In our field, the terms business continuity trends and crisis management are thrown around a lot. What we’ve noticed recently, though, is that many are under the mistaken impression that the two have the same meaning.
Business continuity encompasses a defined set of planning, preparatory and related activities which are intended to ensure that an organization’s critical business functions will either continue to operate despite serious incidents or disasters that might otherwise have interrupted them, or will be recovered to an operational state within a reasonably short period. As such, business continuity includes three key elements:
- Resilience: critical business functions and the supporting infrastructure are designed and engineered in such a way that they are materially unaffected by most disruptions, for example through the use of redundancy and spare capacity;
- Recovery: arrangements are made to recover or restore critical and less critical business functions that fail for some reason.
- Contingency: the organization establishes a generalized capability and readiness to cope effectively with whatever major incidents and disasters occur, including those that were not, and perhaps could not have been, foreseen. Contingency preparations constitute a last-resort response if resilience and recovery arrangements should prove inadequate in practice.
Crisis Management Definition
While definition of crisis management and business continuity are closely related, they are not one and the same. In his Managing Outcomes newsletter, crisis management pro Tony Jaques gave an excellent explanation on the aspects and meaning of crisis management:
Professional Crisis Management is a strategic management process which begins long before the triggering event and continues after the triggering event has been brought under control. It embraces:
- Identifying and proactively managing potential crisis issues before they happen
- Getting ready for when a crisis does happen
- Responding effectively to the event
- Restoring business as usual
- Responding to the highly damaging risks which often arise when the dust has settled (sometimes called the crisis after the crisis) and finally,
- Learning from what happened and incorporating it into future planning.
You see, doing crisis management right means taking a holistic approach, which is part of ensuring business continuity – keeping your operations up and running while the crisis is being managed.
The prep, training for, and actual act of maintaining or restoring business to usual is what business continuity actually entails, although such a brief description does little service to the massive scope of work required when encountering a serious interruption.
In fact, business continuity entails just about any activity performed by an organization to ensure that critical business functions will be available to its stakeholders, including customers, suppliers, regulators and other entities. For example, the efforts behind re-linking broken supply chains and overcoming disaster situations would all fall under the description of business continuity, as would training employees how to handle operations when the computers are down, or power is out.
Just as with crisis management, business continuity is an ongoing process that should be a part of your day-to-day operations, rather than a separate process that you only turn to in times of trouble. Train well, run practice simulations, and have your skills at the ready when the time comes.
Crisis management and business continuity go hand in hand, but they aren’t the same thing. Know the difference, and your organization will be stronger for it.
MissionMode’s smarter mass notification and incident management applications enable organizations to take control of crises, and reduce the time and cost of the response. Contact us today for more information or to schedule a demonstration.