Estimating the Number of Critical Processes for a BIA.

Is the size of an organization the determining factor of its complexity?

Is the best indicator of the cost of a business impact analysis (BIA) staffing size?

This article explores both of these questions and provides some guidelines on the relationship between the staffing levels and the number of critical processes operating in a business.

Does Size Matter?

While many counter examples can be found, the simple fact is that the larger the organization, the more complex its operation. Some of this comes from the “transactional overhead” associated with the interaction that occurs between large numbers of people. Clearly, the amount of time spend communicating, training, and managing one hundred (100) people is more than is spend with ten (10). However, the issue of business process complexity does require more analysis. Once can easily imagine a small financial services firm that has many, complex and important processes. Think for a moment about the operations of an E-commerce website, that may only have a staff of one or two people overseeing a complex retail or financial service operation. In this case, automation allows a few people to manage many processes.

On the other extreme, think of a manufacturing plant that makes a single product. Many people may be involved in operating the production site three shifts a day, seven days a week but the total number of distinct processes may be relatively small despite the number of full-time employees.

Many contingency planners believe that the complexity of a BIA is more a function of the number of critical processes present in the operation than employees on the payroll.

What is a Critical Process?

A critical process or activity can be defined as a collection of tasks which are repetitively performed according to a structured procedure in order to insure the deliver of the key products and services required of a business in order to fulfill its mission statement.

In some cases the identification of a critical process is very straightforward. Molding and milling activities are easily identified as critical components of certain manufacturing operations.

Other activities however, are more subtle. Think for example about the various financial processes that are part of every business such as payroll, invoicing, and cash management. These processes are not involved directly in the production of goods or services but represent a set of critical activities that form part of the supporting infrastructure that allows the business to function. In another example of a non-production activity, E-mail is now considered a critical process for most businesses since it facilitates the flow of important communications between the business and its trading partners.

Some Guidelines

For organizations seeking to perform their first BIA, determining the number of processes present in an operation can be difficult. The BIA Calculator located elsewhere on this website can help, but even this tool asks for an estimate of the number of critical processes that will fall under the scope of the BIA.

The following guidelines are presented more to stimulate thought than as hard and fast rules. They represent estimates and average findings – meaning they may or may not apply to your operation. However, for those who are just starting the BIA process, these guidelines will be helpful in beginning a discussion of the topic.

Number of Employees Approximate Number of Critical Processes
  • 1 to 9 Employees
10 to 15 critical processes
  • 10 to 49 Employees
20 to 35 critical processes
  • 50 to 499 Employees
30 to 100 critical processes
  • 500 + Employees
75 to hundreds of critical processes

Can You Help?

If you think you have some additional insights that could improve this estimate, we encourage you to contact us and make your suggestions. Once reviewed by our team of technical advisors we can decide if and how to present your propose enhancements. After all, that’s how the sandbox is designed to work! Please send your comments to

Not sure how many calculate the number of hours needed to conduct a BIA? Try using the BIA Calculator located elsewhere on this website.

Wondering how much a BIA might cost your organization? Please read the article on Estimating the Cost of a BIA.

Need Some Help?

After reviewing the estimated work effort needed to conduct a BIA, many organizations decide to hire an outside consultant to assist with this process. If you are looking for an experienced consultant to help you with this or any other continuity, compliance, or security issue – please be sure to visit the Find A Consultant section of this website. prides itself on the professionalism and knowledge of our affiliates and we are confident we can help you find exactly the right person for your project.

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