What Goes Into a Business Continuity Plan? The Complete Guide

A business continuity plan (BCP) is your first line of defense against any challenge that threatens the core functionalities of your organization’s operations. When disaster strikes, your BCP should be there to reduce the time it takes to get things back up and running as usual again – as quickly as possible.

If you’re not able to react quickly to these types of incidents, your company could suffer physical harm, monetary losses, reputational damage, data integrity loss, litigation and much more.

Designing a BCP can feel overwhelming, as it’s such a critical document; where should you start? Who should be involved in the process? How should it be disseminated? These are all questions we’ll answer in this guide, including what is typically included in a BCP.

As a business owner, I know how critical it is to have a rock-solid business continuity plan in place. Disasters and disruptions can strike anytime, and without a continuity plan, they can cripple your business operations. So what exactly goes into creating an effective business continuity plan? In this comprehensive guide, I’ll walk you through the key elements every business needs in their plan to recover quickly from disruptions and safeguard their future.

A business continuity plan, or BCP, is a documented strategy that helps businesses prepare for and recover from potential threats and disasters. The goal is to minimize downtime and ensure critical operations can resume functioning quickly if an emergency or crisis situation arises.

From natural disasters like fires, floods or storms, to cyberattacks, data breaches and pandemics, threats abound in today’s world A BCP serves as your business’ emergency response manual when the unexpected happens. It provides a roadmap to get key operations up and running again with as little disruption as possible

Every business regardless of size or industry needs a continuity plan in place. Without one, any type of business disruption can rapidly translate into heavy financial losses and permanent reputational damage. Customers may also lose trust and take their business elsewhere.

So what are the key elements you need to include in your business continuity plan? Let’s explore the essential components.

7 Must-Have Components of a Business Continuity Plan

Based on leading practices, here are the core sections your business continuity plan should contain:

1. Business Impact Analysis

This section analyzes how disruptions and disasters could impact your business operations, both financially and operationally. You’ll want to identify critical business functions, processes, and resources and determine the consequences if they were interrupted.

Prioritize the processes and resources that would have the greatest impact if lost. This analysis informs how you’ll allocate resources when recovering and re-establishing operations during a crisis.

2. Risk Assessment

Conduct a risk assessment to identify potential threats that could disrupt your business. These may range from natural disasters, cyberattacks and network outages to supply chain interruptions, civil unrest, pandemics, and other scenarios. Analyze the likelihood and potential impact of each risk.

3. Mitigation Strategies

Outline steps you will take to mitigate and prevent identified risks from occurring. This could involve measures like securing data offsite, implementing cybersecurity defenses, securing backup power sources, diversifying suppliers, and other proactive safeguards.

4. Response & Recovery Plans

Detail the steps your business will take to respond after a disruption and restore critical operations. Assign responsibilities and outline how your business will regain functionality for vital processes, resources, technology, communications, facilities and other necessities. Set recovery time objectives.

5. Communications Plan

Have a plan for communicating with employees, customers, vendors, authorities and other stakeholders during and after a disruption. Include emergency notification procedures, public relations protocols, templates for status updates, contact lists, and more.

6. Roles & Responsibilities

Define your continuity team and outline their roles and responsibilities for responding to disruptions and executing the BCP. Identify leaders, decision-makers and backups for each process.

7. Testing & Maintenance

Describe how you will regularly test, update and audit your BCP to ensure it remains effective as your business evolves. Test different scenarios through tabletop exercises. Review and update the plan annually at minimum.

Steps for Developing Your Business Continuity Plan

Now let’s walk through the key steps involved in creating your tailored business continuity plan:

Step 1: Perform a Business Impact Analysis

As mentioned, start by analyzing how potential disruptions could impact your business operations and finances. Identify critical business functions and resources that would cause the greatest damage if interrupted. This informs recovery priorities.

Step 2: Assess Risks Facing Your Business

Catalog and assess the risks that could realistically disrupt your business, such as natural disasters, cyber incidents, supply chain issues, facility problems, pandemics, equipment failure and more. Consider risk likelihood and potential impact.

Step 3: Outline Mitigation Strategies

For each risk, develop strategies to prevent or mitigate their likelihood and impact. Mitigation can involve measures like digitizing records, securing remote data backups, implementing cyber defenses, adding redundancy, ensuring IT systems can operate offline if needed, and other proactive safeguards.

Step 4: Define Response Procedures

Detail the immediate response steps your business will take when various disruptions occur. Assign responsibilities for emergency response notifications, communications, staff safety, damage assessment, and initial triage steps during the first 24-48 hours.

Step 5: Develop Recovery Plans

Outline detailed plans for recovering each critical business operation and resource identified in your business impact analysis. Set recovery time objectives. Include steps for restoring technology systems, retrieving backup data, shifting operations to alternate sites, replenishing inventory, and resuming other vital activities.

Step 6: Prepare Communications Strategies

Determine how your business will communicate before, during and after disruptions to employees, customers, vendors, authorities, media and other stakeholders. Draft templates to rapidly share updates and instructions.

Step 7: Document Roles & Responsibilities

Identify the leaders and team members who will own continuity planning, response and recovery. Define their specific roles and responsibilities in the plan. Outline succession plans and delegation of authority if leaders are unavailable.

Step 8: Create Testing & Maintenance Procedures

Describe how you will test different disruption scenarios through tabletop exercises. Schedule tests quarterly or annually. Outline how you will audit and update the plan annually to keep it current. Appoint someone to monitor these activities.

Following these steps will help you create a robust business continuity plan tailored to your operations and risks. Be sure to involve personnel from across your company in the planning process.

