The market for business continuity software is growing fast, with the US bucking the trend, and large companies leading the charge. But there’s still room for growth. Peter Davy examines developments in the market and finds some promising trends

The business continuity management software market is coming of age. With global revenues of US$250 million, according to Gartner’s recent ‘Magic Quadrant’ report, use of software is now widespread.

“Uptake of these tools has been increasing. It’s now about 45 per cent once you exclude those using things Word documents,” says Roberta Witty, vice-president in Gartner Research.

In some cases, businesses are still developing solutions in-house, but for the majority, it’s now off-the-shelf solutions – in part because of their widespread availability. Gartner’s report analysed 14 that are commonly used.

Charlie Boffin, chief executive of UK-based ClearView, one of those included in the report, says a lot of the larger players have tried to build their own solutions and realised it can soak up a huge amount of expense and time. “Why build your own car if you can go to the local garage and buy a perfectly functional one on the forecourt?” he asks.

A wide range of other drivers also supports growth in the market. Many of these are linked to the rising profile of business continuity within businesses, increasing recognition of the risks and the maturity of the discipline. External factors have also played a role, however, with both sticks and carrots to promote uptake.

Of the sticks, perhaps the most persuasive are demands from regulators and those in companies’ supply chains. The former explains why, even in the US, where the market is most mature anyway, uptake of business continuity management software is still noticeably higher in sectors such as financial services.

“Regulation and audit are big drivers,” says Monica Goldstein, COO of RecoveryPlanner. “Banks and credit unions face advanced regulations, and bodies like the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council are very active in developing standards around business continuity planning.”

Software not only helps organisations put in place appropriate plans, but enables them to provide evidence for regulatory reports and audits, Goldstein explains. The same is true in other heavily regulated industries such as healthcare and utilities, she adds.

This is also having a knock-on effect through the supply chain, according to Phil Samson, business continuity management leader at PwC in the US. “We’re finding companies using software to ensure they are resilient because they have a key customer with a regulatory requirement or that has simply identified them as a key part of the supply chain. The customer then wants proof of what’s in place beyond just the table of contents from the business continuity plan.”

Bigger and better

These drivers, of course, would mean little if the software could not deliver. A major part of the success of business continuity software has been its increasing functionality.

On the one hand, the software does significantly simplify the basics, such as development and maintenance of the traditional text-based business continuity plan.

“If you look at the components in a plan, the information in it comes from a range of other places in the organisation,” says Samson. It will include, for example, key contacts, drawn from human resource systems, as well as references to a range of business processes defined elsewhere in the business. Whenever any of these change this must be reflected in the business continuity plan.

“You can do that in a text-based document, but it is quite a bit of administrative effort to keep the plans updated. In fact, that was one of the major concerns with the old text-based plans; they quickly became out-dated and therefore were not very effective.”

Almost as importantly, in connecting with systems across the business, this kind of software enables plans to be accessed and updated (with full traceability and version tracking in many cases) by those actually responsible for them. According to Rob Giffin, co-founder at US-based Avalution Consulting, this is particularly valuable given the trend he sees towards more part-time business continuity managers in larger organisations (with responsibility for business continuity as well as information security or part of the insurance and risk management programme, for example).

“Good software is a great ally to the part-time business continuity [manager],” he says.

On the other hand, most solutions have a greater offering than simply a more efficient, electronic version of a traditional business continuity plan. Crises Control, for example, provides a crisis response app to deliver plans and notifications across devices, including smartphones, in the event of an incident.

Finally, cloud technology has also been an undeniable boon to the market. The ability to host a business continuity plan securely offsite and access it anywhere has an obvious appeal, says Giffin. “Business continuity management software is such a natural fit for the cloud,” he enthuses.

Regional differences

It would be wrong to overstate the progress the market has made, however. For a start, as well as differences in uptake by sector, there are significant regional variations. The US has seen widespread adoption of this kind of software, and the UK is not far behind, says Boffin. The rest of Europe, Australia and Middle East trail, and then there’s South America, Africa and Asia, he says. “We’ve got the really mature markets – the second tier, and then places where there is awareness, but [where] we’re still very far from a maturity,” he adds.

Gartner’s report notes that source of revenue for business continuity software vendors is almost twice as high in the US (at 93 per cent) compared with Canada (57 per cent), Europe (50 per cent), the UK (43 per cent), APAC (other than Japan) 36 per cent, and Central and South America (46 per cent). The Middle East and Africa each represent 14 per cent of revenue source.

Untapped markets

There is also, unsurprisingly, much greater uptake among larger organisations than smaller ones. In some cases, this is simply because some firms are happy with traditional, paper-based approaches. It can also be, argues Tim Morris, a director at Crises Control, because the solutions available haven’t met their needs.

“SMEs are the most untapped sector. Generally they don’t need the very complex, sophisticated solutions that are more suitable for much larger enterprises, which is where most software has been pitched. They need something that matches their requirements, which is much more straightforward and is priced accordingly.”

In fact, complexity is an issue even among larger businesses, and previous bad experiences remain a barrier to adoption, according to ClearView’s Boffin. “Historically a lot of providers have tried to put in as much functionality as possible without thinking about the impact on the end-users,” he says. “Organisations have tried to implement it, but it hasn’t been successful so there’s quite a degree of corporate push back.”

As a result, ease-of-use is increasingly seen as essential to growing the market further – across all sizes of the organisations. Only if it is intuitive will people across the organisation use it, rather than just the business continuity manager.

And it’s vital that they do, says Sue Stallard, UK business continuity manager at T-Systems, Deutsche Telekom’s outsourced services arm. It is not just a question of efficiency; it’s about ownership.

Stallard implemented business continuity management software in the organisation (which has about 1,200 staff) four years ago. One of the key benefits is that it has users throughout the business – updating and testing plans, completing business impact analyses and compiling reports. This means the business is no longer solely reliant on Stallard, with the software enabling (and automatically prompting through reminders and automated emails) users to take responsibility of the plan.

“I work on the basis that I’m not [always available] to take ownership in a time of crisis. There are various levels of the business with different owners. They understand it and [ultimately] they’re responsible for it.”

This article was published in the Business Continuity Software Report, in the September 2016 issue of CIR Magazine.

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