Reality Bites – Business Continuity Incident Examples and Statistics

As business continuity covers all parts of an organization, there is a tendency sometimes to describe it in correspondingly general terms. Compared to all the theoretical possibilities of how BC issues can affect businesses, real-life examples are often in shorter supply. On the other hand, statistics about the number of businesses that go bust after a BC incident are systematically quoted. There’s no reason to be miserly about documented incidents as a report on BC management from ANAO (Australian National Audit Office) shows. The statistics however are another matter.

The report from the ANAO (“Business Continuity Management”) dates from 2009, but it has a comprehensive list of real-life examples of business continuity incidents relating to building resilience in the public sector. They include a firestorm, flood, planned public event, power supply failure, bushfire, hailstorm, cyclone and tsunami. The power supply failure in particular was the end result of three separate conditions, each having an impact on BC: industrial action; generator breakdown; and high temperatures.

However, while the report quotes Darwin, Einstein and John F. Kennedy, it stops short of quoting statistics. This may be a good move in the light of the uncertainty that still surrounds the “80% figure” about business failure – this is the (so-called) statistic that 80% of businesses suffering a major BC incident then go out of business within one and a half years after the incident. Authors Mel Gosling and Andrew Hiles listed 29 examples of this figure or a similar one being quoted in relation to business continuity, in a number of cases the quote coming from well-known enterprises. However, as Gosling and Hiles researched each quote, they could find no source document or data to back it up. Perhaps that was also the conclusion of the ANAO, and so it didn’t quote what it couldn’t corroborate.