Measuring the effectiveness of business continuity planning and management poses a conceptual problem. If business continuity is all about keeping operations going in adverse circumstances, how do you measure your ‘goodness of keeping operations going’? IT disaster recovery is by comparison an easier case to deal with, thanks to its recovery time and maximum data loss objectives (RTO and RPO). But business continuity is more about ‘always on’. Anything else less than 100% implies failure. What kind of a handle can we get on other business continuity metrics and what use are they?

Let’s start with the success/failure metric as a business continuity fact of life. You cannot do better than 100%. However, the percentage of continuity achieved may give you a relative measure of how well you’re doing. If you had 2% downtime (about a week!) two years ago and 1% downtime over the past year, then recently you have been doing better. Should you aim for 0.5%? There are other considerations that may make pursuit of 100% continuity less desirable.

One of these considerations is the cost of business continuity. As those who remember earlier fault tolerant computing systems can confirm, the cost of achieving ‘always on’ often increases disproportionately, the closer you get to that goal. As a result, a second metric – assuming you reach an acceptable level of business continuity – is cost-efficiency. You can compare what your BC costs year on year to see if you are becoming more or less efficient in providing the same level of BC. As a variant, you can also quantify total risks and threats (or at least compare them between years) to see how you measure up on a cost per risk basis.

For a growing area of measurement, try business continuity added value. BC can be applied in ways that enhance an organization’s profitability. More business bids won, lower production costs and smaller insurance premiums are all possible examples. This metric, together with the other three above (success/failure, total cost, and cost per risk) will give you a good start to measuring your business continuity.