The plight of the planner
: A consideration of the quality and consequent utility of the literature on business continuity/resilience (BCR) to inform ‘professional’ practice

  • Chris Needham-Bennett

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Business continuity management, or resilience as it is increasingly known, has blossomed over the last 20 years. It has become an audited, regulated and standardised business process which is taught at both undergraduate and post graduate levels in several UK universities. There has been a corresponding growth in the available literature too. The literature encompasses a body of academic literature that can be applied indirectly to professional practice. However, most of the influential work is ‘grey’ literature, namely standards, best practice advice and self-help manuals. The representative institute in the UK, the Business Continuity Institute (BCI), now claims over 8,000 members worldwide, publishes several articles, including a ‘best practice guide’ and has influenced the development of several international standards (ISOs). The BCI is embarked on what scholars have described as a ‘professional project’ and presents the activity of its practitioners as encompassing a defined profession.
The aim of the thesis, as described in the title, is to consider the quality and utility of the extant literature to inform ‘professional’ practice. The supporting objectives are: to critically review the various categories of literature, to examine the concept of professionalism in relation to the literature, and to assess the degree to which the literature might be improved. Adopting the term ‘business continuity/resilience’ (BCR) to describe this professional field, it provides a review of influential literature in BCR. The examination of both academic and ‘grey’ literature reveals a degree of difficulty in applying academic works to practice, a paucity of authority in the standards with an iterative self-referenced process based on custom and practice, and a dearth of combined academic/praxis inquiry.
It is argued that at present Business Continuity falls short of being a profession. In particular, it lacks a knowledge base. This poses a problem for practitioners. Their ‘plight’ is the discernment of good quality material on which to base their business continuity plans. Academic work is shy of quantitative studies in establishing the efficacy of the processes, albeit that BCI publications and ISO standards make sweeping claims as to their efficacy, and self-help books are replete with hyperbole. It leaves the BCR practitioner with insufficient knowledge on which to establish a paradigm for their practice.
The work concludes with a consideration of other disciplines’ more successful attempts to academically validate their activities and utilise academic work in practice. This is particularly the case for the long-established literature on military doctrine, which could influence BCR to a larger extent than, is currently assumed. It is argued that military sources can be seen as BCR’s ‘lost cousin’. Military doctrine formats can be applied to BCR at several levels, but this thesis considers the level of doctrine in respect of principles and paradigm building that might inform, inspire or assist the BCR practitioners in various settings.
Date of AwardJul 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Portsmouth
SupervisorFrancis Pakes (Supervisor)

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