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Business Continuity Planning
Organize a business continuity team and compile a business continuity plan to manage a business disruption. Learn more about how to put together and test a business continuity plan with the videos below.
Business Continuity Plan Supporting Resources
- Business Continuity Plan Situation Manual
- Business Continuity Plan Test Exercise Planner Instructions
- Business Continuity Plan Test Facilitator and Evaluator Handbook
Business Continuity Training Videos
Business Continuity Training Introduction
An overview of the concepts detailed within this training. Also, included is a humorous, short video that introduces viewers to the concept of business continuity planning and highlights the benefits of having a plan. Two men in an elevator experience a spectrum of disasters from a loss of power, to rain, fire, and a human threat. One man is prepared for each disaster and the other is not.
View on YouTube
Business Continuity Training Part 1: What is Business Continuity Planning?
An explanation of what business continuity planning means and what it entails to create a business continuity plan. This segment also incorporates an interview with a company that has successfully implemented a business continuity plan and includes a discussion about what business continuity planning means to them.
Business Continuity Training Part 2: Why is Business Continuity Planning Important?
An examination of the value a business continuity plan can bring to an organization. This segment also incorporates an interview with a company that has successfully implemented a business continuity plan and includes a discussion about how business continuity planning has been valuable to them.
Business Continuity Training Part 3: What's the Business Continuity Planning Process?
An overview of the business continuity planning process. This segment also incorporates an interview with a company about its process of successfully implementing a business continuity plan.
Business Continuity Training Part 3: Planning Process Step 1
The first of six steps addressed in this Business Continuity Training, which detail the process of building a business continuity plan. This step addresses how organizations should “prepare” to create a business continuity plan.
Business Continuity Training Part 3: Planning Process Step 2
The second of six steps addressed in this Business Continuity Training, which detail the process of building a business continuity plan. This step addresses how organizations should “define” their business continuity plan objectives.
Business Continuity Training Part 3: Planning Process Step 3
The third of six steps addressed in this Business Continuity Training, which detail the process of building a business continuity plan. This step addresses how organizations should “identify” and prioritize potential risks and impacts.
Business Continuity Training Part 3: Planning Process Step 4
The fourth of six steps addressed in this Business Continuity Training, which detail the process of building a business continuity plan. This step addresses how organizations should “develop” business continuity strategies.
Business Continuity Training Part 3: Planning Process Step 5
The fifth of six steps addressed in this Business Continuity Training, which detail the process of building a business continuity plan. This step addresses how organizations should define their “teams” and tasks.
Business Continuity Training Part 3: Planning Process Step 6
The sixth of six steps addressed in this Business Continuity Training, which detail the process of building a business continuity plan. This step addresses how organizations should “test” their business continuity plans.
Last Updated: 09/07/2023
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ISO 22301 - Business continuity
Year of publication: 2019 | Edition: 1
A free publication about ISO 22301, Security and resilience – Business continuity management systems – Requirements , the International Standard for implementing and maintaining effective business continuity plans, systems and processes.
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- ISO 22301:2019 Security and resilience Business continuity management systems Requirements
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5 Step Guide to Business Continuity Planning (BCP) in 2021
A business continuity plan provides a concrete plan to maintain business cohesion in challenging circumstances. Click here for the key steps that can help you formulate a formidable BCP.
A business continuity plan (BCP) is defined as a protocol of preventing and recovering from potentially large threats to the company’s business continuity. This article explains what a business continuity plan is today, its key benefits, and a step-by-step guide to creating a formidable plan.
Table of Contents
What is a business continuity plan (bcp), key benefits of having a business continuity plan, step-by-step guide to building a formidable business continuity plan (bcp) in 2021.
A business continuity plan (BCP) is a protocol of preventing and recovering from potentially large threats to the company’s business continuity. Such a plan often aims to address the need for updated business norms and operational standards in unpredictable circumstances such as natural disasters, data breach/ exposures, large scale system failures etc. The goal of such a plan is to ensure continuity of business with no or little damage to regular working environments, including job security for its employees.
It covers everything from business processes, human resources details, and more. Essentially a BCP provides a concrete plan to the organization to maintain business continuity even in challenging circumstances.
Below are key reasons why businesses need to have a BCP today:
- BCP’s relevance has gone up considerably after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and was also a major testing time for organizations that did have such a plan in place. The organizations which had a business continuity plan in place were better able to cope during these unprecedented circumstances better than those who did not have any such plans.
- The recorded number of natural disasters has increased from 375 in 2016 to 409 in 2019 Opens a new window . Globally, the loss because of natural disasters was $232 billion in 2019, according to a study by Aon Opens a new window .
- The number of cyberattacks has also increased in all geographies and all business verticals. MonsterCloud reported that cyberattacks have skyrocketed during the COVID-19 pandemic. All this means that the organizations have to be better prepared to fight disasters. The importance of BCP can hardly be exaggerated in this context. Preparing a BCP is imperative for any enterprise, big or small, today.
