Do standards really contribute to business continuity plan best practice? The obvious answer is “yes, of course they do”, and in many cases this is true. However, it is also constructive to dig a little deeper to find out why or how BCP standards can help. For one thing, this means less risk of clinging to something that may become unusable, outmoded or irrelevant. Could this happen in business continuity planning? Yes, and for reasons that affect any standards-based profession.
Business continuity is still a developing field, both in terms of the methods it uses and the tools and technology available to put it into practice. BCP standards so far have been defined by many different organisations, some better known than others: examples include BS 25999 from the British Standards Institute, AS/NZS 5050 for Australia and New Zealand, and NIST SP 800-34 from the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Each one is an interpretation of business continuity plan best practice, but without necessarily being better than the others. On the other hand two organisations that adopt the same standard can achieve better BC synergy; for example, a supplier and a customer in a supply chain.
However, standards in general are vulnerable to change and to swings in popularity. The network messaging standard X.400, at one time expected to dominate email usage, is an example of a standard that lost its popularity and is only still used in very specific contexts. Some standards have disappeared in battles with others, where the winner was not necessarily the better one. The classic case is the Sony Betamax and JVC VHS video cassette standards from a few decades ago, where JVC won and Sony lost. Business continuity plan best practice then becomes is a matter of using standards to their best effect, and staying flexible enough to change, rather than becoming enslaved to any one standard in particular.