ISO 22301: Appreciating the importance of Business Continuity Management

Disruptions are real and a known fact in most business operations. Caused by a variety of factors ranging from weather, technology, employees etc. it can affect the daily operations of a business. In this post, we explore some of the various aspects of business continuity management and the ISO 22301:2012 standard which can help businesses plan and prepare for continuity and resilience.

What is Business Continuity Management (BCM)?

Does my company need a business continuity plan? What’s the worst thing that can happen? These are some of the questions raised by many business leaders.

Murphy’s Law states, “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong”.

One cannot estimate disasters, but one can plan to mitigate its effects. Disasters or risks to organizations come in various forms including fires, floods, personnel accidents, IT crashes, viruses, hacking etc. to name a few. In this ever changing landscape of business, an organization needs to have a plan in place to help mitigate these risks and ensure continuity, resiliency and recovery.

Business continuity is defined as the capability of an organization to continue delivery of products or services at acceptable pre-defined levels following a disruptive incident. Business Continuity Management integrates the disciplines of Emergency Response, Crisis Management, Disaster Recovery (technology continuity) and Business Continuity (organizational/operational re-location).

It is part of an organization’s overall management system and is a set of inter-related elements that organizations use to establish, implement, operate, monitor, review, maintain, and improve their capabilities for business continuity. Some of these elements include people, policies, plans, procedures, processes, structures, and resources.

Benefits of Business Continuity Management

With its scope being enterprise-wide, having an effective Business Continuity Management program helps it in many ways. Below we have outline some of the top benefits:

1 – Gives competitive advantage

Having a resilient supply-chain helps companies gain a competitive advantage over their competition, allowing them to respond to any disruption efficiently. Moreover, this also makes a company more attractive and be a preferred supplier to potential business partners or client organizations looking to benefit from its increased reliability. Requests for Proposals (RFPs) are now requiring potential vendors to demonstrate that they have a Business Continuity Management program in place to guarantee uninterrupted supply and resiliency.

2 – Achieves regulatory and legal compliance

Local governments and legal authorities are emphasizing the significance of Business Continuity Management. New regulatory requirements that govern preparedness in the supply chain are being introduced. Regulations are being mandated across various important industries including Banking and Financial services, Energy, Healthcare, etc. Failure to ‘comply’ or ‘be prepared’ are grounds for negligence which can expose an organization legally with negative repercussions.

3 – Maintains optimum client delivery levels

Having a proper Business Continuity Management program in place strengthens management processes which allows an organization to continue supplying its products or services to its clients at agreed levels within specified time-frames.

4 – Management of Reputation and Resilience

Organizations who don’t plan or prepare for Business Continuity Management can risk appearing incompetent to external stakeholders, clients or the public, especially should an unfortunate event arise causing it to stumble. Having a well prepared BCM program ensures smooth recovery, brand value preservation and reinforces confidence in the organization. It demonstrates the organization’s commitment to perform at premium levels even during adverse conditions thus preserving its overall reputation.

Risks associated with Business Continuity

With the ever-changing business landscape, the nature of potential risks or disruptions are changing constantly. Many global businesses are increasingly joining forces to work together for mutual gains. This has created complex inter-relationships and partnerships with shared processes and dependencies. Moreover there is an increased reliance on IT systems and technology for managing critical data and operations. Another area of risk exposure is unforeseen environmental or political issues in various parts of the globe which can have the potential to disrupt normal business operations.

It is for these reasons and threats that a Business Continuity Management program and the certification of the same is essential for organizations looking to plan and prepare to mitigate any risks or disruptive incidents.

Below we have listed out a few (though not limited to) possible threats that face organizations in the region: –

1. Fire Hazards – Depending on the nature and location of the business, there is always a risk of fire that may occur due to various factors either within the business premises or neighboring premises.

2. Extreme Weather – This also poses certain risks depending on the nature of the business. Extreme heat, sandstorms, fog, flooding etc. are a regular occurrence in the region which can cause disruption of businesses having outdoor activities or are dependent on the same.

3. Human errors – This is another risk caused by unexpected or unforeseen mistakes caused by human intervention. These are especially prevalent in activities related to software or IT systems. Sometimes there are software programming errors caused by humans who may have not considered or missed out on certain parts of the processes thus cause a larger failure and potential losses.

4. Resource availability – Sometimes when people who are responsible for mission critical functions are sick or unable to perform their duties for personal reasons, it becomes difficult to find suitable replacements to handle their workload. Other cases may also be when businesses need to move their location to another place, then there are potential reasons when people may not be able to relocate.

5. IT systems dependency failure – Depending on the design of software systems, sometimes critical software applications are designed in a manner that they may depend on a single resource or server for data. If that server crashes, then the application becomes unusable due to unavailability of resources.

6. Data breach – In the current business landscape, cyber-attacks are becoming increasingly common. Lot of websites, servers, cloud systems are being hacked regularly and thus causing service disruptions, denial of services, etc. Confidential data is also at risk of exposure to unauthorized elements who can use the same to hurt businesses. Malware and ransomware are also increasingly being thrust upon unsuspecting users through emails or malicious website links etc. which if activated can play havoc with business systems.

7 – Internal business risks – There are some businesses whose activities involve a high level of risk especially hospitals, those working in healthcare, chemicals, laboratories etc. In these environments there is always some scope for error or failure in systems which can disrupt the functioning of the organization.

Introducing ISO 22301:2012

Released by the International Standards Organisation in 2012, ISO 22301 Societal security – Business continuity management systems – Requirements, helps businesses of all sizes and types to be better prepared to handle any form of disruption. It directly addresses all risks associated with business continuity and helps manage the same effectively, thus making businesses more resilient.

ISO 22301:2012 emphasizes the importance of the business continuity management system as an optimal framework and way to ensure business continuity. This is an international standard for business continuity management which establishes a framework to maintain, operate, plan, implement, monitor, review and continually improve the system for business continuity.

Proper implementation of the standard ensures that the business is able to protect its brand value, revenue and profits and be compliant with local and international regulatory requirements. Most important it provides the business with a proper solution to recover from a disruptive incident which may threaten its operations and functioning.

ISO 22301:2012 standard focuses on the whole organization and its business continuity plans for recovery of all functions. Achieving certification shows that your organization’s policies, procedures and processes are well optimized and ready to weather any disruption.

How ISO 22301:2012 helps a business reduce its risk

There are a list of activities specified by ISO 22301:2012 which require a business continuity management system to test in its plans before a real incident actually happens. This adds an enhanced layer of protection against any risk since the trial and error approach helps find the best methods suitable for your business and helps mitigate the risk.

The list of activities specified by ISO 22301:2012 helps members of the business know and understand the potential risks and gives them the right tools to effectively handle the situation which eventually is beneficial to the organization.

An ISO 22301 business continuity management system is flexible. It can be built around any business, whether small or large, with an effective plan to help mitigate the risk. The same can also be updated to meet new needs and challenges in the business.

Conclusion

The impact of threats to business continuity are real. Having a well-prepared and ISO 22301 certified business continuity management program early on not only prepares your business and employees to handle disruptions effectively but can also help mitigate these threats and ensure business resilience.

Next steps

Is your business certified for ISO 22301:2012? Setting up your Business Continuity Management program is a complex effort requiring a careful study of your existing operations, processes and then working on an effective plan and strategy tailored to your business needs.

Contact us to speak with one of our experts for free guidance.

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