Before the writing of a business continuity (BC) plan can be undertaken, the writer has to know and understand what the “core business activities / services “are for that particular organisation.

The Collins dictionary defines core business as “the activity that is the main source of a company’s profits and success, usually the activity that the company was set up to carry out”. If you are a public sector organisation, then for “profits” read “services”. This should be a top line assessment by the executive, and consist of those activities that are fundamental to the organisations existence. Not a list of dreams or aspirations, but the real time things that you do not want to stop doing.

These are the activities that the rest of the organisation will use as a guide when they are deciding how they support the core business. It will also help in deciding criticality during the business impact analysis, giving implied permission to set aside those things that are unnecessary. In addition, these top line activities can form the basis of a strategic level plan for the senior management team during a disruption. All in all, a very useful list to have.

I had thought that most organisation would have done this work already, but after a fair amount of research across company and public sector web sites, with two exceptions, I could not find any reference to core business activities. I found many references to productivity, strategic objectives, ethics, mission statements, diversity, aims, values, employee retention, core values, customer service and principles. Some of these headings sounded promising, and all necessary, but none had the kind of information I was looking for. It may be of course that this work has been done but is not published, however going by some of the BC policies I have seen lately, my guess is, it remains on the “to do” list.

The best time to get a decision on these activities is when the organisations policy for BC is being newly developed or reviewed. The executive team has to sign the policy off, so it is a perfect opportunity to get this done.

Here are some of the benefits that articulating the core business activities of an organisation will bring:

·        A clear statement from the executive team about what is important.

·        Clarity for the workforce – answers the “what are we about” question.

·        Clarity for BC planners – they know exactly what needs protection and where to focus initial effort and resource.

·        Clarity for investors, service users and customers – they all know what to expect from the organisation.

·        An initial strategic plan for the executive team during the response and recovery phases of a disruption, or as the basis of a plan for an event picked up on horizon scanning.

·        A baseline around which creative management can work when dealing with the unexpected.

All in all, a simple, strategic list of core business activities is a beautiful thing, and certainly worth developing if you don’t have one.