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A business continuity plan (BCP) is a protocol of preventing and recovering from potentially large threats to the company’s business continuity. Such a plan often aims to address the need for updated business norms and operational standards in unpredictable circumstances such as natural disasters, data breach/ exposures, large scale system failures etc. The goal of such a plan is to ensure continuity of business with no or little damage to regular working environments, including job security for its employees.
It covers everything from business processes, human resources details, and more. Essentially a BCP provides a concrete plan to the organization to maintain business continuity even in challenging circumstances.
- BCP’s relevance has gone up considerably after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and was also a major testing time for organizations that did have such a plan in place. The organizations which had a business continuity plan in place were better able to cope during these unprecedented circumstances better than those who did not have any such plans.
- The recorded number of natural disasters has increased from 375 in 2016 to 409 in 2019 . Globally, the loss because of natural disasters was $232 billion in 2019, according to a study by Aon .
- The number of cyberattacks has also increased in all geographies and all business verticals. MonsterCloud reported that cyberattacks have skyrocketed during the COVID-19 pandemic. All this means that the organizations have to be better prepared to fight disasters. The importance of BCP can hardly be exaggerated in this context. Preparing a BCP is imperative for any enterprise, big or small, today.
The end goal of a BCP is to ensure that the essential services continue to run in the event of an incident. For instance, if there is an earthquake where your customer service representatives operate from, your BCP will be able to tell you who will handle customer calls until the original office is restored.
Difference between a business continuity plan (BCP) and disaster recovery plan (DCP)
A BCP is often confused with a disaster recovery (DR) plan. While a DR plan is primarily focused on restoring the IT systems and infrastructure, a BCP is much more than that. It covers all areas and departments of the organization, including HR, marketing and sales, support functions.
The underlying thought behind BCP is that IT systems can hardly work in silos. Other departments also need to be restored to cater to the client or for meeting the business demands.
“Many people think a disaster recovery plan (DRP) is the same as a business continuity plan, but a DRP is only a small, yet essential, a portion of a full BCP. A DRP focuses solely on restoring an organization’s IT infrastructure while minimizing data loss. On the other hand, a BCP is a comprehensive guide on how to continue the mission and business-critical operations during a time of an unplanned disruption (natural disasters, pandemics, or malware),” says Caleb Pipkin, a security expert at Logically .
Benefits of Creating a Business Continuity Plan
1. Avoid Disruption of Business-Critical Services
One of the key benefits of creating a business continuity plan is that it ensures continuous delivery of critical services that cannot fail. Keep in mind that 2020 witnessed the first known death caused by a cyber attack that disabled systems at Düsseldorf University Hospital in Germany. A BCP can potentially save lives in addition to businesses and livelihoods. It allows businesses to redirect resources to critical services and operations and make smart choices based on the BIA.
A prime example of this is how one healthcare provider was able to withstand the effects of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. With comprehensive and up-to-date disaster planning as a part of their BCP, Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana was one of the few healthcare facilities well prepared to deal with the high patient influx and communication breakdown that resulted from the natural disaster without being overwhelmed. Their BCP even included arrangements for a 24-hour emergency child care center for on-duty staff during the crisis. The hospital’s preparedness enabled them to stay true to their mission and provide critical care when the community needed it most.
2. Build Confidence with Your Customer Base
Creating a BCP and highlighting the efforts you’re investing in business continuity can convey a very powerful message to your customers and partners. It speaks volumes about your commitment to serving them, even during the most uncertain times, and can foster a relationship of trust with your customers who can rely on you to deliver when others fail.
In the United Arab Emirates, the preparedness of Carrefour showed when it quickly launched carrefouruae.com, its online marketplace, saving businesses and customers alike during the 2020 COVID-19 stay-at-home orders. It successfully provided an opportunity for small businesses to reach a larger customer base across the entire UAE. Today, the platform receives more than 1,300 orders per day on average.
3. Meet Your Regulatory Compliance Requirements
Creating and updating a BCP is crucial in heavily regulated sectors, such as health and financial services, and several regulatory bodies require critical businesses to have an incident response strategy in place. Even a few minutes of unavailability can cost millions of dollars in fines and irreparable damage to your company’s reputation.
Lack of an effective disaster recovery plan left Deutsche Bank to deal with a civil monetary penalty of $9 million. In 2016, the bank experienced a swap reporting platform outage and then failed to report data properly for the next five days, netting them the fine for violating reporting requirements. An effective BCP would have included a strategy for reporting swap data even during the reporting platform outage.
4. Mitigate Financial Risks
In services such as the banking sector, seconds of downtime can hinder transactions worth millions of dollars. According to a research report by IDC, infrastructure failure can cost up to $100,000, while critical application downtime can cost as much as a million dollar per hour. Add to that the potential regulatory fines, and even minute disruptions can lead to serious financial consequences.
A BCP with viable recovery time objective (RTO), the maximum time a service can remain unavailable, and recovery point objective (RPO), the acceptable interval between data backups, can help businesses plan for quick recovery and mitigate the associated financial risks.
In 2016, Delta lost more than $100 million in revenue due to a computer outage that lasted three days. The crisis could have been averted if the company had an effective BCP in place that contained a clear protocol for maintaining operations if such an outage were to occur.
5. Gain Competitive Advantage over Others
As we all witnessed during 2020, those companies with an updated BCP and access to virtual technologies were much better prepared to adapt to the sudden shift of having most employees work from home. They thrived while those lacking a BCP struggled to survive in the new norm. By the time the latter resumed their services and operations, many customers had already shifted their loyalties to businesses that had proved their resilience.
Hong Kong’s Centaline Property Agency is a great example of how a good BCP coupled with technology readiness can help businesses find opportunities even in uncertain situations. The company leveraged virtual reality to provide virtual tours of properties during COVID-19 lockdowns. While most real estate companies endured a big blow, Centaline Property Agency managed a staggering 129% increase in their number of website visitors during the worst of the outbreak.