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Limitations of a free Business Continuity Plan Template 

Stages of business continuity plan development

Why would you pay for a business continuity plan template when you can download one for free? Bear in mind  once you have downloaded a free business continuity plan template, you are on your own with no guidance. Here are some issues, based on the experience of others to consider:

Flexibility to adapt to purpose

The vast majority of free business continuity plan templates are provided as a single document document. This does not take into account how different sections of a business continuity plan need different tools and hence different formats. For instance risk and impact assessments are best  supported by spreadsheets to hold tabular information and produce dynamic graphical information. PowerPoint is helpful for creating awareness programmes for the wider organisation and PDF formats can be supported on most devices - making them ideal for quick reference guides for all members of the organisation. This kind of flexibility is not found in free business continuity plan templates

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Content Organisation

Free business continuity plan templates cram all business continuity plan information into a single document - this creates an unwieldy document that is difficult to maintain. Cramming content relating to policy, priorities, communications strategies and response plans in one document creates a large, cumbersome document that is difficult to maintain - particularly when the business continuity plan has to be held by several people and not all sections are relevant to them. Most importantly, the "plan" will be of limited use in supporting response to a major incident - which is the very reason you are creating a business continuity plan!

image showing the discrete parts of a business continuity plan template

Maintenance & Ownership

When free business continuity plan templates include all business continuity plan information into a single document it creates cumbersome document that is difficult to maintain. A business continuity plan consists of several functional parts which will be created by different parts of the organisation, who will  be responsible not just for their creation but their maintenance. 

A business continuity plan templates that puts all information into a single document, muddies the water in terms of maintenance - who is responsible for which section? When copies of the completed documented are distributed throughout the organisation (as they need to be) a maintenance nightmare is created. Each person responsible for maintaining some aspect of the plan updates it, all others holding a copy of the plan need to be advised of a new version. Multiply this by the the number of people updating the plan and the nightmare becomes a reality with updates flying around and no-one quite sure what version of the plan should be used

That's why our business continuity plan template provides the right tools and resources for the job (documents, spreadsheets, presentations) it facilitates identification of ownership and supports effective maintenance.  We separate documents related to Business Continuity policy, Risk assessment, Incident Response, Functional Recovery Plans etc. into discrete templates that are designed to support a specific purpose and provide the basis for clear ownership.

The image below says it all. It's based on "Brooks Law" which shows how complex things can get as more people work on a shared information resource. 

image showing different business continuity plan templates and file types types
Image depicting Brooks Law and how it applies to the number of people updating a single document business continuity plan

Assurance of Content

If you are looking to use a business continuity plan template, it's likely that you are looking for some direction in terms of how to do get it done and what needs to go in the plan. A free business continuity plan template  won't help you much there. You may get a high level scope because of the structure of the template but assurance of the actual content is rarely provided. It's easy to "fill in the blanks" but to create content that will not stand up to external evaluation

That's why our business continuity plan template provides checklists for each business continuity plan component so that you can ensure that your business continuity plan content is fit for purpose and will stand up to internal and external assessments. 

Example of a business continuity plan template completion checklist


It's  unrealistic to give someone a business continuity plan template and expect them to create a credible business continuity plan  for their organisation without some guidance in the form of training.  Many people look to use a Business Continuity Plan Template to help them quickly get to grips with the principles of business continuity planning and management. But we think more is required - a bland template on its own can raise more questions than it answers. 

That's why our business continuity plan template comes with an online training course to guide you through each stage of the business continuity plan development process and how to create a system to manage the plan once it has been communicated and deployed 

picture of business continuity plan training course
  • Steve Dance Managing Partner
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