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11 Key Components of Business Continuity Management (BCM)

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Tracy Rock

Director of Marketing @ Invenio IT

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BCM Business Continuity Management

If a disaster struck your business tomorrow, how long would it take to get your operations up and running again? It’s a frightening question that a lot of business owners would rather not consider. It’s also the heart of business continuity management (BCM).

Rather than closing your eyes and hoping that nothing bad ever happens, BCM prepares you for every possible scenario. It’s critical to your organization’s long-term success and your ability to bounce back after an emergency. In this post, we’ll explain why no one should ignore BCM and walk you through the 11 essential components of successful continuity planning.

Why BCM Is a Necessity

Imagine that two tech companies, TweedleDee and TweedleDum, operate in the same city. They have comparable products, around the same number of employees, and similar offices, so why does a flood cause TweedleDum to shutter its doors while TweedleDee continues to operate without a hitch?

The answer comes down to a fundamental difference: one had a solid business continuity plan, and the other didn’t. TweedleDee had mirrored all of its essential operations and replicated data off-site, so it seamlessly moved to a backup location. Meanwhile, TweedleDum had no plan and employees were left twiddling their thumbs.

This hypothetical scenario reflects a reality that businesses face every day. A disaster could have devastating consequences, including physical damage and lost productivity, revenue, and customer trust. If your business doesn’t take BCM seriously, you make it that much easier for a single crisis to wreak havoc on your operations.

11 Components of Effective BCM

BCM doesn’t look the same for every organization, but there are some core elements to address. In our experience, these are the most critical pieces that ensure you can successfully navigate a disaster.

1) The Business Continuity Plan

Your Business Continuity Plan (BCP) is a written document that outlines every aspect of your company’s disaster preparedness, response, and recovery. It dictates all the steps your team should take during a critical event and outlines preventative measures that mitigate risks.

A good BCP should answer these questions:

  • What is the plan objective, or why does the company need it?
  • What constitutes a disaster that would activate the plan?
  • Who does what during a disaster?
  • How will personnel communicate, and who contacts whom?
  • What is the likelihood of various events, such as natural disasters, cyberattacks, and human error?
  • What is the business impact of each of those events?
  • What technologies are you leveraging to ensure continuity?
  • What weaknesses and gaps do you need to correct and fill?

When a BCP does its job, executives, stakeholders, and personnel know what to do and how to do it, and they can easily access the plan and follow the steps as written if there’s any confusion.

2) Recovery Teams

Your continuity planning is nothing without a recovery team to manage it. These personnel will play the most important roles in planning and carrying out your company’s emergency procedures.

Their responsibilities include:

  • Writing and updating the BCP
  • Identifying new risks and preventative solutions
  • Training personnel on disaster response actions
  • Coordinating interdepartmental communication
  • Activating the BCP when a situation warrants it

Although the size of your team depends on your business and the scope of your BCP, it will ideally consist of IT personnel and employees from other business-critical departments. Members don’t necessarily have to be department managers, but they should have the knowledge and authority to make decisions without help from supervisors.

3) Risk Assessment

Assessing your company’s unique risks is critical because it allows you to identify your vulnerabilities. Every business faces its own set of risks, and your company may be more susceptible to certain disasters based on factors such as:

  • Location and proximity to hazards, including flood-prone areas, earthquake fault lines, or known terrorist targets
  • The nature of your business and whether you handle sensitive or valuable data
  • Structural or site-specific vulnerabilities, particularly known issues with older buildings, electrical fire risks, power outages, or industrial incidents
  • The likelihood of human-caused events, including internal errors, external vandalism, and rioting

During your risk assessment, you’ll identify the disasters that pose the biggest threat to your business.

4) Impact Analysis

A secondary component of your risk assessment, the business impact analysis, explores how the potential disasters you’ve identified will affect your business. It allows you to plan strategically and prioritize resources appropriately.

For most businesses, the impact of a disaster is a financial calculation based on several factors:

  • The direct operational impact and consequences of the event
  • The operations it will affect and in what way
  • How long the outage will last
  • The number of employees the event will idle, and for approximately how long
  • Whether it will affect revenue
  • The estimated costs of recovery

Using each of these points, you can calculate the true cost of the disaster in terms of hourly or daily losses. Remember that each type of disaster will have a different financial impact, and it’s important to make the most disruptive events a priority and ensure that you have systems in place to prevent, mitigate, and respond to them.

In a BCP, most businesses categorize the impact of each risk on a scale of 1 to 5. This makes it easier to gauge the severity from a high-level standpoint, particularly when comparing it against the likelihood. Here’s a basic template:

Risk Likelihood Impact
Ransomware attack 4 4
Server outage 2 4
Electricity outage 2 3
Fire 1 5
Website outage 3 2

As this example shows, a fire would cause the biggest impact, but it’s also the least likely event. For that reason, you might be better served by focusing on ransomware attacks, which have both a high likelihood and a high impact level.

5) Disaster Response Procedures

Once you complete your risk assessment, it’s easier to define the specific steps you’ll take when a disaster occurs. You’ll probably develop different steps for each type of event, but some processes will overlap.

These procedures tell personnel what to do when a disaster strikes, down to the most seemingly obvious steps like calling 911 in a fire. They should also cover more complex processes that ensure business continuity, like recovering data backups or moving business-critical employees to a secondary site.

A list of disaster response procedures might include these actions:

  • Notify Recovery Team leads and senior management of the scope of the event
  • Diagnose affected devices and servers, if accessible
  • Contact appropriate vendors during an application outage or event affecting third-party systems or recovery tools
  • Retrieve emergency funds
  • Establish transportation for personnel to and from the backup site
  • Notify insurance provider(s)

These steps are examples of the 360-degree approach you need to take to eliminate confusion and quickly resume your operations.

