Business continuity management (BCM) is critical for managing business operations and ensuring success in today’s digital landscape. When facing potential disruptions, organizations need to have reliable and efficient solutions in place that will help them bounce back and restore operations as soon as possible.
This article explains the key components of business continuity management, its phases, elements, and the tools used to implement effective business continuity management solutions.
What Is Business Continuity Management (BCM)?
Business continuity management (BCM) is a strategic framework for enabling organizations to rapidly restore their operations in the event of a disaster. It includes identifying potential risks, such as natural disasters or cyberattacks, and implementing measures and protocols to reduce the impact that such adverse events could have on business operations.
Learn about the difference between business continuity and disaster recovery.
Business Continuity Management Phases
Business continuity management (BCM) involves 5 phases.
1. Establishment Phase
In the establishment phase, business analysts identify and evaluate the effect the disruptions may have on business operations. This requires a thorough assessment of all business activities and the resources they utilize. These are prioritized in order of importance for the organization and its regular operations to estimate the potential financial and operational damage the disruption can cause.
This phase includes several steps:
- Program initiation, during which the scope and the objective of a BCM strategy are defined, as well as areas of responsibility and goals.
- BCM team formation, which includes deciding which team members will be involved based on their skills and expertise.
- Policy and documentation development, during which the framework and principles are outlined in detail, and the documentation is prepared for each strategic step before its deployment.
- Awareness and training, which includes regularly educating and updating personnel on the latest security policies and how to recognize potential threats before they occur.
- Recovery time calculations, which include setting up recovery time objectives to plan out the steps to take after a disaster occurs and decide on the timeframe needed for normal operations to be restored.
2. Implementation Phase
The implementation phase includes the development and implementation of strategies for recovering business functions after a disaster occurs. During this phase, BCM experts identify the most effective ways to restore operations with minimal downtime, regardless of whether the incident is small-scale or a major disaster.
During the implementation phase, organizations must set up the necessary infrastructure and resources to support these recovery strategies. This could include establishing off-site data backups, arranging alternate work locations, and ensuring the availability of resources.
3. Optimization Phase
The optimization phase is crucial for business continuity management since it assesses the effectiveness of the entire strategy. It focuses on improving BCM strategies, plans, and procedures to ensure they are aligned with the business needs of an organization.
Optimization relies on several key objectives:
- Continuous improvement. Organizations must frequently assess their business continuity plans and procedures to detect areas that need upgrading.
- Testing. By regularly testing security policies, organizations identify gaps and weak spots that cybercriminals aim for when executing attacks.
- Stakeholder engagement. For a BCM strategy to be effective, it is essential to gather feedback from employees, customers, suppliers, and other partners. This information not only provides insight into BCM processes but also nurtures stakeholder confidence.
- Benchmarking and best practices. In this vital step, the organization compares its BCM strategy with those of its peers and industry leaders. Staying educated about emergent technologies and innovative practices will ensure the BCM plan provides the best possible protection.
4. Testing and Training Phase
Testing and training are crucial for achieving the utmost effectiveness of business continuity plans. They involve various testing methods, drills, and attack simulations that keep the organization and its personnel vigilant against potential cyberattacks.
During this phase, organizations also establish communication pathways to speed up the recovery process. It strictly defines responsibilities in case of a disaster, so each team member knows who to turn to in order to effectively implement the BCM objectives established in the previous phases.
5. Maintenance and Review Phase
This final phase of business continuity management is crucial and one that ensures the strategy remains effective. It applies not only to security policies but also to technologies and the organization’s infrastructure.
As cyber threats evolve, so must the strategies for business continuity and disaster recovery. When a security breach occurs, it is essential to use all the information gathered to fine-tune existing security policies and avoid similar incidents in the future.
Elements of Business Continuity Management
Several key elements of business continuity management ensure its effectiveness.
Business Continuity Plan (BCP)
A business continuity plan (BCP) outlines how an organization will continue operating during and after a service disruption. It is a set of procedures and recommendations for handling emergencies. The most important step in this plan is to identify critical business operations that require fast restoration and provide them with support to will minimize the impact of an attack.
The development of a BCP plan begins with a risk assessment and a business impact analysis. These phases determine how different events affect an organization to determine proper responses, procedures, and communication protocols. After this, it is essential to establish long-term strategies for resuming normal business operations, including protecting the equipment and technology, making data backups, and deciding on recovery site locations.
An incident response is the methodology an organization uses to respond to a cyberattack or data breach. It contains a set of procedures and tools for identifying, mitigating, and recovering from security incidents while minimizing their impact and preventing them from happening again.
There are several key steps an incident response plan should contain:
- Preparation, during which an organization sets up an incident response team, defines roles and responsibilities, and methods of communication.
- Detection and analysis, during which a suspicious activity is detected and analyzed for potential impact on the organization’s operations.
- Containment, which focuses on minimizing the attack surface and isolating the incident so it doesn’t affect other parts of the system.
- Eradication, during which the threat is eliminated, and the damage is assessed.
- Recovery, during which the organization restores regular operations, retrieves data from safe locations and re-implements security protocols.
Disaster recovery is a set of practices for repairing the IT infrastructure and operations after an emergency. It includes policies, tools, and procedures for restoring uninterrupted business operations after a natural or human-caused disaster.
The most important step of a disaster recovery plan is establishing a disaster recovery site. This is a physical or virtual location where data and systems are replicated and stored so they can be used in case of a primary site failure. It allows for restoration with minimal data loss and outlines clear roles and communication strategies for coordinating disaster efforts during an attack.