The end goal of a BCP is to ensure that the essential services continue to run in the event of an incident. For instance, if there is an earthquake where your customer service representatives operate from, your BCP will be able to tell you who will handle customer calls until the original office is restored.
Also Read: What Is Disaster Recovery? Definition, Cloud and On-premise, Benefits and Best Practices
Difference between a business continuity plan (BCP) and disaster recovery plan (DCP)
A BCP is often confused with a disaster recovery (DR) plan. While a DR plan is primarily focused on restoring the IT systems and infrastructure, a BCP is much more than that. It covers all areas and departments of the organization, including HR, marketing and sales, support functions.
The underlying thought behind BCP is that IT systems can hardly work in silos. Other departments also need to be restored to cater to the client or for meeting the business demands.
“Many people think a disaster recovery plan (DRP) is the same as a business continuity plan, but a DRP is only a small, yet essential, a portion of a full BCP. A DRP focuses solely on restoring an organization’s IT infrastructure while minimizing data loss. On the other hand, a BCP is a comprehensive guide on how to continue the mission and business-critical operations during a time of an unplanned disruption (natural disasters, pandemics, or malware),” says Caleb Pipkin, a security expert at Logically .
Whether a business is small, big, or medium-sized, it needs a ‘plan B’ to recover quickly in the event of a natural disaster or a crisis and can survive the disruption. BCP helps you dust yourself and get back to business quickly and easily. It means that the enterprise will be better placed to address their customers’ needs even in the wake of a disaster.
On the other hand, the lack of a plan means that your organization will take longer to recover from an event or incident. It could also lead to loss of business or clients. Let’s look at some key benefits of BCP.
1. It is a roadmap to act in a disaster
A well-defined business continuity plan is like a roadmap during a disruption. It allows the firms to react swiftly and effectively and maintain business continuity. In turn, this leads to a faster and complete recovery of the enterprise in the shortest possible timeframe. It brings down the business downtime and outlines the steps to be taken before, during, and after a crisis and thus helps maintain its financial viability.
2. Offers a competitive edge
Fast reaction and business continuity during a disruption allow organizations to gain a competitive edge over its business rivals. It can translate into a significant competitive advantage in the long run. Further, your clients will be more confident in your ability to perform in adverse circumstances allowing you to build a long and sustainable relationship with your business partners.
Developing competence to act and handle any unfavorable event effectively has a positive effect on the company’s reputation and market value. It goes a long way in enhancing customer confidence.
Also Read: Top 8 Disaster Recovery Software Companies in 2021
3. Cuts down losses
Disasters have a considerable impact on all types of business, whether big or small. Business disruption can lead to financial, legal, and reputational losses. Failure to plan could be disastrous for businesses. You may lose your customers while trying to get your business on track. In the worst circumstances, you may not be able to recover at all. A well-defined business continuity strategy minimizes the damage to an organization and allows you to bring down these losses as much as possible.
4. Enables employment continuity and protects livelihoods
One of the most significant consequences of a disaster is the loss of employment. The loss of livelihood can be curtailed to an extent if the business continues to function in the event of a disaster. It leads to greater confidence in the workforce that their jobs might not be at risk, and the management is taking steps to protect their jobs. It helps build confidence in senior management’s ability to respond to the business disruption in a planned manner.
5. Can be life-saving
A regularly tested and updated BCP can potentially help save the lives of the employees and the customers during a disaster. For instance, if the BCP plan for fire is regularly tested, the speed with which the workforce acts can help save lives.
6. Preserves brand value and develops resilience
Possibly the biggest asset of an organization is its brand. Being able to perform in uncertain times helps build goodwill and maintain its brand value and may even help mitigate financial and reputational loss during a disaster.
BCP curtails the damage to the company’s brand and finances because of a disaster event. This helps bring down the cost of any incident and thus help the company be more resilient.
Also Read: 10 Best Practices for Disaster Recovery Planning (DRP)
7. Enables adherence to compliance requirements
Having a BCP allows organizations to have additional benefits of complying with regulatory requirements. It is a legal requirement in several countries.
8. Helps in supply chain security
A precise BCP goes a long way in protecting the supply chain from damage. It ensures continuity in delivering products and services by being able to perform critical activities.
9. Enhances operational efficiency
One of BCP’s lesser-known benefits is that it helps identify areas of operational efficiency in the organization. Developing BCP calls for an in-depth evaluation of the company’s processes. This can potentially reveal the areas of improvement. Essentially, it gathers information that can benefit in enhancing the effectiveness of the processes and operations.