6) Technology

Another fundamental part of BCM is identifying and implementing the technologies that make continuity possible. That includes all the preventive and recovery tech, hardware, software, and configurations you might need, such as:

One of the jobs of the BCP writers and recovery teams is to identify the best technology solutions for business continuity and confirm that existing systems are properly maintained, tested, and updated.

7) Backup Locations and Physical Assets

Where would your business go if a disaster suddenly destroyed your office, warehouse, or manufacturing plant? The best-case scenario is that you have a backup location with the necessary equipment so that business-critical personnel can get back to work immediately.

Your continuity planning thus involves finding, securing, and identifying these secondary spaces and assets, including:

  • Locations of backup facilities
  • Contact persons in charge of managing those locations
  • An inventory of emergency backup equipment
  • An inventory of all physical assets located at the disaster site (for both insurance and replacement purposes)

Having backup locations is feasible for some enterprise companies but is impractical for many small businesses that can’t afford to lease a second office and let it sit empty. That doesn’t mean you can’t prepare by researching possible locations and partnering with real estate professionals who could help rapidly secure a spot.

Like all of BCM, this is an evolving, constantly moving process. When one possible backup location becomes unavailable, you have to select another. Additionally, since the backup location may not have any infrastructure in place, recovery planners need to outline the fastest, most efficient steps for moving operations to the new site.

8) Lines of Communication

Without the ability to communicate in an emergency, recovery teams can’t do their jobs, restoring operations will take far longer, and confusion will mount. That’s why it’s critical to determine how personnel will reach each other in a disaster, especially if the normal lines of communication are broken. Your communication plan might include:

  • Emergency communication methods
  • Calling trees
  • Contact information for all personnel
  • Emergency backup mobile phones for select personnel
  • External websites or call-in numbers for company announcements

This information should be widely available to everyone on your team so they can easily access it during a disaster, even if they’re off-site.

9) Testing & Mock Recovery

Companies should regularly put their BCPs to the test with methods like fire drills and mock recoveries of lost data. Testing ensures that the procedures in your plan are effective, and a mock event might reveal that nobody knows what to do or that systems aren’t working as designed. This informs your future decisions, identifies strengths and weaknesses in your plan, and tells recovery teams they need to go back to the drawing board.

10) Periodic Review and Recommendations

When developing a BCP, you’ll naturally identify gaps in your planning. Document these flaws along with action steps for resolving them, whether that’s creating new recovery protocols or implementing strong data backup systems. The fundamental task is consistently reviewing and reevaluating your plan, asking yourself these questions:

  • Are recovery protocols still relevant and up to date?
  • Could recovery procedures be faster and more efficient?
  • Do you need to implement additional systems or technologies?
  • Which areas of risk require additional planning?
  • Are there any new risks to operations?
  • Has the potential impact of those events changed?

If your evaluation reveals that the plan requires changes and stakeholders have to sign off on them, clearly communicate why the new steps are justified. For example, your BCP review might uncover that the existing BCDR system is inadequate for newer threats like ransomware. Your assessment should make clear that the current implementation is creating a major risk for significant data loss and slow recovery, whereas a newer system could vastly improve backup frequency, recovery speed, and overall continuity.

11) Plan Updating

All the components of your BCM constantly change as technologies become outdated, personnel leave the company, and new risks emerge. What makes sense for today might be outdated in a week. As such, you should set a schedule for how often you’ll review the BCP and who will review it. Schedule periodic meetings for the recovery team to discuss updates, and perform a risk assessment at least yearly. Finally, always indicate the date of the most recent changes in your plan documents.

Plan for Continuity With Invenio IT

A lack of planning is a recipe for disaster, so every business needs to consider how it will prepare for an operational disruption.  Recovering too slowly could mean never recovering at all, and the ongoing process of BCM helps to ensure that you can respond immediately to an adverse event and keep the business going. Invenio IT helps small businesses work through every step of this process, from creating a plan to finding the right BCDR solution to recovering lost data. Schedule a call with one of our data recovery specialists to learn more about how we serve our clients’ BCM needs.

Frequently Asked Questions 

1) What is business continuity management?

Business continuity management is the process of managing strategies that minimize operational disruptions. It includes documentation, such as the creation of a business continuity plan, the formation of disaster recovery protocols, and the management of business continuity technologies, such as data backup systems. Business continuity managers assess a business’s unique risks, analyzing the impact of different operational disruptions and applying strategies for disaster prevention and recovery.

 2) What are the four main areas of business continuity management?

Also referred to as disaster recovery management, the four main areas of business continuity management are 1) disaster prevention, 2) disaster preparedness, 3) disaster response, and 4) disaster recovery. Each category consists of protocols and systems in your business continuity plan that help an organization maintain continuity by preventing and mitigating disasters, preparing for the most likely disruptions, appropriately responding to a disaster situation, and executing a full recovery.

3) What’s the difference between BCM and BCP?

A business continuity plan (BCP) is a central component of business continuity management (BCM). BCM refers to the overall management of continuity strategies and implementations, whereas BCP refers specifically to the documentation.

4) Which technologies are part of business continuity management?

Any form of technology that helps a business maintain operations is part of business continuity management. Traditionally, a business continuity and disaster recovery (BCDR) solution is the most important technology, as it enables businesses to recover lost data, applications, and operating systems. However, a wide range of other tech plays a role, such as antivirus software, network firewalls, and backup power generators.

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