From reactive to proactive: Ensure physical and digital business continuity

April 25, 2024 Windstream Enterprise 3 min

Many organizations struggle to shift from reactive to proactive approaches in maintaining business continuity amidst disruptions, with surveys revealing significant gaps in foundational elements, emphasizing the critical need for comprehensive continuity strategies encompassing physical and digital aspects to mitigate risks and ensure operational resilience.

“Continuity” means having an unbroken and consistent existence or operation. And when it comes to business, continuity is essential for ensuring that a company can continue to operate no matter what comes its way. 

Yet many organizations are challenged by moving from reactive to proactive responses to maintaining business continuity in light of disruptions. A PwC survey of global business leaders found that 96% of organizations have experienced disruption in the last two years, and more than three-quarters revealed that their most serious disruption had a medium-to-high impact on operations. However, only one-third of survey respondents were confident that their organization had the right foundational elements in place to respond to disruptions.

The uncertain outlook may be because although organizations are investing in cyber resilience (87%), crisis management (86%), and emergency management (85%), other critical foundational areas have little investment, like threat monitoring (11%), supply chain resilience (10%), and disaster recovery (9%). A lack of investment presents a problem for upholding business continuity, and organizations may risk downtime, revenue loss, and other devastating outcomes without the proper protocols in place.

What is business continuity?

Business continuity refers to an organization’s ability to maintain its critical functions and operations in the event of an unplanned emergency, disruption, or other threat, such as a natural disaster or security breach. The goal of business continuity is to have processes and procedures in place so you will be ready to react and can operate during and after the disruption. 

Organizations must think about all areas of their business that a disruption would potentially impact and consider the two significant parts of business continuity:

  • Physical: This area usually encompasses risks to your company’s building and employees. For example, fire damage ruins inventory, or there’s a flood, and on-site staff must evacuate.
  • Digital: Risks to digital assets usually come from cyber-attacks such as malware or ransomware that can result in data breaches or downtime.

When we think about business continuity, our minds may immediately jump to worst-case scenarios. However, organizations that focus on business resiliency – the ability to absorb and adapt to disruption – will gain an advantage in conjunction with business continuity. They can withstand the disruption, have continuity processes to navigate it, and bounce back quickly.

Why business continuity is important

The Federal Reserve estimates that 200,000 permanent businesses didn’t survive the upheaval in the United States between March 2020 and February 2021 – and executive worries aren’t decreasing. According to a Gallagher study of business owners, 83% expressed worries about specific events or losses that have the potential to affect their business. They expressed extreme or very high concern about how climate change and natural disasters could affect their business (68%) and about the impact of a cyber-attack on their business (74%).

Those worries are not without merit. There is definitive data to back up the potential impact of such disruptions on a business, such as damage to reputation or increased costs, if it does not have a business continuity strategy to mitigate the impact. Take natural disasters, for example. Last year, there were 28 separate billion-dollar weather and climate disasters, more than any other year on record. Doing nothing is not an option.

How to ensure continuity

So, how do you ensure your organization is best prepared for business continuity if a disruption occurs? Every company should have a business continuity strategy and plan tailored to their unique circumstances that covers the physical and digital aspects of the organization.

An optimal business continuity plan should focus on what you can control and answer these questions:

  • Have you done a risk analysis to assess potential vulnerabilities?
  • Have you updated systems and technology to make sure they can withstand digital threats?
  • Have you assigned roles and responsibilities for your emergency response team?
  • Do you have a trusted partner with expertise in continuity to work with your team?
  • Do you have a communications strategy to stay in touch with your employees, customers, and suppliers during a disruption?

Test the plan with simulations to determine what is and isn’t working and revise as needed. Review the plan with your employees and train those who will actively take part in the plan execution. Review and update the plan consistently so you’ll be ready, not if but when disaster strikes.

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Key Takeaway
Business continuity, essential for operational stability, faces challenges as organizations grapple with transitioning from reactive to proactive responses. For success in the future, it’s essential for companies to develop comprehensive continuity plans encompassing both physical and digital realms.

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