Also Read: 7 Ways to Build an Effective Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity Plan
The COVID-19 pandemic has put the spotlight on preparing for a disaster like never before. We make the job easier for you by listing out the key steps in building a formidable business continuity plan:
How to Build a Business Continuity Plan
Step 1: Risk assessment
This phase involves asking crucial questions to evaluate the risks faced by the company. What are the likely business threats and disruptions which are most likely to occur? What is the most profitable activity of your organization? It is vital to prioritize key risks and operations, which will help mitigate the damage in the event of a disaster.
Step 2: Business impact analysis
The second step involves a thorough and in-depth assessment of your business processes to determine the vulnerable areas and the potential losses if those processes are disrupted. This is also known as Business Impact Analysis .
Essentially, Business impact analysis (BIA) is a process that helps the organization define the impact if critical business operations are interrupted because of a disaster, accident, or emergency. It helps in identifying the most crucial elements of the business processes. For instance, maintaining a supply chain might be more critical during a crisis than public relations.
While there is no formal standard for a BIA, it typically involves the following steps:
- Collating information: As a first step, a questionnaire is prepared to find out critical business processes and resources that will help in the proper assessment of the impact of a disruptive event. One-on-one sessions with key management members may be conducted further to gain insights into the organization’s processes and workings.
- Analysis: This is followed by analyzing the collected information. A manual or computer-assisted analysis is conducted. The analysis is based on an interruption in which crucial activities or resources are not available. Typically it works on the assumption of the worst-case scenario, even when the chances of a risk likelihood are low. This approach is followed to zero in on the systems that, when disrupted or interrupted, threaten the organization’s very survival. This way, these processes are prioritized in the business continuity plan.
The analysis phase helps identify the minimum staff and resources required for running the organization in the event of a crisis. This also allows the organizations to assess the impact on the revenue if the business is unable to run for a day, a week, or more. There might be contractual penalties, regulatory fines, and workforce-related expenditure which need to be taken into account while finding out the impact on the business. Further, there might be specific vulnerabilities of the firm, and they need to be considered in the BIA.
- Preparing a report: The next step is preparing a BIA report, which is assessed by the senior management. The report is a thorough analysis of the gathered information along with findings. It also gives recommendations on the procedure that should be followed in the event of a business disruption. The BIA report also shares the impact on the revenue, supply chain, and customer delivery to the business in a specific time frame.
The business impact analysis report may also include a checklist of all the resources, such as the names of key personnel, data backup , contact information, emergency responders, and more.
- Presenting the report: Usually, this report goes through several amendments before being cleared by the senior management. The involvement of senior management is crucial to the success of the business continuity plan. It sends out a strong signal in the organization that it is a serious initiative.
Also Read: Will Extreme Weather Events Affect Your Business? Lessons From the Texas Winter Storm
Step 3: BCP Testing
Several testing methods are available to test the effectiveness of the BCP. Here are a few common ones:
- TableTop test: As the name suggests, the identified executives go through the plan in detail to evaluate whether it will work on not. Different disaster types and the response to them are discussed at length. This type of testing is designed to make all the key personnel aware of their role in the event of a disaster. The response procedure is reviewed, and responsibilities are outlined, so everybody knows their roles.
- Walk through: In this type of testing, the team members go through their part in the plan with a specific disaster in mind. Drills or a simulated response and disaster role-playing are part of this. This is a more thorough form of testing and likely to reveal the shortcoming in the plan. Any vulnerabilities discovered should be used to update the BCP accordingly.
- Disaster simulation testing: In this type of testing, an environment that simulates an actual disaster is created. This is the closest to the actual event and gives the best case scenario about the plan’s workability. It will help the team find gaps that might be overlooked in the other types of tests. Document the results of your testing so you can compare the improvement from the previous tests. It will help you in strengthening your business continuity plan.
Frequency of testing – Typically, organizations test BCP at least twice a year. At the same time, it depends on the size of your organization and the business vertical you operate in.
Step 4: Maintenance
A business continuity plan should not be treated as a one-time exercise. It needs to be maintained , so the organization’s structural and people changes are updated regularly. The key personnel might move on from the firm, and this would need to be updated in the Business Impact Analysis and BCP. The process for regular updating of the documentation should be followed to ensure that the organization is not caught on the wrong foot in case of a business disruption.
Also Read: Offsite Data Replication: A Great Way To Meet Recovery Time Objectives
Step 5: Communication
Sometimes executives tend to ignore communication while preparing a BCP. It is a crucial aspect, and your BCP should clearly define who will maintain the communication channels with the employees, regulators, business partners, and partners during the crisis. The contact information of the key people should be readily accessible for the BCP to work without any trouble.
In the end, the organizations should accept that despite preparing a formidable business continuity plan, several factors beyond your control may still affect its success or failure. The key executives might not be available in the event of a crisis; both the primary and the alternate data recovery sites might have been affected by the event; the communications network might be damaged, and so on. Such factors are common during a natural disaster and may lead to the limited success of the business continuity plan.
