Updated: Oct 20, 2021
Three things make a good continuity business continuity template:
1. It’s intended purpose
2. It’s design
3. Maintenance consideration
So, the first thing to consider is what purpose the template will be used for. Is the template going to be used to support third-party due diligence? In this case you’ll want a narrative based document that describes your approach to developing and maintaining business continuity for your organisation. This document would cover a range of topics including:
2. Scope & Priorities
3. Roles and Responsibilities
4. Basic recovery strategies
5. Business Continuity Management Standards
6. Business Continuity Management Policy & Processes
7. Business Continuity Management Organisation
8. Business Continuity Management Oversight & Assurance
9. Organisation Charts
As you can see from this example table of contents the topics covered all relate to HOW business continuity is managed within the organisation. An external party would be focussed on this to assure themselves that business continuity is embedded within the organisation and that any “plans” are something more than an old document that’s been “dusted off” to create the impression that the organisation has a business continuity plan.
When most people think of a business continuity plan, they think of an information resource that everyone grabs to help them manage in a crisis. This is where the development of a single document that covers everything becomes impractical and where design plays a big part. Think of all of the different formats that information within a business continuity plan could take. It would include:
· Run books to guide IT & communications recovery activities
· Relocation plans for alternative workplace activation
· Communication streams to maintain dialogue and share information with colleagues, customers and media
· Departmental action plans
· Checklists for people performing specific roles and duties
The primary consideration here is ease of use during a pressurised situation – and experience has shown that in a real-life business continuity incident, people don't pick-up a huge a document and follow detailed procedures. What they need is quick reference resources which serve as an “aide memoir” to remind them of actions to take and who they might need to collaborate with. Each of the resources listed above will need to be designed for optimum effectiveness – which is something that can’t be done in a generically formatted document. Although there are many templates out there, many of which are free, they fall into this category and won’t be of any use in a real-life business continuity incident. Business continuity plans based on this approach tend to become what’s known as “shelfware”, they play no practical purpose once they have been developed. So an effective business continuity plan is a collection of resources whose format is optimised for the purpose it needs to serve and a single format will not achieve that.
Large documents are not easily maintained by several individuals. A business continuity plan requires many parts of the organisation to collaborate and work together during a major incident. Their action plans need to be regularly reviewed, tested and, if necessary, updated. This implies that, for a plan based on a single, large narrative based document, many people will have to update it. This throws up several impracticalities:
· Do we know which bits of the plan have been updated?
· Do we know that everyone has updated their plan?
· With multiple authors the overall plan is likely to be in a constant state of flux
In short, you have a maintenance nightmare because ownership becomes difficult to pin down and is a recipe for plan “decay2: because no-one is really sure what parts of the plan they are responsible for.
By developing specific resources for specific purposes, they can be assigned to individual and identifiable owners. Managing the resource becomes easier for the owner and which parts of the plan are current and up to date (or otherwise) is easier to determine.
Not all business continuity plan templates are created equal and many business continuity plan templates which are available for free – even though they are offered with the best of intentions – will not add much value to your organisation.
You can see some examples of business continuity plan templates here. You can also see how each business continuity plan template is used in the process of developing a business continuity in our free business continuity training course