level failures or change scenarios, such as equipment or network service failures, loss of essential services, denial of access to premises, supply chain disruption, significant staff changes, or any combination of failures. The ability to provide an emergency service for a key Crisis Team requires a differentapproach to that required to support the whole organisation for prolonged periods of failure. Expenditure on any plan must provide a relevant business benefit. Business continuity planning within any organisation will have an optimum level of business benefit against expended cost. Beyond this optimum point the law of diminishing returns applies, resulting in higher and higher expenditure for a smaller...