The success of a business depends on it acting swiftly and efficiently when confronted with an unanticipated crisis. Any failure to do so results in a financial and reputational loss, which takes up a long time to recover. It can be avoided if the organization quickly gathers itself during a disaster. A business continuity plan is then of paramount importance for a business of any size. At the same time, it is crucial to ensure that the BCP is not a one-time exercise. It needs to be continuously evaluated, tested, amended, and maintained so it doesn’t let you down when you need it the most.
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ISO 22301 Business Continuity Simplified: Fortify Your Business Against Disruption
By Andy Marker | June 22, 2020 (updated September 15, 2022)
In this article, you’ll find expert tips and implementation guides, and you'll learn how ISO 22301 can buffer your business against disasters.
Included on this page, you’ll find an International Standards Organization (ISO) 22301 audit checklist template , a simplified ISO 22301 cheat-sheet , and an ISO 22301 self-assessment checklist , as well as examples of ISO 22301 in action and an ISO 22301 quick-start guide .
What Is ISO 22301?
ISO 22301 is a global standard for business continuity planning requirements to help organizations protect themselves against disruptions. The most current version is 22301:2019, Security and resilience - Business continuity management systems - Requirements.
The requirements in ISO 22301 address disruptive incidents that can be natural or human-made, widespread or local, intentional or unintentional, such as a snowstorm, a broken water main, an epidemic, a data breach, or a phishing attack. Large or small, for- and nonprofit organizations alike can use ISO 22301.
The Business Manager’s Quick-Start Guide to ISO 22301
The ISO 22301 standard can provide benefits for your business continuity planning, even if your organization chooses not to pursue certification, or the review process that confirms your business continuity system meets all ISO 22301 requirements.
"Certification is nice, but not required,” says Mart Rovers of InterProm. “First, seek compliance. That way, you know that your business continuity management practices are in better shape." You can start to create a solid business continuity plan with just a few simple steps, which you can also download as this ISO 22301 Quick-Start Guide .
- Check If You Already Have Continuity Plans: Find out if your organization already has business continuity plans. Search through your document management system and ask management or long-time employees. Organizations sometimes create and quickly forget about resources, or store responses locally in an informal system. As Andrew Nichols of the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center suggests, if your organization already implements other ISO standards, such as ISO 9001 or ISO 27000, you can leverage some of the common requirement elements for your 22301 plan.
- Identify Missing Components: Conduct a gap analysis of existing policies and processes to see what business continuity resources you need. According to Mart Rovers, one way to conduct a self-assessment is to copy into a spreadsheet each phrase of the ISO 22301 standard that contains the word "shall." Then, determine gaps between your company and the standard. "Use the standard as your guide to establishing a coherent set of practices to address business continuity management for your organization," says Rovers. You can also use Smartsheet's ISO 22301 Self-Assessment Checklist and ISO 22301 Simplified Cheatsheet for your gap analysis.
- Keep It Simple: Having binders full of perfectly formatted procedures won’t help in an emergency. Create easy-to-follow guidelines and checklists and, more importantly, build "muscle memory" in your employees through training and drills. That way, in a panic, people understand what to do without having to be told.
- Make Your Plan a Living Document: Ticking off items on an audit checklist doesn't mean you’re prepared. Frequently read, revise, and practice your plan to keep it relevant and to train new staff.
- Communicate Your Plan to Staff and Other Stakeholders: Even the most well-written plan is useless if the people who can benefit from it don't know about it. Inform everyone covered by the plan that it exists, including your supply chain and other outside stakeholders.
ISO 22301 Requirements
The ISO 22301 standard offers a framework for planning, testing, and monitoring a business continuity management system (BCMS). The ISO 22301 document contains 10 sections, which introduce the standard and definitions, as well as actionable requirements of the standard.
As with other ISO requirement documents, ISO 22301 describes only what organizations must do to reach minimum proficiency — it does not prescribe how to achieve these standards. Each organization must consider its distinct conditions and obligations to find the best way to follow the requirements.
Here is an overview of the clauses in ISO 22301 that impact an organization most:
- Clause 4, Context: Your organization must understand what it is, what it does, and what outputs and processes it must sustain. You must also determine who has a stake in the continuity of your operations — in other words, the interested parties. For example, customers have a stake in your organization continuing to function.
- Clause 5, Leadership: Few organizational initiatives thrive without the sustained support and championship of top management. Management must commit to a business continuity plan and make available any resources — human, financial, or otherwise — to ensure its success.
- Clause 6, Planning: To plan for sustainability, you must understand what disruptions could potentially occur and how these incidents affect the business — in other words, potential risks and their impact. Set measurable business continuity objectives to guarantee the minimum viable products or services, as well as compliance with any legal or regulatory requirements.
