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Counting the costs, and benefits, for business continuity: a standards auditor’s perspective

By Jayne Howe.

The costs associated with developing and implementing a business continuity program in your organization can vary greatly. Most of the cost variables are going to be dependent on two factors: what you already have in place and what components still need to be addressed; and whether your organization has internal business continuity expertise.

It’s likely that any organization successfully operating in this century will have at least a few basic components in place. They may be components that are necessary to be eligible for insurance coverage; to meet the criteria for regulatory bodies that your organization’s industry needs to be part of; or complying with basic building fire codes. But even if you don’t have internal BC expertise, you don’t need to start with a blank piece of paper to try to configure the other components that are necessary for a complete and robust business continuity program.

Using a business continuity standard as a base guideline for your own internal development can assist in identifying those modules that are necessary to develop an all-inclusive and comprehensive BC program. This can be extremely helpful in preventing you from travelling down an incorrect or incomplete path, and therefore saving wasted resource time and costs.

There are many benefits to implementing a business continuity program:

  • Develop a predictable and effective response to crisis.
  • Develop procedures appropriate for the protection of people in your facilities.
  • Develop procedures for the maintenance of vital activities in the organization.
  • Develop a better understanding of the organization and what it considers as true core business.
  • Develop respect and confidence from interested parties.
  • Develop protection of the organization’s reputation and brand.
  • Develop confidence with clients.
  • Develop legal and regulatory compliance.
  • Ensure contractual compliance with third parties.

Using an international standard such as ISO 22301 can be particularly useful for those multi-nationals that not only need to conform to the standards set forth within their head office country, but also need to be compliant with every individual country standard where they have a physical presence.

Since 1947 the ISO has published over 19,000 standards as a network of standardization bodies from over 160 countries. They work under 5 basic principles:

  1. Equal Representation – 1 vote per country
  2. Voluntary Membership – ISO does not have the authority to force adoption of its standards (the worldwide market seems to do that)
  3. Business Orientation – ISO only develops standards for which a market demand exists
  4. Consensus Approach – always looking for a large consensus among the different stakeholders
  5. International Cooperation – over 160 member countries plus liaison bodies.

Based on these ISO principles for developing standards, you can understand that a standard such as ISO 22301, is not referencing a ‘best in breed’, but in fact, the lowest common denominator.

Therefore, you can feel confident that in using a standard such as this that has been vetted by so many countries in the world, you will be sure to include all the appropriate business continuity components that are applicable to your organization.

From an audit perspective, utilizing the front end Management System oversight methodology found in ISO standards, will ensure commonality in terminology, accountability oversight procedures, top management recognition of procedures and processes, and internal support competence across all Programs in your organization such as: quality assurance; records management; information security; business continuity; enterprise risk management, to name a few.

By implementing this consistency, it allows the internal and external auditor to make more concise sampling choices, making the audit more accurate and direct, which of course saves time and money.

For those organizations that choose to not only utilize the business continuity layout offered by standards, but successfully complete the process of certification, the benefits are even greater.

  • There is potential for cost reductions in insurance premiums and marketing costs.
  • There can be a large marketing advantage to prospects if you demonstrate that you are BC certified and your competition is not.
  • You will attract better talent by demonstrating that your organization has a certified business continuity program in place and you are serious about protecting employees and staying in business.
  • You will save many, many man hours of effort by simply sending a copy of your certification to interested parties instead of agonizing over how much confidential information to share each time there is an enquiry or audit.
  • You will lower cost iterations in subsequent review and audit years.

Whether you choose to have your organization certified against an international business continuity standard, or simply utilize a local country or government standard or guideline, you’ll never go down the wrong path by accepting guidance from those organizations who have studied this discipline.

As we move through this century, and even completing this decade, we are going to see more and more intolerance from suppliers, stakeholders, regulatory bodies and customers toward organizations that choose not to guarantee and demonstrate in an auditable way, some form of business continuity capability. So when you can no longer sustain the organization, I suppose that is the ultimate cost.

The author

Jayne Howe, FBCI, MRP, CBRM, Managing Partner, THE HOWE PARTNERSHIP
Contact Information: E-mail: Jayne.howe@sympatico.ca Telephone: 1- 416 721.1053.

Jayne Howe, FBCI, MRP, CBRM is the managing partner of THE HOWE PARTNERSHIP, a Canadian consulting organization specializing in the provision of business continuity planning and management. With over 30 years of business continuity management experience, she specializes in the provision of business continuity consulting services, conducting program audits and reviews, and scripting and hosting continuity exercises. Her clients include public and private sector organizations in North America, Australia, Asia and Europe.

•Date: 18th March 2014 • Canada/World •Type: Article • Topic: BCAW 2014

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