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Business Continuity Plan
Business Continuity Planning Process Diagram - Text Version
When business is disrupted, it can cost money. Lost revenues plus extra expenses means reduced profits. Insurance does not cover all costs and cannot replace customers that defect to the competition. A business continuity plan to continue business is essential. Development of a business continuity plan includes four steps:
- Conduct a business impact analysis to identify time-sensitive or critical business functions and processes and the resources that support them.
- Identify, document, and implement to recover critical business functions and processes.
- Organize a business continuity team and compile a business continuity plan to manage a business disruption.
- Conduct training for the business continuity team and testing and exercises to evaluate recovery strategies and the plan.
Information technology (IT) includes many components such as networks, servers, desktop and laptop computers and wireless devices. The ability to run both office productivity and enterprise software is critical. Therefore, recovery strategies for information technology should be developed so technology can be restored in time to meet the needs of the business. Manual workarounds should be part of the IT plan so business can continue while computer systems are being restored.
Resources for Business Continuity Planning
- Standard on Disaster/Emergency Management and Business Continuity Programs - National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1600
- Professional Practices for Business Continuity Professionals - DRI International (non-profit business continuity education and certification body)
- Continuity Guidance Circular - Federal Emergency Management Agency
- Open for Business® Toolkit - Institute for Business & Home Safety
Business Continuity Impact Analysis
Business continuity impact analysis identifies the effects resulting from disruption of business functions and processes. It also uses information to make decisions about recovery priorities and strategies.
The Operational & Financial Impacts worksheet can be used to capture this information as discussed in Business Impact Analysis . The worksheet should be completed by business function and process managers with sufficient knowledge of the business. Once all worksheets are completed, the worksheets can be tabulated to summarize:
- the operational and financial impacts resulting from the loss of individual business functions and process
- the point in time when loss of a function or process would result in the identified business impacts
Those functions or processes with the highest potential operational and financial impacts become priorities for restoration. The point in time when a function or process must be recovered, before unacceptable consequences could occur, is often referred to as the “Recovery Time Objective.”
Resource Required to Support Recovery Strategies
Recovery of a critical or time-sensitive process requires resources. The Business Continuity Resource Requirements worksheet should be completed by business function and process managers. Completed worksheets are used to determine the resource requirements for recovery strategies.
Following an incident that disrupts business operations, resources will be needed to carry out recovery strategies and to restore normal business operations. Resources can come from within the business or be provided by third parties. Resources include:
- Office space, furniture and equipment
- Technology (computers, peripherals, communication equipment, software and data)
- Vital records (electronic and hard copy)
- Production facilities, machinery and equipment
- Inventory including raw materials, finished goods and goods in production.
- Utilities (power, natural gas, water, sewer, telephone, internet, wireless)
- Third party services
Since all resources cannot be replaced immediately following a loss, managers should estimate the resources that will be needed in the hours, days and weeks following an incident.
Conducting the Business Continuity Impact Analysis
The worksheets Operational and Financial Impacts and Business Continuity Resource Requirements should be distributed to business process managers along with instructions about the process and how the information will be used. After all managers have completed their worksheets, information should be reviewed. Gaps or inconsistencies should be identified. Meetings with individual managers should be held to clarify information and obtain missing information.
After all worksheets have been completed and validated, the priorities for restoration of business processes should be identified. Primary and dependent resource requirements should also be identified. This information will be used to develop recovery strategies.
If a facility is damaged, production machinery breaks down, a supplier fails to deliver or information technology is disrupted, business is impacted and the financial losses can begin to grow. Recovery strategies are alternate means to restore business operations to a minimum acceptable level following a business disruption and are prioritized by the recovery time objectives (RTO) developed during the business impact analysis .
Recovery strategies require resources including people, facilities, equipment, materials and information technology. An analysis of the resources required to execute recovery strategies should be conducted to identify gaps. For example, if a machine fails but other machines are readily available to make up lost production, then there is no resource gap. However, if all machines are lost due to a flood, and insufficient undamaged inventory is available to meet customer demand until production is restored, production might be made up by machines at another facility—whether owned or contracted.