- Clause 7, Support: No program can advance without resources and support. Decide what personnel, roles, and teams you need for threat response and how you can best enhance their effectiveness. Create internal and external communication procedures for reference, and communicate the continuity plan to all necessary parties before and during a crisis. Establish a document management system for key continuity documents, such as procedures.
- Clause 8, Operation: Conduct your risk assessment and business impact analysis , and plan your disruption recovery approach. Implement the recovery plan with detailed procedures, and test it regularly to verify that it works. Make sure people can find the procedures (and other documents) they need, and revise your plan as necessary.
- Clause 9, Evaluation: Establish a process to regularly measure and assess your continuity policies and procedures and their execution. Review and revise your plan and documents to ensure they are effective and relevant
- Clause 10, Improvement: Seek continual improvement in all functional and operational areas, including through periodic management reviews. Improvements in day-to-day activities help bolster the organization in times of disruption. When processes veer from the standard or fail to conform with ISO and quality management standards, implement corrective action.
Key Definitions Related to ISO 22301
Some of the following key terms and concepts originate with ISO, some with ISO 22301, and some with business continuity and risk management:
- Context: The purpose and character of the organization and the environment in which it operates. This includes internal and external influences that shape the business continuity management system.
- Disruptive Incident: A disruptive incident is an event that stops or slows the everyday work of an organization. Examples of disruptive incidents include earthquakes, internet stoppages, broken fans in a data center, or food poisoning in a cafeteria.
- Interested Parties: Interested parties are stakeholders in the successful operation and outcomes of your business continuity plan. They can include customers, employees, suppliers, or regulatory officials.
- Leadership: In ISO 22301, leadership refers to top management or the person or people who run the organization and champion the business continuity effort.
- Maximum Acceptable Outage (MAO): The length of time an activity or process can be unavailable or ineffective before the health and survival of the organization are threatened.
- Minimum Business Continuity Objective (MBCO) : The lowest level of products or services that is acceptable for a business to offer during a disruption.
- Recovery Timeframe Objectives (RTO): This refers to the prioritization of key activities and the timing that makes those activities operational.
Benefits of ISO 22301 and Business Continuity Management System
If teams are already overwhelmed with their workload, they may not like to think about disasters. Furthermore, organizations might think that ISO standards include difficult jargon and that pursuing a continuity plan adds unnecessary work. However, management systems practitioners suggest that continuity preparations produce substantial gains.
“I think it's a truism that many organizations can benefit from the principles and some of the practices of resiliency and contingency planning,” says Andrew Nichols, Quality Program Manager at the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center .
As an example of the benefits that risk analysis and preparation can yield, Nichols relates his experience of visiting a small northeastern town during a widespread winter power outage. The whole town was closed, with the exception of one restaurant that had a generator.
“They had a line of people out the door every mealtime because nowhere else was capable,” Nichols remembers. “Somebody had the foresight to think about the loss of power. And that organization cleaned up financially because they were able to provide what the customers needed.”
Consider these specific benefits to using ISO 22301 business continuity planning:
- Protect against and recover from disruptive incidents.
- Identify and control current and future threats.
- Improve your risk management planning efforts.
- Prevent large-scale damage.
- Become proactive in preventing problems and recovering from incidents, rather than reactive to damage and disruption.
- Reduce downtime and increase recovery time.
- Keep important activities running during disruption.
- Deliver quality products consistently.
- Provide dependable service.
- Prove you’re a reputable supplier.
- Prove your resilience to all stakeholders.
Experts also assert that ISO 22301 can be a simple and effective continuity tool. “All these ISO standards, they’re like hidden gems because of how fast they can get you up to speed without having to reinvent the wheel,” says Mart Rovers, President of IT consulting firm InterProm .
“I cannot emphasize enough how within reach this standard is. Anytime people hear the word ‘ISO,’ they think, ‘Oh, that's for large organizations. Oh, that's way too formal. It's too much. It's overkill.’ I understand where this is coming from because the word ‘standard’ itself is scary for many organizations. However, the size of organization really doesn't matter. The things you should be doing in ISO 22301, you can do at a smaller scale,” says Rovers.
Some also hesitate at the thought of certification. Both Nichols and Rovers stress that certification is not necessary for every enterprise. Although certification may be a condition of doing business for some companies, those who don’t need certification can still gain advantages from following ISO 22301.
In weighing the pros and cons of ISO certification, Rovers suggests buying a copy of ISO 22301 , and then copying and pasting each sentence that contains the word “shall” into a spreadsheet (these sentences represent the requirements you must follow). From the spreadsheet, consider whether full ISO adoption and certification are too complicated for your organization. Regardless of your decision, you can always use the spreadsheet to conduct a self-audit.
ISO 22301 in Action
The following image provides a small sample of the possible outcomes to business continuity management.
