Build a robust and resilient organization with ISO 22301

 

It’s never been more important to protect your business from the unexpected. Whether this is from power cuts, IT system or equipment failure, industrial action, or natural disaster, you need to make sure your business is not vulnerable to disruption and you can recover as quickly as possible.

 

Statistics indicate that 80% of organizations that are faced with a significant business discontinuity, and do not have in place adequate and appropriate plans to ensure business continuity, do not survive the event. Don’t let this happen to you.

 

This guide shows you how to implement ISO 22301, and helps you put in place the measures to protect your business and help it thrive for the long term. We also showcase our additional support services, which help you to not only achieve certification, but also help you to continually improve your business.

 

A disaster can strike an organization at any time. You need to have a process in place that ensures the operation is able to mitigate the impact and return to “business as usual” as quickly as possible.

How ISO 22301 works and what it delivers for you and your company

ISO 22301 is the international standard that helps organizations put business continuity plans in place to protect them, and help them recover from, disruptive incidents when they happen. It also helps you to identify potential threats to your business and to build the capacity to deal with unforeseen events.

It helps you to protect your business and your reputation, stay agile and resilient, and to minimize the impact of unexpected interruptions. Whether your business is large or small, the ability to respond quickly and effectively to the unexpected is the key to the survival of any organization. This is why having a robust business continuity management system in place, such as ISO 22301, can be considered as one of the most comprehensive approaches to organizational resilience.

How ISO 22301 works

 

ISO 22301 is based on the high level structure (Annex SL) which is a common framework for all new management system standards. This helps keep consistency, align different management system standards, offer matching sub-clauses against the language across all standards. It makes it easier for organizations to incorporate their Business Continuity Management System (BCMS), into core business processes, make efficiencies, and get more Planning Performance Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) is the operating principle of ISO 22301. It’s applied to all processes and the BCMS as a whole for continuous improvement. This diagram shows how Clauses 4 to 10 of ISO 22301 can be grouped in relation to PDCA.

Key Requirements:

ISO 22301 is the second published management systems standard that has adopted the new high-level structure and standardized text agreed in ISO. This will ensure consistency with all future and revised management system standards and make integrated use easier with, for example, ISO 9001 (quality), ISO 14001 (environmental) and ISO/IEC 27001 (information security). The standard is divided into 10 main clauses, starting with scope, normative references, and terms and definitions. Following these are the standard’s requirements,

  • Clause 4 – Context of the organization 
    The first step involves getting to know the organization, both internal and external needs, and setting clear boundaries for the scope of the management system. In particular, this requires the organization to understand the requirements of relevant interested parties, such as regulators, customers and staff. It must in particular understand the applicable legal and regulatory requirements. This enables it to determine the scope of the business continuity management system (BCMS).
  • Clause 5 – Leadership 
    ISO 22301 places particular emphasis on the need for appropriate leadership of BCM. This is so that top management ensures appropriate resources are provided, establishes policy and appoints people to implement and maintain the BCMS.
  • Clause 6 – Planning 
    This requires the organization to identify risks to the implementation of the management system and set clear objectives and criteria that can be used to measure its success.
  • Clause 7 – Support 
    Since resources are required for implementation, Clause 7 introduces the important concept of competence. For business continuity to be successful, people with appropriate knowledge, skills and experience must be in place to both contribute to the BCMS and respond to incidents when they occur. It is also important that all staff are aware of their own role in responding to incidents and this clause deals with all of these areas. The need for communication about the BCMS – for instance in telling customers that the organization has appropriate BCM in place – and preparedness to communicate following an incident (when normal channels may be disrupted) is also covered here.
  • Clause 8 – Operations 
    This section contains the main body of business continuity-specific expertise. The organization must undertake business impact analysis to understand how its business is affected by disruption and how this changes over time. Risk assessment seeks to understand the risks to the business in a structured way and these inform the development of business continuity strategy. Steps to avoid or reduce the likelihood of incidents are developed alongside steps to be taken when incidents occur. As it is impossible to completely predict and prevent all incidents, the approach of balancing risk reduction and planning for all eventualities is complementary. It might be said, “hope for the best and plan for the worst”.

ISO 22301 emphasizes the need for a well-defined incident response structure. This ensures that when incidents occur, responses are escalated in a timely manner and people are empowered to take the necessary actions to be effective. Life safety is emphasized and a particular point is made that the organization must communicate with external parties who may be affected, for instance if an incident poses a noxious or explosive risk to surrounding public areas.

The requirements for business continuity plans are laid out in Clause 8, too. Quickly understood, user-focused documents are more suitable than the large, unwieldy documents suited to auditors. Smaller plans are therefore more likely to be needed than one large plan.

A requirement not previously addressed in business continuity standards is the need to plan for a return to normal business. This simple requirement belies considered thought, as organizations must determine what to do once the initial emergency has been addressed.

The final subsection of section 8 covers exercises and tests, a key part of BCM. Tests are where some element of the business continuity arrangements is demonstrated to work (a pass) or not (fail). For instance, it is possible to test if the generator will run by switching it on. An exercise may include tests, but is generally a more nuanced approach that simulates some aspect of responding to an incident. This will usually include elements of training and building awareness of how to handle disruptive incidents with difficult and unusual characteristics, as well as finding out if processes work as expected.

Exercises and tests are fundamental in ISO 22301: it is only through structured exercises – which should stretch the individuals and teams involved – that an organization can achieve objective assurance that its arrangements will work as anticipated and when required.

  • Clause 9 – Evaluation
    For any management system, it is essential to evaluate performance against plan. ISO 22301 therefore requires that the organization select and measure itself against appropriate performance metrics. Internal audits must be conducted and there is a requirement that management review the BCMS and act on these reviews.
  • Clause 10 – Improvement 
    No management system is perfect at the outset, and organizations and their environments are constantly changing. Clause 10 defines actions to take to improve the BCMS over time and ensure that corrective actions arising from audits, reviews, exercises and so on are addressed.

Successful implementation

To work well, ISO 22301 will need organizations to have thoroughly understood its requirements. Every line and word has meaning and the relative importance is not necessarily reflected by the number of words devoted to a topic. Rather than being simply about a project or developing “a plan”, BCM is an ongoing management process requiring competent people working with appropriate support and structures that will perform when needed.

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