Strategies may involve contracting with third parties, entering into partnership or reciprocal agreements or displacing other activities within the company. Staff with in-depth knowledge of business functions and processes are in the best position to determine what will work. Possible alternatives should be explored and presented to management for approval and to decide how much to spend.
Depending upon the size of the company and resources available, there may be many recovery strategies that can be explored.
Utilization of other owned or controlled facilities performing similar work is one option. Operations may be relocated to an alternate site - assuming both are not impacted by the same incident. This strategy also assumes that the surviving site has the resources and capacity to assume the work of the impacted site. Prioritization of production or service levels, providing additional staff and resources and other action would be needed if capacity at the second site is inadequate.
Telecommuting is a strategy employed when staff can work from home through remote connectivity. It can be used in combination with other strategies to reduce alternate site requirements. This strategy requires ensuring telecommuters have a suitable home work environment and are equipped with or have access to a computer with required applications and data, peripherals, and a secure broadband connection.
In an emergency, space at another facility can be put to use. Cafeterias, conference rooms and training rooms can be converted to office space or to other uses when needed. Equipping converted space with furnishings, equipment, power, connectivity and other resources would be required to meet the needs of workers.
Partnership or reciprocal agreements can be arranged with other businesses or organizations that can support each other in the event of a disaster. Assuming space is available, issues such as the capacity and connectivity of telecommunications and information technology, protection of privacy and intellectual property, the impacts to each other’s operation and allocating expenses must be addressed. Agreements should be negotiated in writing and documented in the business continuity plan. Periodic review of the agreement is needed to determine if there is a change in the ability of each party to support the other.
There are many vendors that support business continuity and information technology recovery strategies. External suppliers can provide a full business environment including office space and live data centers ready to be occupied. Other options include provision of technology equipped office trailers, replacement machinery and other equipment. The availability and cost of these options can be affected when a regional disaster results in competition for these resources.
There are multiple strategies for recovery of manufacturing operations. Many of these strategies include use of existing owned or leased facilities. Manufacturing strategies include:
- Shifting production from one facility to another
- Increasing manufacturing output at operational facilities
- Retooling production from one item to another
- Prioritization of production—by profit margin or customer relationship
- Maintaining higher raw materials or finished goods inventory
- Reallocating existing inventory, repurchase or buyback of inventory
- Limiting orders (e.g., maximum order size or unit quantity)
- Contracting with third parties
- Purchasing business interruption insurance
There are many factors to consider in manufacturing recovery strategies:
- Will a facility be available when needed?
- How much time will it take to shift production from one product to another?
- How much will it cost to shift production from one product to another?
- How much revenue would be lost when displacing other production?
- How much extra time will it take to receive raw materials or ship finished goods to customers? Will the extra time impact customer relationships?
- Are there any regulations that would restrict shifting production?
- What quality issues could arise if production is shifted or outsourced?
- Are there any long-term consequences associated with a strategy?
Resources for Developing Recovery Strategies
- The Telework Coalition (America’s leading nonprofit telework education and advocacy organization)
Telephones are ringing and customer service staff is busy talking with customers and keying orders into the computer system. The electronic order entry system checks available inventory, processes payments and routes orders to the distribution center for fulfillment. Suddenly the order entry system goes down. What should the customer service staff do now? If the staff is equipped with paper order forms, order processing can continue until the electronic system comes back up and no phone orders will be lost.
The order forms and procedures for using them are examples of “manual workarounds.” These workarounds are recovery strategies for use when information technology resources are not available.
Developing Manual Workarounds
Identify the steps in the automated process - creating a diagram of the process can help. Consider the following aspects of information and work flow:
Internal Interfaces (department, person, activity and resource requirements)
- External Interfaces (company, contact person, activity and resource requirements)
- Tasks (in sequential order)
- Manual intervention points
Create data collection forms to capture information and define processes for manual handling of the information collected. Establish control logs to document transactions and track their progress through the manual system.
