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9 Business Continuity Plan Goals + Objectives Every Business Should Use

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Tracy Rock

Director of Marketing @ Invenio IT

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Business Continuity Plan Objectives

Identifying your business continuity plan objectives is an important first step in creating a comprehensive plan that helps your organization recover from all kinds of disasters, including fires, floods, and ransomware attacks. Unfortunately, many business leaders aren’t sure what those objectives should be or why they matter.

To help you get started, we’ve identified nine business continuity plan objectives that focus your team’s energies on building critical policies and procedures that establish lasting resilience in your business operations. Consider communicating these objectives at your project launch meeting, emphasizing them in your project communications, and listing them at the opening of your business continuity plan (BCP) document.

The Purpose of Business Continuity Plan Objectives

Putting these objectives into words serves two purposes. First, it provides a high-level overview of the areas that the document must address and gives the plan administrators a guide to what the plan should accomplish. Second, it gives stakeholders and other personnel a clearer understanding of the document’s purpose and scope.

By clearly defining these objectives before starting your business continuity planning process, you increase the likelihood that you’ll achieve the core goal of your plan: preparing the business for a disaster scenario so you can minimize downtime when such an event occurs.

Aligning Objectives and Goals With the Business Continuity Plan Template

We aligned these objectives with the format of the Business Continuity Plan template developed by Ready.gov, an organization that marshals the resources of the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Its mission is to deliver materials to the public to improve the nation’s ability to respond to emergencies. This site includes a section devoted to business issues, which is where you can find the business continuity plan template.

These are the sections of the BCP template provided by Ready.gov:

  • Program Administration
  • Business Continuity Organization
  • Business Impact Analysis
  • Business Continuity Strategy & Requirements
  • Manual Workarounds
  • Incident Management
  • Training Testing and Exercising
  • Program Maintenance and Improvement

As you explore the objectives, note that we’ve recommended sections of the BCP template in italics. These suggestions should clarify which areas would best help you achieve each objective.

9 Critical Business Continuity Plan Objectives and Goals

Every business has unique needs and requirements when it comes to business continuity. However, these nine objectives universally apply to practically any organization.

Objective 1: Identify Disaster Recovery Personnel

BCP Template Section: Business Continuity Organization

When a crisis occurs, your organization should already know who is serving on the relevant disaster recovery team. This enables them to act quickly and avoid confusion. As part of your planning process, you’ll need to address these questions:

  • Who is on your disaster recovery teams?
  • What is each person’s role?
  • How can they be reached in an emergency?
  • Who are the alternates in the event the primary individual is unavailable?

Although you’ll have many employees in critical roles, one of the most important is the crisis management or disaster recovery coordinator. This person has the authority to make decisions, initiate recovery plan protocols, and direct the recovery of business operations. The coordinator is also responsible for communicating with the company’s insurance companies about policies related to disaster impacts, including their cyber insurance policy, which helps mitigate the financial effect of a disaster.

Objective 2: Assess Risks and Impact

BCP Template Section: Business Impact Analysis

While creating a BCP, you’ll conduct a risk assessment to identify any internal and external threats to your operations. You’ll incorporate the results of this assessment into a Business Impact Analysis (BIA) that will specify different types of disasters that could disrupt your business.

Quantifying Risk

As the author of the article “Why the BIA Provides the Foundation Stone for Business Continuity” explains, a business is like a “delicate ecosystem where everything needs to work in balance and harmony.” A disaster can throw that ecosystem out of balance, and organizations need to understand the possible impacts. As such, you’ll quantify several key points about each potential scenario, including:

  • The projected amount of damage it would cause
  • The estimated recovery time
  • The cost of operational losses

These elements of the BIA lay the foundation for the remainder of your BCP. All your recovery strategies, continuity plans, and update processes derive from the work that occurs during this phase. The BIA allows your company to uncover all the linkages among internal business operations, suppliers, and customers, so you can anticipate what might become de-linked and estimate the potential impact.

Producing a thorough BIA sometimes requires an outside perspective. Business continuity consultants, for example, can pick up on linkages that employees in the system might overlook because they’re too close to particular functions to see all potential implications for your business and customers.

Establishing Essential Metrics

Another goal of developing a BIA is to determine your plan’s Recovery Time Objective (RTO) and Recovery Point Objective (RPO). The RTO is the amount of time a business has to restore a process and its associated applications following a serious event or outage. The RPO, on the other hand, indicates how much data an organization can lose following an incident before significant damage occurs.

These measurements are critical because they are the basis for defining your recovery strategies. They guide your recovery process investment decisions, so you can avoid wasting resources and under-funding your strategy.

Objective 3: Outline Existing Preventive Measures

BCP Template Section: Business Impact Analysis

Even if you don’t realize it, most stakeholders in your business are probably wondering what you’re doing to prevent ransomware situations like the ones they see on the news every day. That’s another purpose of your BCP.

It outlines the technologies, tools, and protocols that you already have in place to prevent or mitigate the effects of a disaster. Technologies for premises-based data backup and cloud services backup are part of this preventive measures analysis.

Because it demonstrates what assets are already in place, the preventive measures analysis offers a way to gain agreement among team members about what investments the company needs to make. Often referred to as a gap analysis, this process builds consensus so the business continuity team can use the BCP findings as a tool to seek investment capital from executive decision-makers.

Objective 4: Provide the Step-by-Step Protocols

BCP Template Section: Business Continuity Strategies and Requirements

Chances are good that at least some of your personnel won’t remember what they’re supposed to do when a disaster strikes. Your plan will provide them with specific procedures that they need to follow. Similarly, while your disaster teams should have a general idea of the necessary steps, the BCP serves as a document they can consult to ensure they follow the procedures exactly as they’re listed.

