Business continuity and business resilience are more important than ever before. But what’s the difference? Here’s how they compare.
If the past few years have been any indication of what’s to come, organizations around the world will continue to face an unprecedented volume of disruption. With many companies still recovering from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, business leaders have taken a renewed interest in business resilience and continuity.
But what’s the difference between business continuity and resilience? How do they overlap, and where do they diverge? Answering these questions is key to understanding how to successfully plan for, mitigate and respond to unexpected crises and disruptions in ways that strengthen your business over time.
Here, we’ll explore business continuity and resilience, why each is critical to risk management and why—although often used interchangeably—it’s important to understand that the terms are not one and the same.
Defining Business Continuity
As defined by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), business continuity is an organization’s ability to continue to deliver its products and services at acceptable levels following a business disruption. In simple terms, business continuity management involves all of the processes and procedures associated with ensuring that critical operations are maintained to meet appropriate standards.
For example, imagine a natural disaster strikes an office building and destroys an organization’s network infrastructure. Without proper business continuity planning, the company’s data and corporate resources would be lost, thus throwing critical operations into disarray. But by having already backed up its infrastructure to an off-site data center, the company is able to maintain operations while also initiating its emergency response.
Defining Business Resilience
Business resilience moves beyond the scope of continuity planning and takes a more dynamic, strategic approach to risk mitigation. Resilience, according to the ISO, is an organization's ability to not just provide immediate responses to disruption, but to adapt to its risk environment under changing circumstances. The goal of business resiliency is to ensure organizations are prepared to absorb the blow of disruption without inflicting a significant toll on business operations.
Take the pandemic, for example. When COVID-19 forced businesses to close office doors in early 2020, many responded by shifting to remote work conditions. Pivoting to agile business models allowed organizations to adapt and overcome the challenge of working in a distributed environment. According to Buffer, nearly half of organizations are fully remote, while 72% plan to implement a permanent remote work model—a choice that enables enterprises to withstand similar disruptions in the future.
It’s easiest to think of business continuity as the set of procedures that allow an organization to continue operating during a crisis. In contrast, resilience is the capability to withstand the shock of an unexpected disruption and rebound to an acceptable state of an ongoing operation.
Why Do Business Continuity and Resilience Matter?
The Business Continuity Institute conducts an annual survey that ranks the potential threats organizations could face in the next 12 months. According to its 2022 Horizon Scan report, businesses are worried about the following:
- Non-occupational diseases (i.e., pandemic)
- Cyber attacks
- Travel restrictions
- Remote/hybrid work environments
- IT and telecom outages
- Extreme weather events
- Critical infrastructure failures
- Regulatory changes
- Lack of talent/skills
- Occupational health incidents
Any combination of the risks above could threaten critical business operations. In fact, BCI’s data indicates that the most common consequence of disruption is low staff morale, followed by loss of productivity, employee turnover and a loss of revenue, not to mention other long-lasting effects such as reputational damage and customer churn.
Benefits of Business Continuity and Resilience
With proper resilience and continuity management systems in place, businesses can achieve several positive outcomes. In tandem, continuity and resilience enable organizations to:
● Maintain critical operations during and after a disruption
● Resume regular operation as quickly as possible
● Safeguard the business from financial loss
● Ensure compliance with regulatory requirements
● Protect and enable long-term organizational growth
● Prevent reputational damage to a company’s brand
● Keep assets, people and intellectual property safe in the event of an emergency
Business continuity and business resilience planning
Few things are more important to organizational survival than continuity and resilience. But when it comes to building a resilient organization, where do you begin?
Business Continuity Planning
Start by creating a business continuity plan—a document that identifies the most essential business functions and how they should be maintained during a crisis. There are three primary types of business continuity plans:
● Crisis management plan: Outlines the steps and considerations an organization needs to strategically respond to a disruption.
● Emergency response plan: Details procedures that should be followed to mitigate various types of threats and ensure preservation of life.
● IT disaster recovery plan: Describes procedures for the recovery of critical IT systems, data and other technology assets.