Manual workarounds require manual labor, so you may need to reassign staff or bring in temporary assistance.
Last Updated: 05/26/2021
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How to Write a Business Continuity Plan Step-by-Step: Our Experts Provide Tips
By Andy Marker | October 21, 2020 (updated August 17, 2021)
In order to adequately prepare for a crisis, your company needs a business continuity plan. We’ve culled detailed step-by-step instructions, as well as expert tips for writing a business continuity plan and free downloadable tools.
Included on this page, find the steps to writing a business continuity plan and a discussion of the key components in a plan . You’ll also find a business continuity plan quick-start template and a disruptive incident quick-reference card template for print or mobile, and an expert disaster preparation checklist .
Step by Step: How to Write a Business Continuity Plan
A business continuity plan refers to the steps a company takes to help it continue operations during a crisis. In order to write a business continuity plan, you gather information about key people, tools, and processes, then write the plan as procedures and lists of resources.
To make formatting easy, download a free business continuity plan template . To learn more about the role of a business continuity plan, read our comprehensive guide to business continuity planning .
- Write a Mission Statement for the Plan: Describe the objectives of the plan. When does it need to be completed? What is the budget for disaster and recovery preparation, including research, training, consultants, and tools? Be sure to detail any assumptions about financial or other resources, such as government business continuity grants.
- Set Up Governance: Describe the business continuity team. Include names or titles and role designations, as well as contact information. Clearly define roles, lines of authority and succession, and accountability. Add an organization or a functional diagram. Select one of these free organizational chart templates to get started.
- Write the Plan Procedures and Appendices: This is the core of your plan. There's no one correct way to create a business continuity document, but the critical content it should include are procedures, agreements, and resources.Think of your plan as lists of tasks or processes that people must perform to keep your operation running. Be specific in your directions, and use diagrams and illustrations. Remember that checklists and work instructions are simple and powerful tools to convey key information in a crisis. Learn more about procedures and work instructions . You should also note who on the team is responsible for knowing plan details.
- Set Procedures for Testing Recovery and Response: Create test guidelines and schedules for testing. To review the plan, consider reaching out to people who did not write the plan. Put together the forms and checklists that attendees will use during tests.
A business continuity plan is governed by a business continuity policy. You can learn more about creating a business continuity policy and find examples by reading our guide on developing an effective business continuity policy .
How to Create a Business Continuity Plan
Creating a business continuity plan (BCP) involves gathering a team, studying risks and key tasks, and choosing recovery activities. Then write the plan as a set of lists and guidelines, which may address risks such as fires, floods, pandemics, or data breaches.
According to Alex Fullick, your best bet is to create a simple plan. “I usually break everything down into three key categories: people, places, and things. If you focus on a couple of key pieces, you will be a lot more effective. That big binder of procedures is absolutely worthless. You need a bunch of guidelines to say what you do in a given situation: where are our triggers for deciding we’re in a crisis and we have to stop doing XYZ, and just focus on ABC.”
“Post-pandemic, I think new managers will develop more policies and guidelines of all types than required, as a fear response,” cautions Michele Barry.
Because every company is different, no two approaches to business continuity planning are the same. Tony Bombacino, Co-Founder and President of Real Food Blends , describes his company’s formal and informal business continuity approaches. “The first step in any crisis is for our nerve center to connect quickly, assess the situation, and then go into action,” he explains.
“Our sales manager and our marketing manager might discuss what’s going on, and say, ‘Are we going to say anything on social media? Do we need to reach out to any of our customers? The key things, like maintaining stock levels or what if somebody gets sick? What if there's a recall?’ Those plans we have laid out. But we're not a 5,000-person multi-billion-dollar company, so our business continuity plan is often in emails and Google Docs.”