Keep in mind that this information is part of your disaster recovery plan, which is an element of your BCP but also a standalone document. It includes granular instructions for items such as:

  • The definition of plan-triggering events
  • Emergency alert and escalation procedures
  • Steps in activating emergency response teams
  • Team assembly points

All these elements are necessary to build well-constructed response protocols.

Objective 5: Identify the Location of Critical Data and Assets

BCP Template Section: Business Continuity Strategies and Requirements

One of the most important IT business continuity plan objectives is identifying where critical data and other assets are stored. This allows recovery teams to begin recovery even if key IT personnel are unavailable.

Imagine, for example, a scenario in which you suddenly had no IT workforce. You’ll need, at the very least, a footprint for other personnel or stakeholders to follow. Otherwise, a sense of confusion and chaos could seriously delay your recovery process.

An IT asset management system offers companies a way to automate asset tracking and reduce errors resulting from various issues, including:

  • Out-of-date information
  • Duplicates
  • Inaccurate serial numbers
  • Tag overlaps

Asset management systems also play a role in cybersecurity preventive measures. Without a complete asset management list, an organization might overlook a device that connects to the network without virus protection or the latest patch to meet a known security threat.

Objective 6: Identify Back-Up Locations and Resources

BCP Template Sections: Business Continuity Strategies and Requirements; Incident Management

A disaster could make your facility unusable, so recovery teams need to know where and how to relocate operations. Your BCP will outline the availability of any back-up office space or explain what the team should do to quickly secure a new space.

There are several different types of disaster recovery backup sites, and they’re generally classified in one of four ways:

  • Cold site: A facility that has adequate space and infrastructure (electric power, telecommunications connections, and environmental controls) to support IT systems and may have raised floors and other attributes suitable for IT operations
  • Warm site: A partially equipped office space that houses some or all of the system hardware, software, telecommunications, and power sources
  • Hot site: An office space that’s appropriately sized to support system requirements and configured with the necessary system hardware, supporting infrastructure, and support personnel to work 24 hours a day, seven days a week
  • Mobile site: A self-contained, transportable shell custom-fitted with specific telecommunications and IT equipment necessary to meet system requirements

In addition to addressing the temporary space for your operations, your BCP should also describe whether you have access to back-up physical resources, such as workstations and devices.

Objective 7: Prioritize Emergency Communications

BCP Template Sections: Business Continuity Strategies and Requirements; Incident Management 

Who communicates with the client during an emergency? Who notifies the workforce? Who speaks to the media? By having a business continuity management policy in place, recovery personnel will know the answers to these questions and understand their roles in both internal and external emergency communications.

One of the goals of your crisis communications plan is to help maintain calm within your workforce so all parties can fulfill their responsibilities and continue to serve customers. Disaster events can eliminate ordinary methods of communication, so your plan should specify alternative channels.

Identifying and understanding your audiences or stakeholders is the necessary first step in formulating your crisis communications plan. They might include:

  • Customers
  • Survivors and their families
  • Employees and their families
  • News media
  • Community members, especially neighbors living near the facility
  • Company management, directors, and investors
  • Government elected officials, regulators, and other authorities
  • Suppliers

To provide a speedy response and a consistent message, assign a spokesperson for each of these audiences.

Objective 8: Find Weaknesses and Propose Solutions

BCP Template Sections: Testing, Testing & Exercising; Program Maintenance and Improvement 

Continuity planning is more than just a static document. It’s an ongoing process, and you shouldn’t expect it to be perfect. However, it’s vital to address any holes and vulnerabilities by conducting ongoing risk assessments, identifying scenarios that would leave operations unprotected, and developing action steps to address issues that require immediate attention.

Business continuity plan testing is an important element of ensuring your plan is current and responsive to changing conditions. There are four categories of testing:

  • Plan review: Senior management and department heads analyze the BCP and discuss potential improvements.
  • Tabletop exercise or structured walk-through: In this scenario-based, role-playing exercise, the objective is to ensure all critical personnel in your organization are aware of and familiar with the relevant portions of the BCP, as well as their role in a disaster.
  • Walk-through drill or simulation test: This test can incorporate actual disaster recovery actions such as backup recovery, live testing of redundant systems, simulated responses at alternate locations, and actual notification and resource mobilization.
  • Functional or full recovery test: This is a complete test of your backup systems with parallel testing (running your live and backup systems in conjunction) or a full failover test (completely transitioning operations to your backup systems).

Your testing schedule depends on a variety of factors, including your company’s size, the pace of equipment upgrades and installations, and the amount of turnover in your IT staff. Generally speaking, business continuity professionals recommend annual testing as the absolute minimum.

Objective 9: Fulfill External Requirements

The final objective doesn’t link to any particular section of the BCP template. Instead, it addresses the reality that your company may have to provide a BCP to satisfy external requirements from regulators, vendors, and insurance companies.

As noted by the Disaster Recovery Institute (DRI), there are over 120 regulations that mandate business continuity management across a variety of industries. They fall under regulatory authorities and legislation such as the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

In addition, requests for proposals (RFPs) increasingly include a requirement to demonstrate an active business continuity management program. Likewise, many insurers want to see evidence of a BCP as a part of the underwriting process.

Craft a Continuity Plan for Your Business

Business continuity leadership faces a significant challenge. They have to gain organizational commitment to achieving these critical business continuity plan objectives while also motivating employees to spend time on issues that don’t directly contribute to their daily goals.

Recruiting the right team, adopting a collaborative approach with participants, engaging senior management early in the process, and investing in training and certification will contribute to the long-term success of your continuity planning.

As a provider of business continuity services, Invenio IT has helped clients navigate disaster incidents. Schedule a meeting with one of our data protection specialists to learn more about the latest disaster recovery solutions and how our team can help you minimize downtime from disruptive incidents.

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