Organizations must complete two key activities when creating a business continuity plan:
● Risk assessment: Identify risk factors that could potentially cause harm to the business
● Business impact analysis: Quantify the impact on time-critical business operations, assets, customers, premises, technologies and suppliers
Use these activities to identify and prioritize potential threats so that the business can develop appropriate risk mitigation strategies. Implement these procedures, test them out and update them as needed.
Business Resilience Planning
Build upon continuity planning and transcend the short-sighted scope of immediate disruption by accounting for long-term adaptation.
Resilient organizations, according to Forrester, “dynamically react to a sudden event or crisis regardless of whether they had foreseen it as being a risk.” They understand the specifics of any given crisis and have a practiced response that allows them to mitigate disruptions as efficiently as possible.
To achieve a state of effective resilience, organizations should balance across six critical areas:
● Financial resilience: Balance short- and long-term financial goals with a flexible capital position that allows the business to withstand sudden fluctuations in cost and revenue.
● Operational resilience: Fortify operations with a production capacity that can flexibly adapt to demand without sacrificing quality. Resilient organizations maintain operational capacity and continuity under stress and withstand supply chain disruptions.
● Organizational resilience: Foster a healthy, diverse culture in the workforce and empower workers to do their best. Resilient businesses mitigate staffing transitions, maximize retention and enforce higher standards of performance.
● Reputational resilience: Align values with actions, demand a strong sense of self and be open to communication between stakeholders. Openly address societal expectations and respond to criticism with meaningful change.
● Business-model resilience: Leverage an agile business model to adapt to changes in technology, market demand or regulation.
● Technological resilience: Invest in flexible infrastructure, not only in response to cyber threats but also to customer needs and competitive pressures. Make use of high-quality data in a way that “respects privacy and avoids bias” and implement continuity and disaster recovery plans to avoid service disruptions and other outages.
Enable Resilience with Real-Time Information
According to Forrester, planning and executing a “future-fit tech strategy” is what creates the foundation for effective business resilience. In other words, technological resilience is the stepping-stone organizations can use to stop rolling the dice and start taking a more strategic approach to risk management.
With the right stack of technologies, businesses elevate risk mitigation capabilities and support the development of their continuity and resilience programs simultaneously. And there’s no technology more suited to achieving that goal than a real-time alerting solution like Dataminr Pulse.
Dataminr Pulse uses publicly available data to detect the earliest signals of high-risk events. Real-time information empowers organizations to respond to disruptions faster, more efficiently and with as much context as possible.
There are many ways that an organization can leverage Dataminr Pulse to develop both immediate business continuity plans and long-term business resilience:
● Real-time alerting: Continuity planning and crisis management rely on having the most relevant and accurate information available. Pulse delivers those insights within minutes of their occurrence, allowing organizations to jump ahead of the curve and initiate the most optimal response to any given disruption. By identifying signals from hundreds of thousands of public data sources around the globe, businesses can maintain total situational awareness.
● Geovisualization: Understanding what you’re dealing with is key to effective risk mitigation. With rich visual context, businesses can organize their resources and respond to risk with absolute confidence. During extreme weather events, for example, organizations can visualize storm patterns and maintain visibility of their impact on critical operations.
● Collaborative workflows: Pulse’s collaborative workflow capabilities allow a business to jump from incident discovery to mitigation with speed. With the ability to create standardized playbooks and iterative response plans, organizations can ensure all critical operations are prepped and ready to respond when a high-stakes incident occurs. When a fast-moving risk is happening in real-time, teams can operationalize, collaborate and adapt as needed.
Dataminr Pulse enables organizations to put risk management into complete context and prepare to the best of their ability. This affords them the flexibility to respond faster, more effectively and with more confidence—all while also preparing for potential threats down the line.
As the rapid emergence of risk and unplanned disruption continues to accelerate, firms are right to set their sights on business continuity and resilience. But to truly reach the point of resiliency, they’ll need the force-multiplying advantage of real-time information.
Dataminr is recognized as one of the world's leading AI businesses. The company’s clients are the first to know about high-impact events and emerging risks so they can mitigate and manage crises more effectively. Dataminr solutions are relied on 24/7 by hundreds of clients in over 100 countries across six continents to help them solve real-world problems. Dataminr is one of New York's top private technology companies, with over 800 employees across eight global offices.
Request a demo (https://www.dataminr.com/technology) today to learn more and see it for yourself.