“I've done planning literally for hundreds of businesses where we've just filled out basic forms,” says Mike Semel, President and Chief Compliance Officer of Semel Consulting . “For example, noting the insurance company's phone number — you know, on the back of your utility bill, which you never look at, there's an emergency number for if the power goes out or if the gas shuts off. We've helped people gather all that information and put it down. Even if there's no other plan, just having that information at their fingertips when they need it may be enough.”
You can also approach your business continuity planning as including three types of responses:
- Proactive Strategies: Proactive approaches prevent crises. For example, you may buy an emergency generator to keep power running in your factory, or install a security system to prevent or limit loss during break-ins. Or you may create a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy and offer training for remote workers to protect your network and data security.
- Reactive Strategies: Reactive strategies are your immediate responses to a crisis. Examples of reactive methods include evacuation procedures, fire procedures, and emergency response strategies.
- Recovery Strategies: Recovery strategies describe how you resume operations to produce a minimum acceptable level of service. The recovery plan includes actions to stand up temporary processes. The plan also describes the longer-term efforts, such as relocation, data restoration, temporary workaround processes, or outsourcing tasks. Recovery strategies are not limited to IT and data recovery.
Quick-Start Guide Business Continuity Plan Template
If you don’t already have a business continuity plan in place, but need to create one in short order to respond to a disruption, use this quick-start business continuity template. This template is available in Word and Google Docs formats, and it’s simply formatted so that you can focus on brainstorming and problem-solving.
Download Quick-Start Guide Business Continuity Plan Template
Word | PDF | Google Docs | Smartsheet
For other most useful free, downloadable business continuity plan (BCP) templates please read our "Free Business Continuity Plan Templates" article.
Key Components of a Business Continuity Plan
Your company’s complete business continuity plan will have many details. Your plan may differ from other companies' plans based on industry and other factors. Each facility or business unit may also conduct an impact analysis and create disaster recovery and continuity plans . Consider adding these key components to your business plan:
- Contact Information: These pages include contact information for key employees, vendors, and critical third parties. Locate this information at the beginning of the plan.
- Business Impact Analysis: When you conduct business impact analysis (BIA), you evaluate the financial and other changes in a disruptive event (you can use one of these business impact templates to get started). Evaluate impact in terms of brand damage, product failure or malfunction, lost revenue, or legal and regulatory repercussions.
- Risk Assessment: In this section, assess the potential risks to all aspects of the organization’s operations. Look at potential risks related to such matters as cash on hand, stock levels, and staff qualifications. Although you may face an infinite number of potential internal and external risks, focus on people, places, and things to keep from becoming overwhelmed. Then analyze the effects of any items that are completely lost or need repairs. Also, understand that risk assessment is an ongoing effort that works in tandem with training and testing. Consider adding a completed risk matrix to your plan. You can create one using a downloadable risk matrix template .
- Critical Functions Analysis and List: As a faster alternative to a BIA, a critical functions analysis reveals what processes are critical to keeping your company running. Examples of critical functions include payroll and wages, accounts receivable, customer service, or production. According to Michele Barry, with a values-based approach to critical functions, you should consider who you really are as a company. Then decide what you must continue doing and what you can stop doing.
- Trigger and Disaster Declaration Criteria: Here, you should detail how your executive management will know when to declare an emergency and initiate the plan.
- Succession Plan: Identify alternate staff for key roles in each unit. Schedule time throughout the year to observe alternates as they make important decisions and complete recovery tasks.
- Alternate Suppliers: If your goods are regulated (i.e., food, toy, and pharmaceutical manufacturing), your raw resources and parts must always be up to standard. Source suppliers before a crisis to ensure that regulatory vetting and approval do not delay supplies.
- Operations Plan: Describe how your organization will resume and continue daily operations after a disruption. Include a checklist with such items as supplies, equipment, and information on where data is backed up and where you keep the plan. Note who should have copies of the plan.