How a Management System Helps Business Continuity
For those familiar with other ISO standards, the management system component of ISO 22301 might be a new concept. Rovers describes management systems as follows:
“The best way to explain a management system is to imagine opening up an old watch. It has these spinning wheels, these gears. In the case of an ISO standard, you're looking at a number of requirements to put that watch together with all these spinning wheels. That watch is a coherent system. You take out one of those gears, and then the watch fails.
“A management system for continuity follows the same idea — every requirement that the standard asks for represents one of those gears. And every requirement serves a distinct purpose (otherwise, it would not be a requirement). If you don't meet a particular requirement, the watch, so to speak, may not function as it could or should. These ISO requirements are not just there to keep you busy.”
ISO 22301 and PDCA
Each segment of the PDCA (plan-do-check-act) cycle for continuous improvement corresponds to at least one ISO 22301 clause. Organizations can use ISO 22301 to test continuity procedures, review outcomes, and implement updates or fix problems in a continuous cycle that leads to an increasingly resilient business continuity system.
ISO 22301 and Maturity Models
A maturity model measures an organization’s ability to pursue continuous improvement in key areas. ISO 22301 does not have a maturity model.
As Rovers explains, “It was never the intent of ISO 22301 to be a maturity model. You either meet all the requirements of the standard, or you don’t. You could say that by not meeting the requirements of the standard, you’re not mature. Or better said, your business continuity management practices are not mature.”
BCM Lifecycle ISO 22301
The business continuity management (BCM) lifecycle represents industry best practices and some of the core requirements of ISO 22301. These practices offer a solid foundation for resilience, while offering flexibility to adapt to changes in the organization.
Guided by leadership, these are the key activities for the lifecycle:
- Conduct a business impact analysis and risk assessment.
- Establish a business continuity strategy.
- Establish and implement business continuity procedures.
- Exercise and test the procedures regularly before a disruption occurs.
ISO 22301 Audit Checklist Template (Excel)
Use this detailed checklist to determine if your business continuity plan aligns with ISO 22301 standards. You can use the template whether you’re applying for certification or simply pursuing a continuity management plan.
Download ISO 22301 Audit Checklist Template
Excel | Smartsheet
ISO 22301 Self-Assessment Checklist
This self-assessment checklist is divided into sections that correspond to clauses in ISO 22301. Use it to confirm whether your business continuity system meets the requirements for leadership, planning, support, operation, performance evaluation, and continual improvement.
Download ISO 22301 Self-Assessment Checklist Template
Excel | Word | PDF
ISO 22301 Implementation Guide
This guide states the essential information from ISO 22301 in plain English. For best results, read it with the full standard, which is currently available for free online to support the COVID-19 response.
Download ISO 22301 Implementation Guide Template
Excel | Word | PDF
ISO 22301 Simplified Cheat-Sheet
Use this simplified cheat-sheet to understand the basic elements of creating a business continuity plan. The template walks you through the process of determining critical aspects of your organization, writing the recovery plan, and exercising the plan to ensure proficiency.
Download ISO 22301 Simplified Cheat-Sheet Template
ISO 22301 Business Continuity Policy Template
A business continuity policy describes the processes and procedures an organization needs in order to function well daily, including in times of disruption and crisis. This policy template includes space for BCMS objectives, a leadership description, a policy outline, and any certification details.
Download ISO 22301 Business Continuity Policy Template
ISO 22301 Business Continuity Template
Use this template to create a business continuity plan. Describe the results of your risk analysis and business impact analysis, detail your disaster recovery and continuity procedures, and list key contacts and important assets.
Download ISO 22301 Business Continuity Template
Word | PDF
ISO 22301 Business Continuity Sample
The Community Nonprofit Center of New York made available this business continuity template to support the response to coronavirus. Find space to detail responses to minimal and critical emergencies, a risk matrix template, and lists for information about insurance, critical assets, and responses to disruptive events.
For other most useful free, downloadable business continuity plan (BCP) templates please read our "Free Business Continuity Plan Templates" article.
Disaster Recovery Plan Templates
After you perform a risk analysis and business impact analysis, consider writing a disaster recovery plan. Disaster recovery plan templates , available in different formats, provide an easy-to-use structure for documenting continuity plans. Download templates specialized for IT, payroll, small businesses, and more.
To learn about the difference between recovery plans and continuity plans, visit our "Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery: Their Differences and How They Work Together" article.
ISO 22301 Versus ISO 27301
ISO 27301 provides requirements that organizations use to ensure their information and communications technology (ICT) continuity, security, and readiness to survive a disruption. The standard is often staged with ISO 22301 because both are based on similar management system approaches.
The full name of this standard is ISO 27301 - Information Technology - Security Techniques . Originally published in 2011, it is soon to be revised.
“Both [ISO 27301 and ISO 22301] ask for top management involvement and commitment, both ask that you have the right resources, that you have documentation management, that you do performance evaluations, and that you make improvements,” explains Rovers.
