Business Continuity and Resilience – What’s in a Name?

“What’s in a name?” wrote William Shakespeare, centuries ago, going on to state that “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet”. You might rename a rose as stinking bladderwort, for example, but the flower itself won’t change.

But what of business continuity – Is it always obvious whether or not aspects of an organisation fall under the business continuity umbrella or belong to organisational resilience? Even experts sometimes seem to tie themselves in knots about this. Take heart, however. As ever, we’ve got the answer for you below.

Sometimes, one person uses resilience is used where another might have used business continuity, and vice versa. There is more than one school of thought on this:
A.    The subcategory school. Business continuity is held to be a subsection of organisational resilience (without necessarily being precise about what either entails).
B.    The binary belief. Business continuity is a binary, on-off thing. As long as your enterprise is running, you have continuity. If it’s broken, you don’t. Resilience on the other hand is held to be a sliding scale, measuring greater or lesser ability to absorb adverse events.
C.    What you do versus what you are. BC is viewed as a process (do), using point solutions to mitigate risk and reduce vulnerability to interruptions. Resilience is by comparison the inherent adaptability of the organisation (be) to changes as threats and interruptions evolve over time.
And now, the answer. It depends. Yes, it depends on how you want to use the terms business continuity and organisational resilience. Here are two examples, the first from a certified and published BC practitioner, the second from the US Department of Homeland Security:
•    “(Organisational) resiliency is the ability of a business to spring back from a disruption to its operations.”
•    “Business continuity is the ability of an organisation to take a licking and keep on ticking.”
In summary, use the definition for each that makes the most sense for your organisation, and causes the least confusion for individuals, teams, and business partners. And make sure that everybody has a common understanding.

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