Business leaders feel most threatened by IT hazards


A recent report published by the Business Continuity Institute (BCI), in association with the British Standards Institution (BSI), has revealed that IT-related threats are continuing to provide the greatest concern for organisations, ranking above other threats such as natural disasters, security incidents and industrial disputes.

The annual BCI Horizon Scan shows that three quarters (77 per cent) of business leaders fear the possibility of an unplanned IT and telecoms outage and 73 per cent worry about the possibility of a cyber-attack or data breach.

The report also identifies long-term trends, with 73 per cent seeing the use of the internet for malicious attacks as a major threat that needs to be closely monitored, with 63 per cent feeling the same way about the influence of social media.

This year’s top ten threats to business continuity are:

  1. Unplanned IT and telecom outages;
  2. Cyber-attack;
  3. Data breach;
  4. Adverse weather;
  5. Interruption to utility supply;
  6. Fire;
  7. Security incident;
  8. Health and safety incident;
  9. Act of terrorism;
  10. New laws or regulations.

Howard Kerr, Chief Executive at BSI, commented: ‘At a time when changing climatic, social, political and economic situations are forcing organisations to be nimble in adapting to novel threats, it is essential to learn from other’s experience and best practice. Developing the resilience of networks, services and business critical information must be an integral part of an organisation’s wider business resilience strategy. By putting in place a framework based on risk standards, you will be able to identify, prioritise and manage the range of threats to your business more effectively and keep your stakeholders reassured.’

Further findings from the report include:

  • Adverse weather moved up the list of threats with 57 per cent of respondents expressing concern or extreme concern. This was before the storms that have swept the UK and those on the eastern seaboard of the United States and Canada.
  • Geography and industry play an important role in determining threat levels with respondents from Japan and New Zealand showing greater levels of concern for earthquakes, while those in the manufacturing industry rate supply chain disruption and product quality control as greater threats.
  • Of the 71 per cent of respondents who stated that they did conduct a trend analysis, a fifth of them claimed they had no access to the final output.
  • Less than half of the respondents (44 per cent) use the international standard ISO22301 as the framework for their business continuity management programme. 

The report, designed to offer a better understanding of threats to business continuity and helping practitioners learn how to protect their organisations against them, also revealed surprising trends in other areas of business continuity. Supply chain disruption, last year within the top ten concerns, moved down the list to 16th place. This is despite increasing supply chain complexity featuring within the top five emerging trends, in addition to the recent BCI Supply Chain Resilience Survey, which revealed that 75 per cent of respondents experienced at least one supply chain disruption during the previous year.

Also highlighted was that, despite these growing levels of concern, only 18 per cent of organisations are increasing their level of investment in business continuity programmes while 11 per cent are actively reducing theirs. The report further revealed that 22 per cent of organisations conducted no trend analysis as part of their business continuity process so are potentially failing to assess these threats altogether.

The report concludes that with the variation in concerns across geographical locations and industry sectors, not all threats are generic. Organisations need to invest wisely in the development of technologies that can help counter the threats relevant to them, and the impact these threats would have should they materialise. With so many threats clear and present, the onus is on the industry to emphasise the immediate and very real return on investment a business continuity programme has to offer. 

The respondents were from 82 countries. The total number of respondents was 690. A copy of the report is available on request to or can be downloaded from the BCI website (registration required).