You guys I'm like really smart now. You don't even know. You could ask me, Kelly what's the biggest company in the world? And I'd be like, "blah blah blah, blah blah blah blah blah blah." Giving you the exact right answer.

-Kelly Kapoor
The Office

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A Dash of Business Continuity

   The growing regulatory pressure has encouraged many companies to begin a business continuity initiative, yet few seem to understand what is sufficent in terms of business continuity. A plan by itself is useless, without training. Training will not be effective unless it is endorsed, if not mandated, by senior management. Senior management is often too busy with competing priorities to dedicate significant time or attention to initiatives like business continuity. The temptation in such a situation is to try to create a "lite" version of business continuity that does not require the direct involvement or support of senior management, but this is ill advised and can lead to an ineffective overall plan.

   Consider a company that has some employees trained in an office that is threatened by a hurricane. As the storm approaches, the business continuity team in the office mobilizes and begins monitoring the storm through the NOAA and local OEM office. They then establishe contact with the business continuity management team in the company's main office.  The local office manager, who has not been trained in the protocols for business continuity, tells everyone to get back to work and stop screwing around on the NOAA site.  "You work for me - not for the disaster recovery guy in HQ."  As the hurricane's impact becomes imminent the following evening, the BC protocol dictates that a  broadcast message should be sent to all employees notifying them to seek shelter and to not come into the office the next day. The BC-trained staff hesitates: should they get the manager's approval? They do, after all, "work for [him]". The confusion resulting from a watered-down plan can be worse than no plan at all as it will slow response time and can result in conflicting directions and priorities.

   This is the equivalent of being given 5 gallons of paint to paint a house. You are better off only covering one side of the structure than diluting the paint to make the 100 gallons you need and creating a mess for yourself in the process. Specifically, ask senior management if there are certain offices where the plan can be implemented in its entirety. In this manner you will be able to pilot the program on a smaller scale and train staff in the appropriate procedures.  These offices may then be used to market the initiative to senior management for the necessary endorsement.

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