Operational Resilience vs Business Continuity

Do you need both operational resilience and business continuity? Yes you do. Here’s why.


Threats to business operations are always looming. Whether it’s a global pandemic, fraud, supply chain disruptions, or something else entirely, the one constant is that uncertainties and disruptions will always arise. Your organization must have a plan in place to manage these challenges to your business operations. Not only is this a good business strategy, it’s a growing component of GRC

When it comes to managing these risks, we often hear the terms business continuity and operational resilience. Both of these can be used to help manage operational risk, but how do they work together? What is operational resilience vs business continuity? Do they mean the same thing? Or do we need to be thinking about implementing both? 


Operational resilience vs business continuity – do you really need both?

At times, operational resilience and business continuity have been used almost interchangeably. But there is a difference, and it’s one of degrees.

If you review the definitions from various experts and industry specialists you’ll begin to see that operational resilience is generally considered to be the ongoing refinement of operational risk management processes.

For example, The British Standards Institution defines operational resilience as “the ability of an organization to anticipate, prepare for, and respond and adapt to incremental change and sudden disruptions to survive and prosper.” PricewaterhouseCoopers calls it the “the embedding of capabilities, processes, behaviors and systems which allow an organization to continue to carry out its mission, in the face of disruption regardless of its source.” 

However, most interesting of all, is Gartner’s definition which uses the term “business continuity” within the definition itself. That definition says that operational resilience is a set of ''initiatives that expand business continuity management programs to focus on the impacts, connected risk appetite, and tolerance levels for disruption of product or service delivery to internal and external stakeholders''. 

As compared to the more general nature of operational resilience, business continuity is focused on immediate crisis response and subsequent rebuilding. Certainly this holds true with Gartner’s definition that clearly demonstrates that operational resilience is an expansion of business continuity plans. 


What is operational resilience?

Operational resilience is simply an entity’s ability to “withstand and recover from shocks” (APRA), including managing organizational disruptions. Simply put, it allows your business to keep operating during turbulent times.


What is business continuity?

Business continuity, on the other hand, is a more precise and specific approach to managing operational disruptions. In this scenario, senior executives will identify operational risks and then develop scenario-based plans and strategies to manage those specific risks. Often these plans will be set up in advance in an effort to minimize or eliminate the particular disruption before it impacts on the business. 


Do you really need both?

The big question when it comes to operational resilience vs business continuity is do you really need both?

The answer is yes, you do need both. While there are certainly overlaps in the process of operational resilience and business continuity, they each have a distinct and vital role in your organization’s overall operational risk management strategy

Why you need business continuity

Business continuity will be your first line of defense when your organization is faced with disaster. It is a plan that is reactive and immediate and, when it is well-prepared and scenario-tested, it can mean the difference between succumbing to disruptions or rising above challenges. 


Why you need operational resilience management

Operational resilience backstops your well-managed business continuity plan. It covers your long-term risk management elements, with strategic activity around your business structure and operations. In fact, you can think of it as a holistic framework for your business, taking into account operations, finances, governance, regulation, compliance, and even information security. With this, your organization can make ongoing, incremental changes to remain flexible in an uncertain world.

Now let’s quickly review operational resilience vs business continuity plans and frameworks.



Your operational resilience framework

Your operational resilience framework will allow the organization to:

  • Identify and protect itself from potential risks; 
  • Respond and adapt quickly to crises and disruptions;
  • Minimize impact on customers and on the delivery of business-critical operations; and
  • Maintain strong operations outside of the crisis or disruption.

More on this: Operational Resilience Framework 


Your business continuity management plan

Your business continuity management plan will typically incorporate three main principles:

  1. Crisis management. This part of your organization’s plan needs to clearly set out how your organization will undertake an effective and cohesive response to a crisis. The goal is to maintain business stability and prevent any further damage and it will generally include all the steps your organization should take when planning systems, personnel, and location needs post-disruption.
  2. Crisis communication. Your plan needs to detail the level of communication between management and others that must be maintained, including how decisions are conveyed. It should cover all communications that occur during and after a crisis both internally and externally. 
  3. Disaster recovery. Disaster recovery is sometimes referred to as IT disaster recovery. It includes how you will recover or continue your IT operations that are vital to support your business when a disaster occurs. At the most basic level, your business continuity plan should spell out how to restore critical IT assets to keep things running well despite challenges.


Elements of a strong business continuity plan

Your business continuity plan (BCP) is a collection of resources, actions, procedures, and information that can help you sustain business operations during and after a crisis or disruption to allow you to continue to deliver services or products to customers. 

A strong BCP should include:

  • The organization of a steering committee or C-suite level risk management committee.
  • A risk assessment (or continuity risk assessment) which identifies and prioritizes current, potential and direct threats to operations.
  • A business impact analysis (BIA) that helps an organization to identify, collate and measure the potential business impacts of identified shocks or disruptions. 
  • Formalized division of responsibilities between each department, and the policies, standards, and tools that support business continuity efforts.

See also: Impact Tolerance Operational Resilience


Tools for managing business continuity & operational resilience

While a BCP is a collection of resources, actions, procedures, and information, it is characterized by the need to be able to access these resources quickly. To do that you need a central hub, a single solution, that can bring all of these elements together in a compliant, efficient, and effective way.

A strong solution, like TriLine GRC by Ansarada, will allow you to keep your data and information, systems, processes and procedures, as well as all linked actions, together in one central platform. This ensures transparency, and access to all staff and management who will need that information quickly. 

Having a system like TriLine GRC is a critical part of ensuring that your BCP can be executed quickly, and your organization can respond to any crisis fast and flexibly. In addition, it ensures that there’s a single source of truth and information across your entire organization – informing decisions with the best possible background every step of the way. 

Specifically, your solution needs to be able to conduct risk assessments, run scenario tests, create test controls, identify compliance gaps, monitor and provide alerts, and provide internal controls to help you manage your risk workflows. The right software solution can do all that and more.



Ansarada GRC for operational resilience

Strengthen operational resilience & secure business continuity with TriLine GRC by Ansarada
Book a demo