They differ in the focus of the risk assessment: ISO 27001 addresses security, whereas ISO 22301 addresses business continuity. “Each area has different risks, but the approach to the risk management assessment and mitigation follows the same steps. There's enormous overlap.”
IT security continuity has significant relevance in the remote work environment. For example, while using your work laptop at home or signed into the work network, what happens when someone innocently plugs in a thumb drive that infects your laptop and corrupts the network? Both ISO 22301 and ISO 27001 work together to prevent such incidents and mitigate problems that occur.
For additional resources, visit " Free ISO 27001 Checklists and Templates ."
General Requirements Across Management System Standards
Some ISO requirements are commonly stated across the management system standards, which include ISO 22301; ISO 9001 , Quality Management; ISO 20000, IT Service Management; and ISO 27001, Information Security. Examples of common requirements include establishing objectives for the business continuity management system as appropriate to the organization, obtaining management’s commitment to supporting the system, implementing a documentation management system, conducting internal audits, and pursuing continual improvement. This functional overlap enables organizations to undertake combined audits for these standards.
Historical Foundations of ISO 22301
The concept of business continuity was borne out of the IT boom of the 1980s and 1990s. Public and private organizations realized the need to ensure continuity of service and key supplies and to mitigate the effects of disruptive events. The first formal standard reflecting these concerns was the United Kingdom’s British Standard (also known as BS) 25999, which introduced the management system concept to the business continuity discipline.
In 2012, the global standards body ISO released ISO 22301:2012 as the first international standard for business continuity. Based on the contributions and comments of continuity professionals from assorted industries in over 60 countries, ISO 22301 superseded BS 25999.
ISO’s consensus-based standards, such as 22301, cover practices and industries ranging from quality management, IT service, and food safety to environmental safety and information security. ISO standards aim to increase the quality and safety of many products and services, including most common household items, appliances, and cars. Although large enterprises and manufacturers usually follow ISO requirements and guidelines, organizations of all sizes and types can benefit from ISO principles.
For ISO 22301, the standard provides a consistent BCMS framework and a universal language among organizations for communicating about continuity and aligning processes.
When they get certified in ISO 22301 and other ISO standards, organizations can demonstrate to management, legislators, regulators, customers, and other stakeholders that they follow good practices. For ISO certification, organizations need third-party verification that they comply with all requirements of a standard.
“Certification shows you have some level of competence,” explains Rovers. “It shows you take the standard seriously. For organizations buying your goods or services, it can be a compelling reason to choose you.”
Guidance Documents for ISO 22301
For in-depth discussions of aspects of the 22301 standard, ISO offers a series of guidance documents. To those considering pursuing ISO 22301 certification, these documents provide additional insight:
- ISO 22313 - Security and resilience — Business continuity management systems — Guidance on the use of ISO 22301
- ISO 22316 - Security and resilience — Organizational resilience — Principles and attributes
- ISO 22317 - Societal security — Business continuity management systems — Guidelines for business impact analysis (BIA)
- ISO 22318 - Societal security — Business continuity management systems — Guidelines for supply chain continuity
- ISO 22330 - Security and resilience — Business continuity management systems — Guidelines for people aspects of business continuity
- ISO 22331 - Security and resilience — Business continuity management systems — Guidelines for business continuity strategy
What Is the Latest Version of ISO 22301?
The requirement document ISO 22301:2019, Security and resilience - Business continuity management systems - Requirements , was released on October 31, 2019. The update from the original 2012 version reflects changes in management system approaches and clarifies specifications around clause 8.
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- Business Continuity Plan Basics
- Understanding BCPs
- Benefits of BCPs
- How to Create a BCP
- BCP & Impact Analysis
- BCP vs. Disaster Recovery Plan
Frequently Asked Questions
- Business Continuity Plan FAQs
The Bottom Line
What is a business continuity plan (bcp), and how does it work.
Pete Rathburn is a copy editor and fact-checker with expertise in economics and personal finance and over twenty years of experience in the classroom.
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What Is a Business Continuity Plan (BCP)?
A business continuity plan (BCP) is a system of prevention and recovery from potential threats to a company. The plan ensures that personnel and assets are protected and are able to function quickly in the event of a disaster.
- Business continuity plans (BCPs) are prevention and recovery systems for potential threats, such as natural disasters or cyber-attacks.
- BCP is designed to protect personnel and assets and make sure they can function quickly when disaster strikes.
- BCPs should be tested to ensure there are no weaknesses, which can be identified and corrected.
Understanding Business Continuity Plans (BCPs)
BCP involves defining any and all risks that can affect the company's operations, making it an important part of the organization's risk management strategy. Risks may include natural disasters—fire, flood, or weather-related events—and cyber-attacks . Once the risks are identified, the plan should also include:
- Determining how those risks will affect operations
- Implementing safeguards and procedures to mitigate the risks
- Testing procedures to ensure they work
- Reviewing the process to make sure that it is up to date
BCPs are an important part of any business. Threats and disruptions mean a loss of revenue and higher costs, which leads to a drop in profitability. And businesses can't rely on insurance alone because it doesn't cover all the costs and the customers who move to the competition. It is generally conceived in advance and involves input from key stakeholders and personnel.