- Crisis Communication Strategy: Detail how the organization will communicate with employees, customers, and third-party entities in the event of a disruption. If regular communications systems are disabled, make a plan for alternate methods. Download a free crisis communication strategy template to get started on this aspect.
- Incident Response Plan: Describe how your organization plans to respond to a range of likely incidents or disruptions, and define the triggers for activating the plan.
- Alternate Site Relocation: The alternate site is the location that the organization moves to after a disruption occurs. In the plan, you can also note the transportation and resources required to move the business and the processes you must maintain in this facility.
- Interim Procedures: These are the critical processes that must continue, either in their original or alternate forms.
- Restoration of Critical Data: Critical data includes anything you must immediately recover to maintain normal business functions.
- Vendor Partner Agreements: List your organization’s key vendors and how they can help you maintain or resume operations.
- Work Backlog: This includes the work that piles up when systems are shut down. You must complete this work first when processes start again.
- Recovery Strategy for IT Services: This section details the steps you take to restore the IT processes that are necessary to maintain the business.
- Recovery Time Objectives (RTO) and Recovery Point Objectives (RPO): RTO refers to the maximum amount of time that a company can stop its processes and the length of time without access to data before productivity substantially drops. Determine RTOs for each unit, factoring in people, places, and things.
- Backup Plans: What if plans, processes, or resources fail or are unavailable? Determine alternatives now, so you don't have to scramble. Decide on a backup roster for personnel who are unavailable.
- Manual Workarounds: This section details how a business can operate by hand, should all failsafe measures break down.
- External Audit Details: For regulated organizations, external audits may be compulsory. Your scheduled internal audits will prepare you for external audits.
- Test and Exercise Plan: Identify how and when you will test the continuity plan, including details about periodic tabletop testing and more complex real-world scenario testing.
- Change Management: Note how you will incorporate learnings from tests and exercises, disseminate changes, and review the plan and track changes.
Key Resources for Business Continuity
To fix problems, restore operations, or submit an insurance claim, you need readily available details of the human resources and other groups that can assist with business continuity. (Your organization's unique situation may also require specific types of resources.) Add this information to appendices at the back of your continuity plan.
Fullick suggests broadening the definition of human assets. "People are our employees, certainly. But we forget that the term ‘people’ includes executive management. Management doesn't escape pandemics or the flu or a car crash. Bad things can happen to them and around them, too."
Use the following list as a prompt for recording important information about your organization. Your unique situation may require other types of information.
- Lists of key employees and their contact information. Also, think beyond C-level and response team members to staff with long-term or specialized knowledge
- Disaster recovery and continuity team contact names, roles, and contact information
- Emergency contact number for police and emergency services for your location
- Non-emergency contact information for police and medical
- Emergency and non-emergency contact numbers for facilities issues
- Board member contact information
- Personnel roster, including family or emergency contact names and numbers for the entire organization
- Contractors for any repairs
- Client contact information and SLAs
- Insurance contacts for all plans
- Key regulatory contacts.
- Legal contacts
- Vendor contact information and partner agreements and SLAs
- Addresses and details for each office or facility
- Primary and secondary contact and information for each facility or office, including at least one phone number and email address
- Off-site recovery location
- Addresses and access information for storage facilities or vehicle compounds
- Funding and banking information
- IT details and data recovery information, including an inventory of apps and license numbers
- Insurance policy numbers and agent contact information for each plan, healthcare, property, vehicle, etc.
- Inventory of tangibles, including equipment, hardware, supplies, fixtures, and fittings (if you are a supplier or manufacturer, include an inventory of raw materials and finished goods)
- Lease details
- Licenses, permits, other legal documents
- List of special items that you use regularly, but don't order frequently
- Location of backup equipment
- Utility account numbers and contact information (for electric, gas, telephone, water, waste pickup, etc.)
Activities to Complete Before Writing the Business Continuity Plan
Before you write your plan, take these preliminary steps to assemble a team and gather background information.
