Any risk, whether opportunity or threat, requires a response from your business. This is what keeps the money rolling in. Whether it’s a planned or unplanned risk, your business resilience is what differentiates your response to this risk. If you respond inappropriately or too slowly, you could lose ground to your competitors.
Often there is confusion between Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery. Typically Business Continuity plans describe how an organization can recover and resume business operations following a disruptive incident. By contrast, Disaster Recovery plans describe the steps to take to recover and restore normal operations to IT infrastructure elements, such as networks, servers, data centers, operating systems, applications and data.
Understanding Business Resilience
Resilience is the ability of a business or organization to return to its original operational status after it has been impacted by a disruptive or disastrous event.
The 2013 edition of the Business Continuity Institute’s Good Practice Guidelines defines business continuity as “the capability of the organization to continue delivery of products or services at acceptable, predefined levels following a disruptive incident.”
Although both terms implies getting your business back online, there are subtle differences. To achieve a state of business resilience, an organization must first achieve business continuity. This suggests that continuity precedes resilience.
A flow diagram illustrating business resilience and business continuity.
The diagram above states that we must first complete a BC plan. If we then exercise the plan and it seems to work properly, the question becomes: “Is the business now resilient?” The best way to achieve business resilience is to prove it with a real-life incident that activates the BC plan and forces employees to respond to the event. If employees are able to use the plan to resume business operations to more or less normal levels, resilience has been achieved.
Business resilience goes a step beyond disaster recovery by offering post-disaster strategies to avoid costly downtime, shore up vulnerabilities and maintain business operations in the face of additional, unexpected breaches.
Business Resilience is not a substitute for DR
There are two aspects to the process of becoming a resilient business.
- Gain an understanding of where you are today and where you need to go. You need to have a framework designed to address those questions.
- Actually transforming your business into one that’s truly resilient. For this you need to have a roadmap for the process of transforming your business.
The roadmap includes the following phases:
Phase one: determine risk exposure
Identify the risks that are unique to your organization. These may include the risk of natural disasters, technical failures, regulatory compliance, sudden changes in demand, operational requirements and any other risks that may interrupt normal business activity.
This also includes opportunities such as sudden spikes in transaction volumes, new acquisitions or mergers, or highly effective marketing campaigns.
Phase two: rank the risks according to potential business impact
You need to identify and prioritize your business services, functions or processes according to how your finances would likely be affected if the risks to these areas were realized.
In the event of a disruption, what is your uptime – recovery time objectives (RTOs) and recovery point objectives (RPOs) – needed to restore each critical function?
Based on these, you can target your resources more effectively by understanding not only which areas of your business are most important, but also what the exact requirements of those areas are.
Phase three: evaluate your resilience capabilities
Once you have ranked your risks, you need to perform a gap analysis of your needs and capabilities. It includes a high-level review of your company’s ability to meet the basic requirements of resilience.
Phase four: design a resilience strategy
The next step is to incorporate your view of the maturity of your existing objects into a design for a resilient architecture that can help mitigate the identified risks.
Phase five: develop resilience plans and procedures
The architecture provides the structure for improving your business resilience, but you still need plans and procedures for managing and maintaining it. Such a plan should include an initial implementation strategy as well as alternatives that allow for changing business conditions.
Phase six: implement the plan
Once the implementation plan has been agreed upon, you’re ready to deploy your new architecture and structure your ongoing resilience program.
Phase seven: validate the plans, procedures and architecture
The next step in becoming a more resilient business is to validate the work you have completed in the transformation process. This validation process helps confirm that all aspects of your business resilience architecture have been implemented properly and are working effectively to mitigate the risks you identified earlier in the process.
Phase eight: ongoing management of your resilience program
A defined business resilience program should be managed so that everyone involved understands and adheres to the resilience principles that underlie the architecture. It is not a static event, but is, a part of a management program designed to help maintain continual monitoring, testing and improvement of the infrastructure.
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