Business impact analysis, recovery, organization, and training are all steps corporations need to follow when creating a Business Continuity Plan.
Benefits of a Business Continuity Plan
Businesses are prone to a host of disasters that vary in degree from minor to catastrophic. Business continuity planning is typically meant to help a company continue operating in the event of major disasters such as fires. BCPs are different from a disaster recovery plan, which focuses on the recovery of a company's IT system after a crisis.
Consider a finance company based in a major city. It may put a BCP in place by taking steps including backing up its computer and client files offsite. If something were to happen to the company's corporate office, its satellite offices would still have access to important information.
An important point to note is that BCP may not be as effective if a large portion of the population is affected, as in the case of a disease outbreak. Nonetheless, BCPs can improve risk management—preventing disruptions from spreading. They can also help mitigate downtime of networks or technology, saving the company money.
How to Create a Business Continuity Plan
There are several steps many companies must follow to develop a solid BCP. They include:
- Business Impact Analysis : Here, the business will identify functions and related resources that are time-sensitive. (More on this below.)
- Recovery : In this portion, the business must identify and implement steps to recover critical business functions.
- Organization : A continuity team must be created. This team will devise a plan to manage the disruption.
- Training : The continuity team must be trained and tested. Members of the team should also complete exercises that go over the plan and strategies.
Companies may also find it useful to come up with a checklist that includes key details such as emergency contact information, a list of resources the continuity team may need, where backup data and other required information are housed or stored, and other important personnel.
Along with testing the continuity team, the company should also test the BCP itself. It should be tested several times to ensure it can be applied to many different risk scenarios . This will help identify any weaknesses in the plan which can then be identified and corrected.
In order for a business continuity plan to be successful, all employees—even those who aren't on the continuity team—must be aware of the plan.
Business Continuity Impact Analysis
An important part of developing a BCP is a business continuity impact analysis. It identifies the effects of disruption of business functions and processes. It also uses the information to make decisions about recovery priorities and strategies.
FEMA provides an operational and financial impact worksheet to help run a business continuity analysis. The worksheet should be completed by business function and process managers who are well acquainted with the business. These worksheets will summarize the following:
- The impacts—both financial and operational—that stem from the loss of individual business functions and process
- Identifying when the loss of a function or process would result in the identified business impacts
Completing the analysis can help companies identify and prioritize the processes that have the most impact on the business's financial and operational functions. The point at which they must be recovered is generally known as the “recovery time objective.”
Business Continuity Plan vs. Disaster Recovery Plan
BCPs and disaster recovery plans are similar in nature, the latter focuses on technology and information technology (IT) infrastructure. BCPs are more encompassing—focusing on the entire organization, such as customer service and supply chain.
BCPs focus on reducing overall costs or losses, while disaster recovery plans look only at technology downtimes and related costs. Disaster recovery plans tend to involve only IT personnel—which create and manage the policy. However, BCPs tend to have more personnel trained on the potential processes.
Why Is Business Continuity Plan (BCP) Important?
Businesses are prone to a host of disasters that vary in degree from minor to catastrophic and business continuity plans (BCPs) are an important part of any business. BCP is typically meant to help a company continue operating in the event of threats and disruptions. This could result in a loss of revenue and higher costs, which leads to a drop in profitability. And businesses can't rely on insurance alone because it doesn't cover all the costs and the customers who move to the competition.
What Should a Business Continuity Plan (BCP) Include?
Business continuity plans involve identifying any and all risks that can affect the company's operations. The plan should also determine how those risks will affect operations and implement safeguards and procedures to mitigate the risks. There should also be testing procedures to ensure these safeguards and procedures work. Finally, there should be a review process to make sure that the plan is up to date.
What Is Business Continuity Impact Analysis?
An important part of developing a BCP is a business continuity impact analysis which identifies the effects of disruption of business functions and processes. It also uses the information to make decisions about recovery priorities and strategies.
FEMA provides an operational and financial impact worksheet to help run a business continuity analysis.
These worksheets summarize the impacts—both financial and operational—that stem from the loss of individual business functions and processes. They also identify when the loss of a function or process would result in the identified business impacts.
Business continuity plans (BCPs) are created to help speed up the recovery of an organization filling a threat or disaster. The plan puts in place mechanisms and functions to allow personnel and assets to minimize company downtime. BCPs cover all organizational risks should a disaster happen, such as flood or fire.
Federal Emergency Management Agency. " Business Process Analysis and Business Impact Analysis User Guide ," Pages 15 - 17. Accessed Sept. 5, 2021.
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