- Incident Commander: This person is responsible for all aspects of an emergency response.
- Emergency Response Team: The emergency response team refers to the group of people in charge of responding to an emergency or disruption.
- Information Technology Recovery Team: This group is responsible for recovering important IT services.
- Alternate Site/Location Operation Team: This team is responsible for maintaining business operations at an alternate site.
- Facilities Management Team: The facilities management team is responsible for managing all of the main business facilities and determining the necessary responses to maintain them in light of a disaster or disruption.
- Department Upper Management: This includes key stakeholders and upper management employees who govern BCP decisions.
- Conduct business impact analysis or critical function analysis. Understand how the loss of processes in each department can affect internal and external operations. See our article on business continuity planning to learn more about BIAs.
- Conduct risk analysis. Determine the potential risks and threats to your organization.
- Identify the scope of the plan. Define where the business continuity plan applies, whether to one office, the entire organization, or only certain aspects of the organization. Use the BIA and risk analysis to identify critical functions and key resources that you must maintain. Set goals to determine the level of detail required. Set milestones to track progress in completing the plan. "Setting scope is essential," Barry insists. "You need to define the core and noncore aspects of the business and the minimum requirements for achieving continuity."
- Strategize recovery approaches: Strategize how your business should respond to a disruption, based on your risk assessment and BIA. During this process, you determine the core details of the BCP, add the key components and resources, and determine the timing for what must happen before, during, and after a disruptive event.
Common Structure of a Business Continuity Plan
Knowing the common structure should help shape the plan — and frees you from thinking about form when you should be thinking about content. Here is an example of a BCP format:
- Business Name: Record the business name, which usually appears on the title page.
- Date: The day the BCP is completed and signed off.
- Purpose and Scope: This section describes the reason for and span of the plan.
- Business Impact Analysis: Add the results of the BIA to your plan.
- Risk Assessment: Consider adding the risk assessment matrix to your plan.
- Policy Information: Include the business continuity policy or policy highlights.
- Emergency Management and Response: You can detail emergency response measures separately from other recovery and continuity procedures.
- The Plan: The core of the plan details step-by-step procedures for business recovery and continuity.
- Relevant Appendices: Appendices can include such information as contact lists, org charts, copies of insurance policies, or any supporting documents relevant in a crisis.
Keep in mind that every business is different — no two BCPs look the same. Tailor your business continuity plan to your company, and make sure the document captures all the information you need to keep your business functioning. Having everything you need to know in an emergency is the most crucial part of a BCP.
Disruptive Incident Quick-Reference Card Template
Use this quick-reference card template to write the key steps that employees should take in case of an emergency. Customize this template for each business unit, department, or role. Describe what people should do immediately and in the following days and weeks to continue the business. Print PDFs and laminate them for workstations or wallets, or load the PDFs on your mobile phone.
Download Disruptive Incident Quick-Reference Card Template
Expert Disaster Preparation Checklist
Business continuity and disaster planning aren’t just about your buildings and cloud backup — it’s about people and their families. Based on a document by Mike Semel of Semel Consulting, this disaster checklist helps you prepare for the human needs of your staff and their families, including food, shelter, and other comforts.
Tips for Writing a Business Continuity Plan
With its many moving parts and considerations, a business continuity plan can seem intimidating. Follow these tips to help you write, track, and maintain a strong BCP:
- Take the continuity management planning process seriously.
- Interview key people in the organization who have successfully managed disruptive incidents.
- Get approval from leadership early on and seek their ongoing championship of continuity preparedness.
- Be flexible when it comes to who you involve, what resources you need, and how you achieve the most effective plan.
- Keep the plan as simple and targeted as possible to make it easy to understand.
- Limit the plan to practical disaster response actions.
- Base the plan on the most up-to-date, accurate information available.
- Plan for the worst-case scenario and broadly cover many types of potential disruptive situations.
- Consider the minimum amount of information or resources you need to keep your business running in a disaster.
