Continuing to Thrive: A Definition of Business Continuity

Continuing to Thrive: A Definition of Business Continuity

If you are new to the world of business continuity, you might have asked yourself, What exactly is business continuity, anyway? In today’s post, we’re going to define business continuity by taking a look at what business continuity is and isn’t.

Related on MHA Consulting: Become a Master of Disaster: Educate Yourself With These Key BC Resources

Put simply, business continuity, sometimes abbreviated BC, is the work of ensuring organizations can continue to thrive in the face of trouble.

If I were asked to define business continuity for the dictionary, I would write something like this:

business continuity — An organization’s ability to resume the performance of all business functions in a timely manner following an outage or crisis.

Let’s break that definition of business continuity down piece by piece.

“An organization” means a business, university, hospital, nonprofit, whatever.

“The performance of” means being able to carry out.

“Business functions” means all of the activities and processes that the organization normally carries out in completing its mission, supporting itself, and serving its stakeholders. Depending on the organization, this could range from making widgets to caring for patients to paying vendors to running a call center to shipping products to launching rockets and on and on.

“A timely manner” means within a timeframe that is appropriate for that organization when looked at in the context of its unique situation. Also, the amount of time that amounts to timely restoration is different for each business process; some processes need to be restored sooner than others. Note that timely does not mean “immediately.” It doesn’t even mean “fast,” necessarily. Basically, it means “fast enough.”

And lastly, “an outage or crisis” means any event that has a negative impact on the ability to perform one or more business processes. The outage can arise in one or more of the following four areas: facilities (factory damaged by flood), people (too many employees are quarantined because of coronavirus), technology (cyberattack), or vendor (critical supplier goes out of business).

This is a good time to define another term you might have been wondering about, business continuity management.

 business continuity management (BCM) — a field whose goal is to help organizations improve in the practice of business continuity.

Anybody involved in the practice of BCM is trying to help the organization get better at BC.


Now you know what business continuity is. Let’s look a little more closely at what its components are.

Basically, the components of BC are all the activities needed to obtain the information and implement the measures inherent in the definition.

Specifically, this means:

  • Making assessments to determine the relative criticality and time sensitiveness of the various business processes, so you know which to restore first. (The primary tool for doing this is the famous BIA, the business impact analysis.)
  • Assessing the threats and risks facing the organization (the threat and risk assessment, or TRA).
  • Determining management’s risk appetite and risk tolerance.
  • Writing recovery plans, including plans addressing business processes, technology, crisis management, emergency management, and pandemics.
  • Conducting training and mock disaster exercises to teach the staff what to do and make sure the plans are functional.


That’s business continuity as viewed from a height of 5,000 feet: BC is about making sure an organization can resume its business processes within an appropriate timeframe following a disruption.

The various components of BC – including BIAs, TRAs, recovery plans, and mock disaster exercises – are the tools we use to determine the appropriate recovery time frame for each process, effect the recovery, ensure our plans actually work, and manage the other aspects of the event.


For more information on defining business continuity, foundational BC concepts, and other hot topics in business continuity and IT/disaster recovery, check out the following recent posts from MHA Consulting and BCMMETRICS:

Richard Long is one of MHA’s practice team leaders for Technology and Disaster Recovery related engagements. He has been responsible for the successful execution of MHA business continuity and disaster recovery engagements in industries such as Energy & Utilities, Government Services, Healthcare, Insurance, Risk Management, Travel & Entertainment, Consumer Products, and Education. Prior to joining MHA, Richard held Senior IT Director positions at PetSmart (NASDAQ: PETM) and Avnet, Inc. (NYSE: AVT) and has been a senior leader across all disciplines of IT. He has successfully led international and domestic disaster recovery, technology assessment, crisis management and risk mitigation engagements.

Business continuity consulting for today’s leading companies.

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