Business Continuity Software: What to Know Before You Buy

If you’re still using spreadsheets or word processing documents printed and stored in stacks of binders to manage your business continuity program and related plans, then you may be setting your program up for unforeseen obstacles that could negatively affect your program success.

While these processes and older, expensive governance, risk, and compliance (GRC) tools have been used in business continuity for decades, if you’ve relied on any of them, you know they’re time-consuming, error-prone, and a real headache.

Even worse, these tools can complicate response activities during actual crises, especially if you don’t have access to your facilities or servers to use them.

The good news is there’s a smart, more efficient, and easier-to-use alternative.

That’s why now is the time to close out the spreadsheets and get instant access to all of your plans, policies, and related artifacts in a single solution designed from the ground up for business continuity.

But how do you know which business continuity program is best for you? What should you look for when you’re weeding through all the options? In this blog, we take a closer look at what business continuity software is, how it can help you mature your business continuity program, and what you should look for on your journey to purchase a new solution.

What is business continuity software?

Business continuity software is purpose-built to help your organization manage all phases of your business continuity management lifecycle, from developing and managing plans to responding to incidents.

In the past, many business continuity managers managed their business continuity plans and programs using standard office tools, such as Microsoft Word and Excel. However, as the evolving risk landscape has expanded, so has the scope and complexity of business continuity management. As a result, that traditional approach has become increasingly inefficient, which is driving many organizations to move to specialized business continuity software instead.

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What are the benefits of business continuity software?

There are many benefits of business continuity software. Organizations that use business continuity software typically achieve higher levels of readiness for disruptions with a lot less administrative effort and can respond to crises faster and more effectively.

There are many different flavors of business continuity software available on the market; however, most provide similar core capabilities. The differentiation tends to be in advanced functionality that extends beyond basic business continuity management, in the quality of implementation and after-sales support, and in the professional services offered to build-out business continuity and resilience programs.

Some of the core benefits of business continuity software are:

  • Integration: Business continuity software enables automated connections with important sources of organizational information, removing the need to manually update vital records, such as human resource records and contact details. This sounds basic, but it makes a huge difference to the ongoing accuracy of business continuity plans with a big reduction in effort.
  • Digitization: Central to business continuity software is the ability to create a digital model of your organization. This facilitates data-driven decision-making and enables modelling and “what if” type queries to help develop better business continuity strategies. Digitization also makes it much easier to highlight areas of vulnerability or non-compliance with internal and external policies and standards.
  • Intelligence: Business continuity software gives helps you predict how a disruption will impact your organization, highlighting dependencies and unanticipated outcomes.
  • Automation and workflows: Business continuity software takes administrative work that doesn’t require “reasoning” away from the business continuity team and automates these tasks. Automated rules never miss deadlines! And they free up your business continuity team to concentrate on areas where specialist skills are required.

In short, business continuity software enables your organization to:

  • Manage your business continuity program more effectively and with less human resources
  • Identify vulnerabilities that might not have been otherwise apparent
  • Understand critical paths and processes that contribute to the delivery of important products and services; helping to provide essential visibility into dependencies
  • Identify implications associated with different types of disruptions, informing a better structured and quicker response

The bottom line is that business continuity software drives efficiency and provides superior visibility into your organization, its structures, and vulnerabilities, enabling better business continuity plans, strategies, and response.

What to consider when specifying and purchasing software

When specifying and purchasing business continuity software there are a few key points to consider. Every organization has its own unique requirements, but the following considerations provide a good starting point for your purchasing checklist and RFPs:

  • Business continuity software should be easy to use.  Many of your users will only access the software on an occasional basis so it should be intuitive, without a big learning curve.
  • The software you choose should be powerful enough to meet your future needs, not just your current ones. Can the software grow as your organization develops?
  • How “out-of-the-box” is the software? Is it easy to get started, or will you need to spend months building and provisioning the application? Request references in this area. There are wide differences in customer experiences between different software providers.
  • What type of support does the solution provide? Consider implementation support for when you are getting started with the software, not just ongoing support. Again, gather references in this area, and ask about charges; not all providers offer free or unlimited support.
  • Ask about system availability. SaaS (software as a service) provides a large advantage. It takes the onus off your organization for software hosting and updating, but look at historical levels of uptime – again, not all providers offer the same level of availability. The last thing you want is for your business continuity software to be unavailable when you need it for incident management.
  • Do you need consulting support as well as software? If you’re building a new business continuity program from the ground up, or want to overhaul an under-performing program, you may want to include business continuity consulting in your project. An experienced business continuity consultant can help you develop a strong program aligned with your business goals, which in turn will help you get the most out of your software. Not all software providers offer business continuity consulting, and the quality can be variable. Consultants should be experts in both business continuity management and the specific software provided so you can gain maximum benefit from your investment.
  • Be clear about your technical requirements. As highlighted earlier, the core elements of business continuity software packages are similar across the board, but you may have requirements beyond the core basics. Do you need integrated crisis management and multimodal notifications? IT Disaster Recovery management? Operational resilience capabilities? Cyber incident management? When it comes to enhanced and advanced options, software packages vary considerably, so make sure you know what you need, and ensure your chosen software can deliver this.
  • Consider data hosting. Data protection laws apply to business continuity data as much as any other organizational data, so ensure you know where the solution hosts your data and how it protects it.
  • Think about APIs. At some point you are likely to require data from your business continuity software to share it with other organizational applications, such as GRC. Ask questions about APIs provisioning. This is another area where business continuity software packages vary widely.
  • Conduct a financial review of the provider. Your business continuity software is critically important to your organization, so it’s important that your provider is financially stable.
  • Consider your provider’s business continuity plans. As a business continuity professional, it would be remiss not to explore the business continuity processes in place at your business continuity software provider.
  • Ask for customer satisfaction information. Customer satisfaction levels vary widely, and most organizations have a method to measure customer satisfaction. Dig into this area to understand how the provider measures customer satisfaction so you can ensure you are comparing different companies accurately.

Purchasing business continuity software generally isn’t a quick process., so it is important to conduct due diligence. Your package choice should meet your current needs and be able to scale and evolve as your organization grows and changes. Your business continuity software is critical to the future of your organization, so be sure to invest the time and research into choosing the right one for your organization’s unique needs.

Need help evaluating your organization’s specific resilience needs to ensure you’re on the right path to select the best business continuity software solution? Contact a Castellan advisor today. Our consultants can help you take a closer look at your existing program and plans, identify gaps, and help you come up with the perfect solution that meets your resilience needs today and in the future.

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