Business Continuity – Observations from Recent Programmes

CrisisVR has recently supported two companies with their business continuity programmes. What did we learn that can help other companies?

Two large companies, both service-sector but completely different output, market and organisation. Both companies have a business continuity (BC) programme but operating at a different level of maturity. They both needed some help with parts of their BC programme.

After several months of support, our four primary observations can be summarised:

  • Expectations. Most company staff are very busy. They are skilled in their job and apply themselves to it diligently every day. Along comes a management scheme. In our case it was BC but it could easily have been diversity training or audit or fire drills – anything not directly related to the staff and their work. We are asking those people to drop what they are doing and complete our forms, be interviewed or write plans. We also expect them to understand BC which they may have last encountered some years previously during a multi-topic induction week. THE POINT …. only the Business Continuity team can be expected to understand BC. For everyone else, it is at best an unpractised distant memory. Take your time to explain things, provide templates with step-by-step notes, be very flexible when scheduling meetings.
  • Terminology. In Business Continuity we are our own worst enemies. Remember those real people from the paragraph above? The ones who have a job that isn’t BC? Be careful with the terminology we burden them with. Can we realistically expect them to accurately forecast and apply things like RTO, BIA, MTBF, MTPD etc?*. THE LESSON …. give people the best support you can to understand the essential elements of a BC programme that are relevant to them. Keep things simple and there is a good chance that the staff will embrace the programme.
  • Existing Plans. One of the milestones of a BC programme is a Business Continuity Plan; that easy-to-follow checklist that gives people confidence that when something goes wrong all is not lost. Except ………. when, during a test of the plan, some staff use the new plan while others reach for “earlier versions” and explain that “we’ve always done it this way”. THE CHECK …. during the discovery phase of BC planning, be sure to check if there are existing plans, even those that are locally produced and unknown to management. Don’t assume those plans are not good; the content could save a lot of writing time. The key point is that there can be only one plan, used consistently by everyone.
  • IT Expectation vs Reality. When interviewed, users of corporate IT systems are critically aware of the implications for them of the loss of a system. They know their time objective for the recovery and the consequences of a delay. THE DANGER …. the expectation of the user is inconsistent with the reality of the IT DR plan. The bigger danger is that there is no communication process to inform users and IT staff of that inconsistency.

*If you are looking down here for the decode of these terms, my point is well made!

CrisisVR provides business continuity consultancy support to companies of all sizes and planning maturity. Some of our projects have been for companies just starting on the resilience journey while others have been to fine tune existing programmes.