Module 1: Setting the scene

The aim of this section is to “Set the scene”. It is intended to answer such questions as:

  • What is Business Resilience?
  • What is Business Continuity?
  • What is Business Continuity Management?
  • How do they all fit together?

Once upon a time there were three little pigs. The first pig lived in a house of straw, the second had a house of wood and the third had brought in a contractor at considerable expense to construct his home from brick – although nobody could understand why.

Then one day a big bad wolf came to town, threatening to blow down their respective mansions. The straw house was destroyed in just a few moments, leaving the first little piggy horrified, homeless and exposed to life threatening danger. Next, the wolf turned to the wood house and blew that down, too. Upset though he was, the second pig dusted himself off and went off in search of his secret store where he’d kept enough timber to build a new wood house.

Finally the wolf came to the brick house. He huffed, puffed and blew himself half to death, he tried the locks on the windows and even took a peek down the chimney to see if he could get inside to cause damage. But all the doors and windows were safely fastened, the brickwork stood firm and the third little piggy had even kept his fire lit to stop the wolf from climbing down it. He went on to live a long and prosperous life, but he never stopped looking for new ways to make his house safer
– just in case the wolf ever came back.

In this course we’ll look at the dangers faced by businesses fighting for survival in the current economic, social, political and environmental climate. As if starting up an enterprise weren’t hard enough, there are plenty of threats out there that can cause even the most established business to fail. And as with our three little pigs, all businesses face a choice as to how prepared they want to be for those unexpected dangers.

What is business continuity?

You may think that business resilience and business continuity management is something that only has a place in large organisations. But why should it? Do small enterprises trade within the same economy, have the same need for staff to turn up, suffer from unforeseeable natural events such as floods and fires in the same way? Can their IT systems crash or fail?

When disaster hits a business, any loss of money, supplies, premises, staff or reputation can seriously threaten its survival. No business can exist for long if it is unable to sell its products or services and generate revenue. That’s why many organisations incorporate business continuity into their work. It can be described as “the planning and preparations put in place to respond to a major disruption such as a fire, flood or major IT failure”.

Business continuity is about putting processes in place to ensure that when things go wrong, which they almost inevitably will at some stage, it doesn’t spell the end of your enterprise. It is understanding what it might take to get your business functioning again after a disruption and assessing the level of risk a business faces. This isn’t to say that there is a plan that can be drawn up to defy any eventuality – some things can’t help but bring a company to its knees – but being able to get back on your feet rather than rolling over and accepting defeat can make the difference between survival and extinction.

Traditionally, business continuity has focused on disaster recovery, contingency planning and emergency management. But as we will see later on in this course, maintaining business as usual can be more than just having a plan to react to a terrorist attack or natural disaster.

What is Business Continuity Management?

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 with the capability for an effective response that safeguards the interests of its key stakeholders, reputation and value creating activities.”

In short: business continuity makes planning for the worst a part of a company’s make-up.

Rather than just having a plan in place for when the worst happens, continuity management involves taking a more strategic approach to protecting key assets and countering the effects of a disruption to working practices. But it isn’t just major disasters that can be covered by business continuity management. By managing business continuity, we mean providing a framework in which a company can constantly assess threats and equip themselves to meet a whole range of challenges and threats.

Taking responsibility for a business in this way doesn’t have to cost businesses large sums of money, it could simply involve better business practice: be it backing up computer files and storing away from the office or enabling staff to work from home in times of difficulty. The decisions and actions that you take are what differentiates you from your competitors and determines whether your business is successful. This lies at the heart of all resilient businesses.

What is Business Resilience?

Resilience is about more than ensuring continuity through the course of a disruption or recovering from disaster; resilience is about continuous change and improvement. A resilient business:

  • Is able to resist threats rather than just reacting to them.
  • Constantly identifies weaknesses in processes or infrastructure and improves on them.
  • Gains a competitive advantage by planning for and mitigating potential disasters while other companies suffer.
  • Employs staff who are constantly driven to anticipate problems and innovate when opportunities arise.

Business resilience should become part of your business’s culture. All businesses face a constant barrage of challenge, whether economic, environmental, social, political or logistical, and it is important that you are dynamic and proactive in dealing with the ever-changing landscape. A resilient business does not just have a disaster recovery plan sat in a box on a shelf. A resilient business uses the tools of continuity management to constantly refine and perfect, to maximise potential and achieve long-term success.

If you are a resilient company you will have plans in place to recover, you will have put things in place to minimise impact and after any event that puts your business at risk you will assess what you did well, what you could have done better and what you could do to make it less likely that you find yourself in the same situation again.

In a world where change occurs faster than ever – economically, politically, socially, environmentally, and news spreads in real-time, businesses don’t have time to spare when a crisis hits and they can’t afford to stand still in their day-to-day running. But you also don’t want your enterprise to be making rash decisions, which is why planning and anticipating the future of your business can be critical to making the right decisions and achieving success.

So, whether it’s a vehicle crashing into your office, the sudden death of a senior manager whose signature is required for signing off all payroll, a signalling failure at the railway station 90% of staff commute to or just poor control of cash flow, it is in your interest to make your enterprise more resilient.


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