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What is a business impact analysis questionnaire and what types of questions should be included?

What is a BIA questionnaire?

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The business impact analysis (BIA) follows the risk assessment step in a company's business continuity (BC) management cycle. The BIA looks at each process performed in your business, and the financial and the operational value of these processes. The BIA then determines the importance these processes have to the organization, the amount of time the process can be unavailable (without severely impacting the organization), the amount of data loss that can be tolerated, and distinguishes the minimal staff required to perform the crucial processes identified.

The individuals who possess the most accurate knowledge about a process in their company are often the best sources of information for the business impact analysis. And in order to gather the valuable data and information these individuals have, a business impact analysis questionnaire should be distributed to them. This is not always the best way to gather information about the BIA, but it is the simplest. The business impact analysis questionnaire should be configured so that it can be easily understood, yet capture as much data directly as possible. The business impact analysis questionnaire should be distributed to the managers with a brief explanation (with examples) in a presentation. But make sure that the BIA has been properly filled out. A BIA that has been filled out poorly won't help in determining critical data needed for your organization.

As for the types of questions that should be included in a BIA questionnaire, there is no catch-all template that can be used. Often, a simple questionnaire is insufficient to get the full picture of a comprehensive BIA. If a questionnaire is used, it needs to be supplemented with direct interviews. Supplemental interviews can give insight and ideas about the industry, the company as a whole, and any other background information available. All of the information gathered from the interviews should be reviewed before setting up the questionnaire.

The questions you come up with should be relatively vague and limited. If you put down too many detailed questions in a business impact analysis questionnaire, you will get short responses with inadequate detail. If you use vague and limited questions, it will force the responder to answer in greater detail. Ultimately, when creating a BIA questionnaire, the key is to remember what exactly you are looking for. What are the key tasks performed? What is necessary to perform these tasks? What staff level is required? What dependencies are needed for the process, etc? If you narrow down what you are looking for, the answers to your BIA questionnaire will lead you to more success in your company.

This was first published in June 2010

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