The first iteration of a Business Continuity (BC) project is as much about learning Business Continuity Management (BCM) as it is about managing BCM. As the organisation’s BC requirements are being captured during workshops and meetings, it is common and reasonable to use simple tools such as MS Word and Excel as the repository for this information. As more and more information is gathered, new columns or rows are inserted into the spreadsheet, or a new spreadsheet is created. To make sense of the amassed information, links and references are established across the document sets.
It is also common for external Consultants or internal Project Managers to be the gatherers and maintainers of BC data and essentially become most knowledgeable of the subtle intricacies and interdependencies of the various spreadsheets and files of data. As the project progresses, the organisation quickly comes to the realisation that a significant amount of valuable and sensitive information about the organisation, together with its BC needs, has been captured. As the project approaches its conclusion (i.e. implementation of tested BC capabilities), the issue of hand-over becomes critically important. As the consultants leave or the Project Manager moves on to the next project, someone else within the organisation needs to take ownership of the BC process and understand and maintain the volumes of Word docs or Excel spreadsheets. This is exacerbated since user guides or supporting information are typically not developed as part of the hand over process to the incumbent. As more people, with BCM responsibility, become involved in the BCM lifecycle, the practical limitation of single-user access to the spreadsheet becomes a significant and unacceptable roadblock.
The key learnings of BC project management are realised – that BCM is:
- Complex – since it needs to cover all business, all IT systems and stakeholders’ interests
- Dynamic – since over time the business will change and IT will change
- Specialised – since it requires sophisticated processes and experienced staff
- Cyclic – since it requires an on-going commitment and support beyond the 1st project
- Maintenance Hungry – since it requires real effort and time by a variety of people to maintain and report on BC information
Once the first iteration is near complete, the organisation must analyse its BC maintenance needs. Otherwise, should an operational disruption strike, the result could be disastrous. The organisation will be exposed to failure due to its dependency on inaccurate and out-dated BC information.
Finally, this set of disparate documents and spreadsheets becomes unworkable as a tool to manage the prioritised resurrection of the organisation after a disaster. From a Corporate Governance perspective, the organisation is very exposed due to the lack of control, accountability and structure.
- Requirements for good BC information
- Audited for lifecycle (ie programme management) status
- Manage a programme of work and issue reminder e-mails
- Integrate with other BCM elements such as procedures
- User manuals, FAQs, Training material and other Help features
- Functionality growth in concert with international standards
- Have scalable database
- Maintains data integrity
- Supports concurrent access with records/field locking
- Provides significant analytical power
- Owned in the organisation by a sponsor
- Supported by the supplier/developer company
- Developed by experienced practitioners and user community experience
- Incorporate industry best practice
- Reporting capabilities
- Can be used interactively when disaster strikes
Professional commercial BCM software provides appropriate Corporate Governance structures required by commercial enterprises.
The key and sought after attribute of BCM software to be considered include:
1. Documenting the breadth of the organisation in terms of its structure and geographic spread of Business Functions & Resources
2. Scaling-up the BC needs by expanding the project scope to include other areas of the business
3. Update key information such as:
- Business functions, locations and resources
- Strategies and corresponding costs
- Team structures and contacts
4. Sharing concurrent update responsibility with a variety of staff across the organisation
5. Analysing the data quickly to produce information and costing reports that:
- Removes time-consuming analysis hack work (eg via Word docs and spreadsheets)
- Builds business cases for expenditure approval
- Delivers procedures
- Provides a detailed holistic overview of the business eg for BPR, capacity planning, strategic planning
6. Producing an action plan that updates all required procedures to manage the prioritised resurrection of the organisation after a disaster
- Additionally, how do you make sure that your BC management process and maintenance program?
7. Reflects a solid methodology that presents:
- Common industry terminology based on industry usage
- Clear step by step processes to maintain BC and develop a capability to respond to any type of disaster or unplanned incidents
8. Does NOT lead you down the Scenario Planning path since scenarios are infinite while Resources are finite.
9. Is easy to use – developed by practitioners for use by novices.
10. Saves Time, Effort and keeps you within your Corporate Governance framework.