Having a plan to continue operations in the event of adverse circumstances is a key part of doing business. This plan is often referred to as a Business Continuity Plan or a BCP.
While developing and maintaining a BCP in documents and spreadsheets is one option, many organizations find they need more capabilities than a document can provide, especially as it relates to disaster recovery (or DR) components. This is where business continuity planning and disaster recovery software can help. But with so many options available, how can you choose?
What do you need to look for in a business continuity software and how can you tell if the solution is the right fit for your organization? In this article, we'll look at top features to consider and questions to ask when evaluating a BCP/DR software solution, including features related to business impact analysis, user access, emergency communications, ease of use and reliability, and reporting.
Business Impact Analysis
A Business Impact Analysis (BIA) is a critical component of any BCP. To quote the FFIEC's BCM booklet, this is the part of the BCP where a business is able to "[identify] the potential impact of disruptive events to an entity's functions and processes." There are certain compliance requirements for a BIA, as well as practical features necessary to ensure the analysis is performed most effectively.
When evaluating a BCP software's BIA functions, consider these questions.
- Does the software allow users to create a list of processes prioritized by criticality?
- Is it possible to document resource and recovery requirements within each process?
- Can users document each process' MTD, RTO, and RPO?
- Is there any dependency reporting to show upstream and downstream impacts?
- Does the software have any templates or preloaded data to simplify the BIA creation?
- Does the software have customization options to allow users to tailor the BIA?
One of the primary reasons businesses choose to use a BCP software is for enhanced user access options. Using a file-share or network drive to house a document means anybody can view, access, and/or manage the BCP, often with limited restrictions. BCP software helps make sure everyone has the right access at the right time.
When evaluating a BCP software's user access capabilities, consider these questions.
- Does the software support centralized and/or decentralized management of the BCP?
- Can you add as many users to the software as needed, without limitation?
- Are there a variety of access role options (e.g., admin, user, view only, etc.)?
- Can access be limited by area and function, or do all users have access to everything?
- Does the software track user activity?
When a business disruption occurs, there are a-thousand-and-one people who may need to be involved with response processes. To prepare for this communication ahead of time, it is important to document the who, what, and when of communications.
When evaluating a BCP software's emergency communication features, consider these questions.
- Is there a place to store employee contact information?
- Is employee contact information easily accessible in the event of an emergency?
- Does the software include an out-of-band employee communication tool?
- Is there an option for storing third-party contact information (e.g., local law enforcement, utility companies, public health agencies, regulators, etc.)?
- Does the software have any template plans for communicating with employees, third parties, and customers?
Ease of Use and Reliability
When you put your BCP into action, the last thing you need is a complicated system to navigate during the critical hours following a disaster.
When evaluating a BCP software's ease of use, consider these questions.
- Would it be easy to navigate and use the software during an emergency?
- Is the software clear, or does it feel more like a test of your BCP knowledge?
- Does the software offer customization options?
- Can you start using the software immediately, without significant customization?
- Does the effort required to get the software up and running seem reasonable?
- Are resources available to help you with the BCP (e.g., support, training, updates, consulting, etc.)?
- Does the software stay up to date with changes in BCP guidance and regulation?
- If business systems cannot be accessed during a disruption, can the BCP still be accessed?
- What is the software's overall uptime? Is it reliable?
The whole purpose of having a BCP is for it to be usable in the event of a business disruption. For it to be usable outside of a disruption though, a BCP needs to have helpful reports, such as dashboards, functional reports, and presentation documents. Reporting features make it easy to share the BCP with external stakeholders, including senior management, the Board of Directors, auditors, and examiners.
When evaluating a BCP software's reporting capabilities, consider these questions.
- What do the reports say about the status of the BCP? Do they show progress?
- Are the reports easy to access and download?
- Are the reports formatted in a way that is easy to understand?
- Do the reports communicate the most important parts of the BCP?
- Does the software feature custom reporting capabilities?
The Ultimate Question
Does having a BCP software make it possible for you to improve your business' resilience? This is not a question we can answer for you. At the end of the day, it is up to you to be able to judge for yourself the benefits and risks of taking on a BCP software solution.
To help you and your team navigate the BCP software decision-making process, download our BCP Software Review Excel Spreadsheet. This spreadsheet includes a more exhaustive list of questions, answers, and a scoring system, designed to help you make the best decision possible when evaluating potential BCP solutions.