Defining business continuity

Get free weekly news by e-mailBy David Honour, editor, Continuity Central.

If you have been involved in the business continuity profession for any length of time you will probably have been asked the inevitable question: “What’s business continuity?” In response, are you able to simply and clearly state in lay-person’s language what business continuity is? Probably not. Certainly not, if you fall back on any of the formal definitions available.

Examples of the many and varied definitions of business continuity are as follows:

The Business Continuity Institute defines business continuity management as:

“An holistic management process that identifies potential impacts that threaten an organisation, and provides a framework for building resilience and the capability for an effective response which safeguards the interests of its key stakeholders, reputation, brand and value-creating activities.”

The draft British Standard for Business Continuity Management (BS 25999) builds on this stating that:

“Business continuity management (BCM) is a holistic management process that identifies potential threats to an organization and the impacts to business operations those threats, if realized, might cause, and which provides a framework for building organizational resilience with the capability for an effective response that safeguards the interests of its key stakeholders, reputation, brand and value-creating activities.”

The draft standard provides a separate definition for business continuity which is:

“[The] strategic and tactical capability, pre-approved by management, of an organization to plan for and respond to incidents and business interruptions in order to continue business operations at an acceptable pre-defined level.”

The Disaster Recovery Institute International provides the following definitions:

Business continuity: The ability of an organization to provide service and support for its customers and to maintain its viability before, during, and after a business continuity event.

Business continuity management: A holistic management process that identifies potential impacts that threaten an organization and provides a framework for building resilience with the capability for an effective response that safeguards the interests of its key stakeholders, reputation, brand and value creating activities. The management of recovery or continuity in the event of a disaster. Also the management of the overall program through training, rehearsals, and reviews, to ensure the plan stays current and up to date.

And after pointing the finger at others, we must also point it at ourselves. Continuity Central states that:

Business continuity involves two distinct areas:

Business continuity planning - where a plan is developed that, when implemented, will help to prevent operational interruptions, crises and disasters happening and will help the organisation quickly return to a state of 'business as usual' should any of these events occur.

Business continuity management - this is:
• The ongoing management of the business continuity plan to ensure that it is always current and available and
• The ongoing management of operational resilience and process availability within an organisation, with the aim of ensuring that the organisation experiences the minimum possible day-to-day disruption.

The business continuity profession clearly lacks a simple definition of what business continuity is. Is one needed? The above definitions are fine from an academic point of view: but when trying to convince the general business world that it needs to stop, take notice, and act to develop business continuity programs, are such complicated and opaque definitions helpful? To my mind the answer is ‘no’. The profession desperately needs to simplify its ‘shop window’.

Over the next couple of weeks, this will be the focus of our business continuity wiki. Want to have a go at defining a simple definition of business continuity? Visit http://businesscontinuity.wikispaces.com/Business+continuity+defined and take part.

Date: 29th Sept 2006 • Region: World Type: Article •Topic: BC general
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