How Many Business Continuity Plans Do You Need?
Many organizations consist of a central office, along with several smaller branch offices. A question that we are often asked by such an organization is this: should we have one large plan, or should we have a separate plan for each branch office?
As with so many good questions, the answer depends a lot on the situation in which it is asked.
The factors to take in to account are as follows:
- Who will maintain the plan? Is the business continuity planning function centralized, or are there planners located at each site?
- How similar are the offices? Obviously each office will draw upon different personnel, at least in the initial response. Are the functions similar at each office? Or are there significantly different business functions at each office.
- How confusing is a large plan likely to be? The plan for their own office is probably more than most people want to read. Will they read a plan with lots of irrelevant information?
- Are there confidentiality concerns with sharing plans? You may not wish the staff in one office to have access to information in the plans of other offices. This may simply mean limits on distribution of parts of the plan, but it might mean that separate plans are advisable.
Almost certainly there should be one plan for the main office, and one or more plans covering the branch offices. The advantages and disadvantages of one branch plan versus many are:
One Plan for All Branches
- Business Continuity is centralized and easier to control.
- Simpler to plan recovery which involves the transfer of functions to other branch offices.
- Area wide disasters which affect more than one office fit better into such a plan.
- Works well with centralized recovery teams, or teams that are drawn from multiple sites.
- Potentially lower costs for maintenance since changes which affect all offices need only be made in one place.
- Potentially lower costs for training and execution (duplication of resources less likely).
- Still need people at each office familiar with local conditions to assign staff to teams, identify suitable alternative locations, and review the plan.
- Changes to the plan will affect all offices.
- The confidentiality of the operations, staff, etc. of other offices will be difficult to maintain.
One Plan for Each Office
- Best suited to situations where business continuity is managed at the office level.
- Most suitable when branch offices perform significantly different business functions.
- Best solution for high confidentiality.
- Decreased co-ordination: branch offices do not have to wait for other offices in order to revise plans.
- Some duplication of effort likely.
- >Area-wide incidents which affect multiple offices are difficult to plan for.
- Difficult to co-ordinate sharing of teams and resources between offices.
To conclude, there isn't a single definitive answer. Each approach has its advantages and disadvantages. A single plan will probably work best with many similar offices, multiple plans if the business functions at the locations differ significantly. Each case needs to be looked at on its merits.
Michael Z. Bell