Helpful Business Continuity Plan Templates & Resources

If creating a full business continuity plan from scratch seems daunting, don’t worry. There are some great templates and resources available to help you build out your tailored plan:

  • FEMA BCP Templates: FEMA provides free business continuity plan templates you can customize and build on. These include plans for both small and large businesses.

  • Ready.gov Business Toolkit: Ready.gov offers a business continuity toolkit with templates for business impact analysis, emergency response, communications plans and more.

  • ISO 22301 White Papers: The ISO 22301 standard provides a business continuity management system framework. Their website includes helpful white papers and resources.

  • Continuity Software Tools: There are various continuity planning software tools that can simplify development, maintenance and testing of your BCP.

Leveraging templates and tools can save time while still allowing you to create a continuity plan customized for your unique operations and risks. But remember, the plan is only effective if kept current and tested regularly.

Key Benefits of Investing in Business Continuity Planning

Developing a solid business continuity plan requires commitment and investment, but offers significant benefits:

  • Minimizes downtime: Quicker restoration of operations reduces revenue and productivity losses.

  • Protects reputation: Proactive planning restores customer and stakeholder confidence.

  • Supports resilience: Measures resilience against future disruptions of all types.

  • Drives preparedness: Prepares leadership and staff to act decisively.

  • Informs strategy: Identifies operation vulnerabilities to address.

  • Meets compliance: May fulfill legal or regulatory requirements for your industry.

  • Lowers costs: Reduces prolonged disruptions that require more expensive solutions.

  • Enhances continuity culture: Establishes business continuity as an organizational priority.

Preparing for the worst may seem daunting, but having a tested plan in place can help your business bounce back quicker and even emerge stronger.

Tips for Maintaining Your Business Continuity Plan

Once you’ve created your initial BCP, don’t just stick it on a shelf! Follow these tips to keep your plan current and actionable:

  • Review the BCP at least annually and update as needed.

  • Test the plan regularly through simulated exercises.

  • Provide continuity training to new employees.

  • Keep contact lists up-to-date.

  • Update vendors, supplies and resources as operations evolve.

  • Audit mitigation strategies and recovery steps regularly.

  • Rotate backup data and media on schedule.

  • Incorporate lessons learned from each incident and test.

  • Assign someone to take ownership of plan maintenance.

  • Consider continuity planning software to simplify version control and maintenance.

Keeping your BCP living and breathing ensures your organization can swiftly rebound when unthinkable events occur.

Preparing for disruptions through business continuity planning is mission critical in today’s climate of risk and uncertainty. While robust BCPs require time and dedication to develop, test and maintain, they are one of the wisest investments a business can make.

Now that you understand the key elements that go into an effective continuity plan, it’s time to start building one tailored to your unique operations. The effort can pay off tremendously when crises strike by minimizing outages

what goes into business continuity plan

What Should my Business Continuity Plan Include?

Your BCP should include:

  • An analysis of all critical functions within your business. This will allow for preparation of resources.
  • A prioritized list of risks that pose a severe or even catastrophic threat to your business. These can be prioritized through risk tolerances and risk appetite so you can visualize which ones fall farthest out of that range.
  • A list of specific strategies (or mitigation activities) that help protect the critical components you identified earlier in the BCP.
  • Evidence that the strategies have been tested across critical business functions, using key metrics, indicators and financial scenarios.
  • Dashboards and reports that uncover challenges and allow you to update the plan and your business processes over time.

Examples of Potential Unforeseen Risks

Naturally, your BCP will include risks that you deem a threat to your business. It can be difficult to begin writing that list when you’re not sure exactly what should be on it. In Risk Management, it’s important to consider potential risks that others may not have ever predicted to become reality (many people today say they never imagined in their lifetime that they would experience a pandemic).

Here is a list of potential unforeseen risks that pose a threat to business continuity:

  • The sudden unavailability of a key vendor-provided service
  • A regional power outage
  • Abandonment in leadership
  • Data protection issue
  • Supply chain issues
  • Privacy policy issues
  • Getting sued
  • An industry strike
  • Pest infestation
  • Natural disasters
  • Winning the lottery
  • Receiving a life-threatening diagnosis
  • Getting in an accident
  • A threat to national security, such as a terrorist attack
  • Collapse of infrastructure
  • And perhaps the most timely example of all, a pandemic (check out our complete guide to building a BCP for COVID-19 here)

Like we mentioned earlier in this guide, it’s important to take a risk-based approach when creating your BCP. This will help you better preserve your business reputation, build up customer confidence and allow you to gain a competitive advantage. It will also ensure that you can avoid situations of disaster recovery. (Read our full guide on Business Continuity vs. Disaster Recovery)

To receive these benefits, it’s best practice to leverage robust business continuity planning software. This enables you to inherently take a risk-based approach and demonstrates to customers and stakeholders that you are prioritizing business continuity planning. This is especially true today amidst our ever-evolving disruptive business environment and the See-Through Economy.

Your business continuity plan will be different from anyone else’s, which is why it’s important to dedicate time and resources to creating one that fits your unique needs and risk factors. Working with a professional risk consultant is just one added benefit that’s included with your partnership with LogicManager. With their help, you’ll be able to better leverage the tools and resources included in our integrated ERM software, as well as our solution package for business continuity development.

BCP Process Step by Step: Everything You Need To Know


What to include in a business continuity plan?

Key area: (e.g. flooding, burglary, cyberattack, staff member leaving)
List the number of staff, naming specific individuals.
Process for data backup and recovery.
Relocation or working-from-home options.
Methods of contacting staff, suppliers and customers.

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