- Use the data you gather in your BIA and risk analysis to make the planning process more straightforward.
- Share the plan and make sure employees have a chance to review it or ask questions.
- Make the document available in hard copy for easy access, or add it to a shared platform.
- Continually test, review, and maintain your plan to keep it up to date.
- Keep the BCP current with organizational and regulatory changes and updates.
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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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What Is A Business Continuity Plan? [+ Template & Examples]
Published: December 30, 2022
When a business crisis occurs, the last thing you want to do is panic.
The second-to-last thing you want to do is be unprepared. Crises typically arise without warning. While you shouldn't start every day expecting the worst, you should be relatively prepared for anything to happen.
A business crisis can cost your company a lot of money and ruin your reputation if you don't have a business continuity plan in place. Customers aren't very forgiving, especially when a crisis is influenced by accidents within the company or other preventable mistakes. If you want your company to be able to maintain its business continuity in the face of a crisis, then you'll need to come up with this type of plan to uphold its essential functions.
In this post, we'll explain what a business continuity plan is, give examples of scenarios that would require a business continuity plan, and provide a template that you can use to create a well-rounded program for your business.
Table of Contents:
What is a business continuity plan?
- Business Continuity Types
- Business Continuity vs Disaster Recovery
Business Continuity Plan Template
How to write a business continuity plan.
- Business Continuity Examples
A business continuity plan outlines directions and procedures that your company will follow when faced with a crisis. These plans include business procedures, names of assets and partners, human resource functions, and other helpful information that can help maintain your brand's relationships with relevant stakeholders. The goal of a business continuity plan is to handle anything from minor disruptions to full-blown threats.
For example, one crisis that your business may have to respond to is a severe snowstorm. Your team may be wondering, "If a snowstorm disrupted our supply chain, how would we resume business?" Planning contingencies ahead of time for situations like these can help your business stay afloat when you're faced with an unavoidable crisis.
When you think about business continuity in terms of the essential functions your business requires to operate, you can begin to mitigate and plan for specific risks within those functions.
Business Continuity Planning
Business continuity planning is the process of creating a plan to address a crisis. When writing out a business continuity plan, it's important to consider the variety of crises that could potentially affect the company and prepare a resolution for each.
III. Business Impact Analysis
1. [Business Impact Analysis]
This section of your plan will take the most amount of time to complete. As it is a full assessment of how a crisis will affect your business, you'll need to analyze multiple different types of scenarios that you may encounter and analyze how each one will affect your business and the specific areas of your business that will be affected.
Aim to spend a week or so drafting the analysis and collaborating with the relevant teams and stakeholders that will be involved in enacting your plan when a crisis does occur. To conduct the actual analysis, give yourself 1-2 weeks, or enough time to accurately assess the possible scenarios and impacts they will have on your business if they occur.
IV. Strategies and Requirements
1. [Proactive strategies to prevent crises]
2. [Reactive strategies to immediately respond to crises]
3. [Reactive strategies for long-term recovery from the crises]
After conducting your business impact analysis, you should have an understanding of how your business will need to respond to crises when they arise in order to come out on top. Spend a week or so crafting the strategies that will make up your continuity plan, and collaborate with relevant stakeholders.
V. Training and Testing
1. [Training schedule for employees]
2. [Testing schedule]
It's best to test and iterate on your plan multiple times a year to ensure that it's up-to-date with your business needs. Maybe you run through the plan once a quarter to ensure that everyone is on the same page and new hires have the chance to learn along with their experienced peers, or maybe you do scenario run-throughs twice a year.
- Select a business continuity team.
- Define plan objectives.
- Schedule interviews with key players in your departments.
- Identify critical functions and types of threats.
- Conduct risk assessments across each area identified.
- Conduct a Business Impact Analysis.
- Draft the plan.
- Test the plan for gaps.
- Revise based on your findings.
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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.
Investopedia / Ryan Oakley
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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