The Functional Business Impact Analysis (BIA)

Richard Long

Creating a functional Business Impact Analysis (BIA) can be a daunting task for any organization.  As a foundational requirement of any continuity program, it must be completed in order for you to understand risk and drive the development of plans, identification of recovery strategies, and implementation of solutions. 

As a company, MHA has conducted well over 2,000 BIA interviews. Our goal is to make sure that the information gathered and the process used are built around ensuring the functionality of the BCM Program.  Over the years, we have developed a highly-refined process to plan, conduct and report the results of a formal BIA.  That process allows for 3.5 to 4.0 hours of a business unit’s time to complete the BIA.  This includes 45 minutes to complete the pre-work, 2.5 hours or less for the interview, and 0.5 hours to validate the results.   Often, organizations are now asking us to finish interviews in as little time as possible – often in the 1 – 1.5 hours time frame!

We have learned that while it is possible to perform a BIA efficiently, it is still a time consuming process, especially when the data is significantly out of date ( > 2 years). Your questionnaire should be in compliance with best practices, but be tightly focused, have limited questions, and be objective. The goal is always a functional outcome, not just “checking the box.”

A Functional and Best Practice BIA

  1. Management & Participant Awareness – Involve management and participants from the beginning. Ensure they have a clear picture of what is expected from them in planning, implementation, validation, and approval of the BIAs, and that they understand the end result and the benefit it will provide.
  2. Pre-Work – Distribute easy-to-complete pre-work to participants at least 2 to 3 weeks before interviews.  Ask them to identify their core business processes, system/application dependencies, and legal/regulatory requirements for each process. Pre-load the data to the BIA tool to speed up the interview.
  3. Logistics – Stage conference rooms for each interview. Use a projector or monitor to display the BIA tool and data to participants as they walk through it.  Participants see the results of their efforts real time. Appropriate breaks and snacks can boost overall participation and comfort.
  4. BIA Participants – Choose participants based on their knowledge of the business unit and processes; titles are irrelevant if the participant doesn’t know how the processes work or what they depend on. They must understand the process and impacts, as well as how the process impacts the overall organization.
  5. BIA Tool – The tool should be easy to use. A good tool calculates Recovery Time Objectives (RTOs) and Recovery Point Objectives (RPOs) based on input and is easy for participants to follow.
  6. Facilitators – Choose a facilitator with high energy and enthusiasm to lead the participants. Keep the energy up and they will respond in kind.  Bring a bag of chocolate; people love it.  At MHA, we use two facilitators, one to lead the discussion and the other to enter the data and take notes.

Remember a functional business impact analysis is never perfect, but as you conduct the BIAs, the participants will gain knowledge and refine results.  We know we have done our job and performed a functional BIA when people leave smiling – saying “It wasn’t as bad as thought it was going to be!” It is even better when they say, “I learned a lot.”


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