Despite their best efforts to cover bases and continue operations in the event of a crisis, many decision makers shoot themselves in the foot because of ineffective or non-existent business continuity plans.
This is the view of experts within the business continuity management (BCM) and solution development space, incorporating crisis management, emergency management, business continuity/recovery and IT continuity/recovery.
Dean Horner, CEO at 42 Consulting, a national BCM services company, says the fundamental aspect of continuity management is that decision makers not only manage the business effectively through a crisis, but do so with the clear focus on continuing operations.
“This requires significantly more than a paper-based plan, and this is where many companies fall short. They have these elaborate, huge volumes of plans on paper, but in the actual event of a crisis this document will be of little or no practical value if the users of the plan aren’t familiar with its content.
"Not only does a crisis immediately lead to a temporary suspension of business, it has the potential to grind all operations to a halt,” says Horner.
“In our experience, we found that very few people look at paper based plans when dealing with a crisis, but rather rely on their own knowledge and experience. Often we see critical time being lost devising strategies which have already been predetermined in a business continuity plan.
"The reason for this is because either the real knowledge rests exclusively with only one person or a small group of people, or the task of devising a continuity plan has been outsourced to an inexperienced third party,” he adds.
Horner says more needs to be done to address this problem.
“Continuity capability means the readiness of organisations to apply the strategies that have been developed in order to effectively deal with crisis if and when they occur. This means recovery teams have been rehearsed and are familiar with the company’s BCM strategy.”
42 Consulting has developed a service offering aimed at implementing a business continuity capability, which involves helping a client define the right strategy for each business function and the supporting IT environment.
“Our viewpoint is that a company’s BCM strategy must be practically understood by all recovery team members in order to add any value. Our objective is to empower clients with the relevant knowledge and systems to manage effectively through a crisis,” Horner continues.
Horner follows a BCM methodology that is consistent with BS 25999 (British standards) and guidelines provided by the Business Continuity Institute.
“Our business continuity capability ensures that we work closely with BCM practitioners to ensure knowledge transfer throughout the engagement process.
“For any business continuity strategy to work, we should take ownership of the process from the word go. There are a number of stages involved from the time of understanding the organisation through to testing.
"For example, we conduct a business impact assessment, risk assessment, an IT disaster recovery gap analysis and establish a continuity or recovery strategy.
"We then take this further to facilitate BCM testing, such as simulations, desktops and rehearsal tests, and further training and awareness to ensure that everyone understands and can achieve the desired objective,” adds Horner.