Risk Assessment and Management
Risk assessment and management involves assessing a variety of threats and factors that could disrupt business operations. Each potential risk is described and analyzed in detail, including the likelihood of it occurring and its potential impact. Risks are also prioritized so the organization can determine where to focus its remediation efforts.
Risk management includes analyzing the following:
- The repercussions of losing key personnel and how they can be replaced with new employees.
- Shifts in customer preferences and the damage this has on the organization’s reputation.
- The organization’s capacity to respond to security breaches, including how quickly it restores regular operations.
- Financial stability, including the organization’s ability to pay potential fines and withstand other financial losses.
- Compliance issues and possible penalties for organizations in strictly regulated industries, such as finance and healthcare.
Learn about information security risk management and its importance for your organization.
Impact analysis focuses on understanding the consequences of disruptions. It identifies precise business units, operations, and processes that are critical for the organization, as well as the resources they require to function normally. Also, it analyzes the impact these disruptions have on metrics such as financial performance, reputation, regulatory compliance, and customer satisfaction.
Impact analysis also focuses on the potential changes an organization must implement to become more resilient to threats. It analyzes the benefits, risks, and costs of implementing these changes and includes the feedback provided by stakeholders and team members involved. If a change is implemented, impact analysis ensures that all personnel are informed via previously established communication channels.
Reputation management focuses on controlling the organization’s public image. With news spreading more rapidly than ever online, reputation management is an increasingly important factor in business continuity management. It analyzes how an organization is perceived by its customers, partners, investors, and the general public.
Reputation management involves a proactive and strategic approach to understanding and managing public perceptions. It often requires monitoring social media and customer feedback and media analysis to address potential concerns. In response, reputation management teams implement policies to improve engagement with the community, build trust, and nurture the brand image.
Business Continuity Management Tools
Business continuity management tools are essential for implementing business continuity and disaster recovery strategies. They include:
- Risk assessment and business impact analysis tools. These tools identify potential threats and analyze their impact on business operations.
- Business continuity planning software. This software is used to develop and manage business continuity plans and includes functionalities for crisis management, emergency response, and recovery procedures.
- Emergency notification systems. These systems ensure proper communication during a crisis and real-time alerts for all personnel.
- Disaster recovery tools. These tools include data backup and recovery software that enable the quick restoration of data following a disaster.
- Incident management systems. These systems provide a framework that logs, tracks, and resolves incidents, and also coordinates the work of response teams.
- Training and simulation tools. These tools are used for educating employees about business continuity strategies via attack simulations, penetration testing procedures, and other crisis scenarios that boost preparedness.
- Compliance management tools. These tools ensure that business continuity plans are compliant with relevant industry-specific regulatory standards.
- Analytics and reporting tools. These tools monitor the performance of business continuity strategies and report on their effectiveness to support smart and effective decision-making.
Business Continuity Management FAQ
Here are the answers to the most frequently asked questions about business continuity management.
What Does Business Continuity Management Cover?
Business continuity management encompasses various processes that ensure the uninterrupted functioning of business operations following a disaster. It covers the development and implementation of strategies that maintain business functions during and after a natural disaster, cyberattack, or another type of emergency. It analyzes the potential impact these events have on a business and prioritizes strategies to remedy them.
BCM focuses heavily on a proactive approach to risk mitigation. It aims to accurately respond to threats before they happen and prevent them from affecting the company systems. It prioritizes proper communication between team members to keep personnel alert and ready to respond to these threats. In case of an event causing disruption, it focuses on the resilience and agility of systems and team members to remediate issues and return to regular operations as soon as possible.
What Does a Business Continuity Manager Do?
Business continuity managers have critical roles in ensuring an organization’s agility and preparedness against disruptions. They develop and implement business continuity plans to ensure critical operations are restored after a disaster.
Their role includes the following:
- Conducting thorough risk assessments and business impact analyses.
- Developing strategies to mitigate risks and ensure continuity.
- Collaborating with other departments to consolidate remediation efforts during a crisis.
- Overseeing the restoration of data backups and the implementation of disaster recovery plans.
- Conducting regular employees training on these strategies.
- Updating and reviewing business continuity management plans.
What Is the Difference Between BCM and BCP?
Business continuity management and a business continuity plan are closely related concepts but have different roles.
BCM encompasses a wide variety of tools and strategies to identify potential threats to an organization and its business continuity. It provides a framework for managing operations during and after a crisis. It includes activities such as risk assessment, business impact analysis, strategy development, plan testing and updating, and personnel training.
On the other hand, a BCP is a specific document that contains a strategy developed as a part of BCM. It details the procedures an organization follows in case of a disaster and provides instructions on how to resume operations efficiently. It includes steps for business recovery, staff roles and responsibilities, emergency contact information, and data backup strategies.
What Is the Difference Between Crisis Management and Business Continuity?
Crisis management and business continuity are critical components of an organization’s ability to withstand disruptive events, but they deal with different aspects of disaster mitigation.
Crisis management focuses on the immediate response to a disaster. It takes actions to manage and mitigate the effects of these events on an organization, its stakeholders, and the public. It addresses the crisis through effective communication and deals with the media to ensure the safety of individuals, assets, and sensitive data, aiming to minimize the damage.
On the other hand, business continuity deals with restoring critical operations after the threat has been removed. It identifies critical operations that require immediate support and develops plans to handle urgent threats and their effects.
Staying Afloat in a Crisis
Business continuity management is a vital part of any modern organization’s security posture. From natural disasters to cyberattacks, businesses face many threats that could seriously affect operations and potentially cause irreparable damage. For this reason, businesses must stay vigilant and enhance their ability to restore operations as fast as possible. This way, they preserve their reputation and trust with customers, vendors, and partners and mitigate any financial and other losses.