19th October, 2021
Like it is important to construct a disaster-resistant building, the same way you need to make your business resistant to interruptions caused by several factors, like downtime or natural events, such as a pandemic, etc.
Though being immune to external risks may not be possible, we think that companies can mitigate most of the risks and safeguard themselves by planning ahead.
If you have had disruptions in the past due to an unresponsive SaaS application and have still not done anything to fix it, probably this is the time for you to buck up. You need to reevaluate the SaaS apps lying in your organization and tweak your IT operations. And this is what we call running a business impact analysis for your SaaS stack.
This article will be focused entirely on business impact analysis on SaaS, take you through the steps you need to follow to carry out the BIA process, and brief you on the benefits of doing BIA for your business.
Before we delve deeper, let's ace the basics.
Business Impact Analysis or BIA is an assessment of how a potential crisis can disrupt your business operation so that you can take proactive measures.
In the SaaS perspective, it means which applications you should keep & which ones you need to discard, and processes that should be activated when an issue like downtime occurs.
If you feel a vendor has increased the pricing and wish to shift to a cost-friendly and effective option, you need to know how that change can affect your business.
Here is when you need a BIA: If you're a startup, you can probably hold a discussion with your team member and have an idea of the priorities you need to focus on at the moment. If you're a large organization with several departments, each one of them could have varying priorities, which could sometimes lead to chaos.
When you conduct a BIA, you can figure out the exact needs for your business and focus on fulfilling them.
For example, when department A has invested in Trello for project management. At the same time, department B has invested in Asana for the same. Since both the applications do the same function, it is just a redundant app in use. If you conduct a BIA, you can find out the beneficial applications and discard the others. This way, you save money, cut unnecessary redundancies, and also have the most effective application.
Also, doing a BIA will help you know which applications will yield a long-term value. Only when you know your organization's long-term requirements, you can be well prepared for the same.
When conducting a BIA, you can understand your needs, what you are missing out on, and the mechanism you need to follow during a disruption. So if all your goals are set based on this data, you can pass through this without much damage.
After conducting a BIA, you can:
Know the SaaS vendors that matter the most and are bringing value to your business.
Find out the vulnerable portions of your business that need immediate protection.
Set a time frame for recovery during the recovery phase
You can Cut down on unnecessary spending, which will help during the recovery phase.
You can Identify all your compliance, contractual and legal commitments
You can organize and collect any additional information you need for your business continuity plan
It may make sense for a company to hire an external specialist to conduct a BIA. Alternatively, the company may have a team consisting of both internal and external members — to guarantee the process includes both operational expertise and deep knowledge of the business.
A company may hire a specialist consultant or expert outsider to conduct a BIA. Or, a business impact analysis team may consist of a mix of internal and external individuals — this guarantees that the process includes both specialized expertise and deep knowledge of the business.
Large organizations may have a staff person or department that knows the impacts and what to do in specific business scenarios.
The first step to an effective business impact analysis is forming the team and defining the scope. This way, you can get clear on what needs to happen.
It is important to communicate what the BIA team will be doing and what they are called upon to do from an operational perspective. A meeting with key stakeholders will help ensure everyone understands their role in the process.
For any process to take place, there has to be a goal that needs to be fulfilled. Similarly, before you conduct a BIA, you need to identify the goal.
Who are the stakeholders you want to include in the process? What products and services do you want to keep, and what do you have to discard? How much disruption protection do you need to have for your business to run smoothly? Finally, what should the whole deliverable look like?
Using SaaS tools has its own pros and cons. You never know if a SaaS tool is safe until it brings a severe security issue to your organization. Unfortunately, attackers always look for the easiest route to cause the biggest threat, and SaaS applications can be their first choice. That is why before conducting a BIA, it is necessary to carry out a risk assessment.
Identify the risks within your organizational structure, such as threats of malicious insiders, data leaks through accidental exposure, or data loss. Depending on the systems you're assessing, stakeholders, as well as the environments that are being evaluated, you may identify other threats. You should, therefore, include these in your assessment.
Be sure to evaluate the implications of an attack and decide on its severity. Then, consider the impacts on your landscape without taking into account any control measures you have in place. Identifying risks and vulnerabilities before taking any action is the most effective way to manage them.
One key metric you need to determine is the maximum allowable downtime. This means the downtime that is allowable to happen and wouldn't cause a major impact on the functioning of the business. This helps you identify the "critical path" for recovery and the systems and processes you need to give instant attention to.
Communicate with your stakeholders and ask key questions that need to be answered. Your answers can be considered a confirmation of what you have collected in the initial steps, or it can be the gaps in the priorities. You should specify which function will a particular stakeholder be responsible for to achieve business continuity when a SaaS service is disrupted.
You should also identify :
What will go worst affected during the downtime––For example, company's image, reputation, customers, money, or operations.
The dependencies for the performance could be the applications, employees, or SaaS vendors.
And the history of such operational failures in the past.
When you have collected your findings, it is essential to go back and discuss your results with the stakeholders. Afterward, the BIA group will write a report and present it at a meeting where you can make comments.
The BIA report has a broad focus, including an exploratory component that reveals crucial business processes and impacts and a planning component that suggests strategies to respond to these impacts.
This report outlines the company's operations and key processes, along with the departments most closely associated with them. The BIA team should also establish a time frame for when they'll be able to restore service and how long the disruption can persist without significant ramifications. In addition, the report should weigh the costs of disruption against those of investing in recovery.
After the BIA process, you will have to present your findings to your company's leaders along with a business impact analysis report. It should contain an overview of key activities needed for the business continuity, the requirements to meet those needs and any risks identified during the BIA phase, and the recommendations based on the risk assessment conducted.
You need to look at each SaaS product and service identified and predict how disruption could affect your company. Also, highlight the recovery times you're requesting for each product or service.
After getting done with the analysis, you need to develop a plan of action and follow it. With all the information collected through the BIA, you need to develop disaster recovery strategies, mitigation strategies, and solutions for all the SaaS applications present in your landscape. Then, as a team, you need to discuss how you will respond to sudden service disruption or vendor changes, or any other issues that arise. Appoint a person who will take immediate action in such a case and decide on the plan's duration.
Don't forget that BIA is not a one-time event. You need to decide the frequency of conducting BIA. Too few or too many can cause unnecessary interruptions to your business.
Automate repetitive processes like workflows and create questionnaires for stakeholders
Make sure you have to consider the impact of any changes by anticipating recovery time objectives (RTO) and recovery point objectives (RPO)
It is recommended to adjust the scope of the BIA to collect only the necessary data.
Talk only to the right stakeholders, and use the qualified data collecting methods.
Zluri can help you get the best out of your SaaS business impact analysis process by monitoring all your SaaS applications and workflows in a single comprehensive dashboard.
As a result, you can automate your workflows and make your data collection process faster than before.
Additionally, it acts as a single source of truth that can keep all the stakeholders involved, informed, and engaged.