Business Continuity and Enterprise Content Management Systems

Everybody these days is saying that business continuity is more than just disaster recovery. Then what exactly comprises business continuity? Looking at the typical enterprise scenario should help answer that question.

Today’s enterprise depends on technology to a highly vulnerable extent. If the enterprise content is lost in a disaster like on Sept. 11, 2001, the business is unlikely to get back into business anytime soon.

The global enterprise also depends on suppliers from all over the world. What would happen if a natural or political disaster wipes out the business of a major supplier?

The situation today is that enterprises are vulnerable to unprecedented kinds of disasters and risks. Just to survive, not to mention remain competitive, the enterprise has to implement business continuity programs that can keep the business going even if a major disaster strikes.

For example, you ask probing questions before selecting a supplier. How would you keep your business running if a major natural or political disaster strikes? On the reverse side, you must also be ready to answer the same question from your own customers.

Business continuity planning is a continuing exercise, and not a project to be done once and then forgot. Technologies, economic/political environments, and even your own organizations are constantly changing. To use a cliche, what works today might not work tomorrow.

That’s the context. How do you respond to this context? Looking at business continuity planning in more specifics below should help.

Business Continuity Planning

Many typically view business continuity as a distraction from regular business focus. As a result, business continuity planning and actions tend to get postponed forever. The first requirement is to change this approach. Top management must recognize the real significance of business continuity planning in today’s disaster-prone organizations, and act to develop and implement business continuity plans.

A formal business continuity team must be set up to evaluate the kinds of risks, internal and external, that could affect the organization’s business. The risks should not be confined to likely IT disasters, but should cover such possibilities as a major overseas supplier going out of business, top executives of the business dying in an accident, and the appearance of new technology that makes the business’s existing technology obsolete and costly.

Contingency action plans must be developed to keep the business going if any of these risks do materialize. Going further, specific actions like investments might also have to be taken as a precautionary measure. The measures have to be reviewed regularly to adapt them to changes in, say, the organization, suppliers, and environment.

Prevention, the Best Remedy

Dedicated focus on business continuity as suggested above could bring up actions you could take to minimize disasters. This is likely to be the major benefit of business continuity planning.

Making backups of business-critical IT resources and storing backups in a different location, developing alternative supply sources, technology reviews, and succession planning and executive development could all get increased focus. And the result will be a business that can continue to operate even in the event of a major disaster or disruption.

Enterprise Content Management systems have business continuity as a major objective. In today’s businesses, electronic content is a key input that drives business operations. If access to this content is made impossible for some reason, serious business damage can follow.

ECM seeks to eliminate this eventuality by creating an independent repository for content, particularly for business-critical content. Backing up critical content can be automated so that it does not depend on human actions. While Enterprise Content Management does not cover all business continuity issues, it does attend to one major component of it.


Planning for something that might never occur might seem ridiculous. Yet that’’s the reality on the ground. Nobody could have forecast 9/11, which cost many large enterprises millions of dollars to recover from.

Business Continuity planning involves identifying all the major vulnerabilities of a business, including IT disasters. Enterprise Content Management systems seek to support business continuity through creating independent content repositories, automated backup of the content, and other features.

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