Business continuity planning for businesses

Business continuity is a process developed to counteract system failure and is essential to businesses. This is regardless of size and sector. Business continuity plans are required to ensure that your business/organisation is able to function in the event of an emergency. Unplanned events may arise, such as:

  • foot and mouth epidemic in 2002
  • floods in 2005 and 2009
  • Coronavirus pandemic in 2020.

Emergencies may arise from within the organisation, such as deliberate or accidental damage to systems.

Reasons to have a business continuity plan

Should any unplanned event occur, such as flooding, or continued cold weather, it is essential there is a certain degree of confidence that your business could continue to provide its services and achieve its objectives. Ensuring there is an effective business continuity plan in place is an invaluable step that can be taken to make sure that your business suffers minimal disruption and is able to continue operating.

The following statistics provide further evidence, emphasising the necessity of a business continuity plan:

  • 80% of businesses affected by a major incident close within 18 months
  • 90% of businesses that lose data from a disaster are forced to shut within two years
  • 58% of UK organisations were disrupted by September 11. One in eight was seriously affected

Without an effective plan in place, possible consequences for your business are:

  • complete failure of your business
  • loss of income
  • loss of reputation and/or loss of customers
  • Financial, legal and regulatory penalties
  • human resources issues
  • an impact on insurance premiums.

Developing an effective plan

An effective business continuity plan will encompass all eventualities. It should enable your business to recover quickly and efficiently should an emergency/disaster take place. The business continuity plan should be concise and available to all staff members responsible for components of the plan.

Consider the following action points when developing your business continuity plan:

  • Analyse your business: this involves listing the business' critical services and considering areas in which your business may be vulnerable, for example: suppliers, partners, buildings, staffing and natural disasters, such as fires, floods and flu pandemics.
  • Assess the risks: consider the likelihood of certain risks and what effect certain risks will impose on your business.
  • Prepare a plan: the plan should outline how you are able to continue each of your critical services and various actions for different risks should be highlighted.
  • Test your plan: employees should be involved and training needs should be addressed. It is essential for the plan to be reviewed regularly.
  • Consider if you are ready for all eventualities.

To help businesses to build resilience against any disaster, the National Counter Terrorism Security Office provides advice, set out in the booklet 'Expecting the unexpected: Business continuity in an uncertain world'.

Last updated: Tuesday, 24 May, 2022.