What is Business Continuity? – Business Continuity 101

Richard Long

If you’re new to disaster recovery or risk mitigation, you might be overwhelmed with business continuity terminology.

To start, what is business continuity? If you’re not sure, don’t worry. We’re going to cover the definition of business continuity, what business continuity planning is, what’s included in a business continuity management program, how to manage a continuity plan, and the four-step business continuity process.

If you are still reading this, then business continuity or risk management is a topic of thought or concern for you. Perhaps a recent audit has revealed that your organization may be vulnerable during a crisis or emergency event. No matter the reason, having some type of business continuity planning in place is appropriate for all organizations regardless of revenue, size or industry. The planning and level of effort may vary depending on your needs, but you should make every effort to have something in place. So, what is business continuity and where do you start? 


What is Business Continuity? The Definition

Is your business ready for a disaster? This is the question a business continuity plan is trying to address.

Business continuity is the advance planning and preparation undertaken to ensure that an organization will have the capability to operate its critical business functions during emergency events. Events can include natural disasters, a business crisis, pandemic, workplace violence, or any event that results in a disruption of your business operation. It is important to remember that you should plan and prepare not only for events that will stop functions completely, but for those that also have the potential to adversely impact services or functions.  


The Anatomy of a BCM Program 

At MHA, we divide up the Business Continuity Management (BCM) program into four key dimensions:

  1. Program Administration 
  2. Crisis Management  
  3. Business Recovery  
  4. IT Disaster Recovery  

We believe that when these four dimensions are operating optimally, individually and in an integrated fashion, the BCM program will have an elevated level of sophistication, maturity, and capability. 

Organizations may not be able to work on the four dimensions in parallel and effectively implement the components, but without implementing all areas, an organization will not truly be prepared. Many unexpected issues arise during a crisis event, too many to address ad hoc. If your organization tries to address the unexpected and perform critical actions on the fly during a crisis event, it will not be able to effectively and efficiently perform the tasks required for a successful recovery. 


 The BCM Team 

A good business continuity program starts with a Business Continuity Management (BCM) team. The following individuals are the core members of the BCM team. They are responsible for implementing the policies and directing BCM efforts across the organization 

  • Sponsor:  The senior management individual with overall responsibility and accountability for the BCM program.  
  • The Business Continuity Manager:  The individual with direct responsibility for the BCM program.  
  • Assistant Business Continuity Manager:  The backup to the Business Continuity Manager. This could be a titled position or an assigned position.  
  • Administrative Assistant:  The individual responsible for supporting the BCM team. This is often an administrative assistant working in the Business Continuity office, if it exists, or another individual from the administrative assistant team.   

In addition to these individuals, representatives from business units and IT must be involved to provide input related to the development of appropriate recovery strategies for business and technology functions. From a functional perspective, the non-BCM staff members will perform the work of recovery preparation; the BCM team will provide guidance and support.  

Find out more about forming the Business Continuity Management team.


The BCM Process 

To get started, consider performing the following steps. We have provided links to relevant MHA blog posts on these topics.    

  • Assessment:  The first step to a successful planning process is to make sure that you have a thorough understanding of what is, and is not, critical to your organization. You can (and should) perform a Business Impact Analysis (BIA) and a Threat & Risk Assessment to guide you. Without understanding your organization’s processes, how critical those processes are, and the threats and risks inherent in your operations, you cannot effectively develop appropriate plans and strategies.  
  • Business Recovery: The purpose of  business recovery planning is to ensure that your critical business processes can be recovered in the event of an emergency. Your plan will document the actions, including temporary workarounds, that will be necessary to keep critical functions operational until IT applications, systems, facilities, or personnel are again available.   
  • IT Recovery:IT recovery planning refers to the development of plans and strategies for the recovery of your technology, including actions that will be necessary to restore critical IT applications and systems.  
  • Crisis Management:Crisis Management refers to a specific plan that details how your organization will manage a crisis event, as well as to an internal organizational unit (the Crisis Management Team) that will manage that event.   

Start With Something Manageable

It might seem overwhelming at first, but identifying critical processes and applications, and implementing basic recovery strategies and plans are a requirement for any functional, and effective, business continuity plan. Your plan should include a basic organizational structure for your team, as well as necessary guidance and checklists for your business units, IT department, and the management team that will allow for quick response and action. Even if you are unable to implement your ideas, just having a basic strategy in mind will provide much-needed structure in the event of an emergency. Remember, it’s important to have something in place; perfection will be less important than structure in the event of an emergency. Remember, something is better than nothing; perfect is the enemy of good.

Want to know more about the benefits of Business Continuity? Read more.


“What is Business Continuity?” is the first piece of our Business Continuity 101 series, created for those new to BCM and those looking to improve their knowledge of the fundamentals of business continuity best practices. If you’re not sure where to start when it comes to BCM, this series was written for you.

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