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How does business resilience differ from business continuity?

Business continuity and corporate resilience go hand in hand, and play a role in an organization's disaster recovery plan. Learn their differences and how they complement each other.

Business continuity was once the next major development in IT. It focused on keeping an organization operational...

following a disruptive event. Disaster recovery, by contrast, focused on recovering IT elements, such as computers, networks and storage, following an incident. Approximately 10 years ago, the terms business resilience and resiliency began appearing. Some organizations in the profession began to espouse resilience as an alternative to business continuity, and probably to differentiate themselves from firms using the older term.

In recent years, business resilience has begun to stand on its own as the next step after business continuity. Specifically, to achieve resilience, you must first have the ability to perform business continuity.

Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary defines resilience as follows:

1)    The ability to become strong, healthy or successful again after something bad happens; and

2)    The ability of something to return to its original shape after it has been pulled, stretched, pressed, bent, etc.

If we substitute business-related terms into the second definition, it would read: Resilience is the ability of a business or organization to return to its original operational status after it has been impacted by a disruptive or disastrous event.

The 2013 edition of the Business Continuity Institute's Good Practice Guidelines defines business continuity as "the capability of the organization to continue delivery of products or services at acceptable, predefined levels following a disruptive incident."

The two terms, in the above context, read almost the same.

The prevailing thinking today appears to be the following: To achieve a state of business resilience, an organization must first achieve business continuity. This suggests that continuity precedes resilience.

Business resilience and business continuity relationship
A flow diagram illustrating business resilience and business continuity.

The diagram above states that we must first complete a BC plan. If we then exercise the plan and it seems to work properly, the question becomes: "Is the business now resilient?" The best way to achieve business resilience is to prove it with a real-life incident that activates the BC plan and forces employees to respond to the event. If employees are able to use the plan to resume business operations to more or less normal levels, resilience has been achieved.

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