How to Guarantee Business Continuity with ISO Certification

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pushing the start button on business continuity and recovery

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought unprecedented challenges in the business world. As a result, many firms have been on the verge of insolvency last year. Only in the US, 100,000 businesses have permanently shut down since the start of the pandemic.

Companies are now looking for ways and possibilities to minimize such risks in the future. The strategic and tactical capability to plan for and respond to incidents and business disruptions, like the pandemic, is defined as Business Continuity Management (BCM).

Those teams that incorporate BCM into their company’s strategy can immensely benefit from a certification from the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), precisely the ISO 22301. ISO helps 82% of the ISO-certified companies manage business risks better, and an official certification opens doors to investors, clients, and public authorities.

Are you still indecisive about whether an ISO certification can help you ensure your business development in the future? 

Get a clearer idea of how the certification process works, what benefits ISO offers, and how you can effectively implement BCM into your business practices.

The relationship between ISO and BCM

Business Continuity Management (BCM) encompasses all processes related to a business’s ability to adapt to changes and unexpected challenges. Managing through unforeseen hurdles helps your company to relocate resources intelligently and, thereby, grow in the long term.

As a solidary initiative in dealing with unforeseen crises and force majeure incidents, the international ISO community has developed standards and control mechanisms applicable for the global business world. Those standards and mechanisms help businesses identify risks to their continuity of operations. They also give business managers a practical and proactive guide to mitigate risks and overcome them.

The ISO 22301 certification follows a high-level structure as a common framework for all new management system standards. It allows consistency, connects the management system standards, and introduces a common language to different departments to communicate more efficiently.

Organizations of all sizes and types can use the ISO 22301 standard for BCM. The control system overarches information security, technology services, occupational health, environmental risks, product and service development, and change management.

To receive the ISO certification, the organization must go through a process. Below shows how.

The ISO 22301 certification process

The ISO 22301 certification process advances through three levels. First, you learn about the standards and control procedures specified under ISO guidelines. This step is necessary to better understand current strengths and weaknesses and to comprehend why those mechanisms enhance business continuity.

The next step requires you to make an internal audit for your business. During an internal audit, you determine which standards and practices are applied across your organization and how to optimize them according to ISO standards. Every company operates with a different business context and particular continuity goals and challenges. During an internal audit, you diagnose the areas that need establishment, implementation, and monitoring of the Business Continuity Management (BCM). From there, you can develop an action, development, and evaluation plan.

The third level is called the lead auditor. Lead auditors have advanced knowledge and experience, and can manage any team of internal auditors. If you have achieved the lead auditor level, you can ensure that each department’s reports are impartial and accurate. You will also know how to adapt current BCM strategies to unexpected future challenges. A lead auditor’s knowledge of various control mechanisms and methodologies helps the whole business to develop – even during a changing business environment.

What are the company benefits of ISO certification?

Those companies that practice effective Business Continuity Management (BCM) can enjoy several benefits. Here are the most important ones.

1. Business continuity. Understanding requirements, standards, and regulations helps you to strategize your business’s development on a long-term basis. Having a standardized way of assessing business continuity can help set objective control mechanisms and peer-review with other departments or companies.

You can evaluate particular areas and operations by looking at their compliance with generally accepted standards, such as information security or workplace safety.

As an example, institutions trained to mitigate health risks, such as hospitals or food producers, could implement COVID-19 health policies; such as distance measures and symptom reporting mechanisms faster than inexperienced ones.

2. Enhanced business attractiveness. Being certified shows stakeholders, contracting companies, new clients, and existing clients that you take obligations seriously. In the BSI Group survey, 73% of companies responded that having the ISO increased trust among third parties. Globally, companies such as MVP Tech or Vatebra pride themselves on their achieved certifications. Those organizations obtaining ISO 22301 comply with good practices in BCM, and gain a competitive advantage.

3. Advantage in public bidding and tendering. All over the world, policymakers and lawmakers give companies benefits in public bids or investments. For the European Union, the public procurement process requires ISO compliance as evidence for quality. In general, legislators give higher scores to companies with this certification, to minimize the risk of losing money, reputation, or quality when contracting those companies. Further, by providing benefits to ISO-compliant businesses, lawmakers improve the universality of the standards they develop.

4. Saving resources and money. If your business is ISO compliant, you can minimize and at best avoid financial and material losses. In case of a crisis, the ability to react fast and effectively helps you protect revenue streams and prevent unexpected costs. For instance, many businesses are located in areas where natural disasters happen regularly: such as hurricanes, wildfires, or earthquakes. Going through ISO BCM, they learn how to plan for those risks by choosing well-suited insurance options.

5. Avoidance of legal consequences. Implementing an effective system of BCM allows you to minimize the chances of penalties. The standardization process teaches you what legal obligations are and how to research and enforce new laws that individual countries or regional authorities establish. One of the most well-known areas of high penalties for companies is information security. Major data breaches like the one Google faced in 2020 led to a fine of €50 million ($56.6 million) to the tech giant – sums many businesses simply cannot afford.

How can businesses integrate ISO compliance and ensure effective BCM?

Organizations have to develop an understanding of Business Continuity Management (BCM) within their management team. Prioritizing activities, essential products, and services help to set a BCM compliant strategy according to a company’s capacities and needs. Acquiring this understanding is part of the internal auditing process. Moreover, setting BCM as a strategic goal in business planning and documentation helps establish a strong BCM culture.

Secondly, you need to include key process owners in knowledge management and demonstrate the value of ISO certification. Ensure that everyone in the company, from high to low level, understands the information correctly, is up-to-date on the newest internal policies, and can use knowledge productively within their department and procedures. You‘ll need to assure that your staff is competent, and you can do this with biannual education and training and learning evaluation; processes that build awareness and experience.

Lastly, keep in mind that BCM requires consistent updating and improvements, not only of your company’s mechanisms but also against the background of ISO actualizations. If there are new ISO guides, you need to review and implement them. Those ongoing checks and balances will foster a mindset of continuous improvement. By reaching constant awareness, your companies will automatically prepare for future risks and strengthen resilience capabilities simultaneously.

Actualization of the ISO BCM standards after Covid-19

ISO standards are reviewed every three to five years to determine if revisions are needed to keep the standards relevant in the marketplace.

In light of Covid-19, the international organization on ISO discusses changes and actualizations of the ISO 22301 risk management system. Some countries and institutions, such as the EU, and individual companies and entrepreneurs are already changing specific details and standards. In this way, pushing new actualizations on the international ISO level. Overall, it shows how vibrant the community is and adds another layer of trust into the ISO certification process.

Companies that are now adopting ISO standards gain advantages in the post-Covid-19 world. As every entity worldwide is working on resilience and sustainable business practices, this sector will finally build on confidence, reliability, and integrity and with improved checks and balances on business continuity.

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