BCM / DR Programs: Dependency Management

When working on projects, one of the most overlooked and considered item is dependency management.  In the BCM / DR world, we’re all about identifying dependencies and inter-dependencies; usually discovered through the Business Impact Analysis (BIA) phase and most certainly a key area of Technology Recovery Plans (TRP), where there are numerous dependencies that must be managed if critical systems and services are to be operational when expected. 

            There is a difference though between a dependency and inter-dependency. 

  1. Dependency: It can be defined as ‘depending on a person or thing (a process) for aid, support or contingent upon…etc.’  An example could be that a process performed by your department can not execute its activity(s) until a specific file is delivered.  You are completely dependant upon receipt of that file or else…well, nothing happens.
  2. Inter-Dependency: mutually dependent upon each other, such as a project time table, department process/document/file.  The key word being mutual; a mutual dependency.  A simple example could be that two or more departments are reliant upon the same file being delivered.  Without the delivery of the file, specific actions don’t occur within the various departments, which ends up preventing the delivery of a final end product.  Thus, there is an inter-dependency between the various teams on the file delivery.  

If BCM / DR projects (and the overall program that matter) are to be managed effectively, the identification and supervision of dependencies and inter-dependencies must be a key area for Project Managers (PM) to focus.

If what you’re doing is dependant upon another, then there are things you can do to keep your BCM / DR program on track and ensure that what is being investigated, determined, developed and implemented actually meets the needs of the organization.  Below is a short list of things you can do.

  1. Ask Others: If you’re not sure you have a dependency or are dependant upon another, ask process owners and others you’re encountering as you move through the BCM / DR program investigation and development.  You can ask each Business Unit (BU) Manager you encounter/interview and most especially, ask the Subject Matter Experts (SME) or the end users, as they will have some very low level (detailed) perspectives that others sitting and working at higher levels may not know about or even realize.  I have some across this before when discussing BIAs and contingency requirements and priorities. 
  2. Regular Status Meetings: If you’re in a corporation that has regular Project Management Office (PMO) status meetings with Project Managers (PM), ensure your BCM / DR project is part of that group.  You may be doing some things a bit differently because your scope usually encompasses the entire organization (especially if you’re just starting the program development) but meeting with other PM’s can help you manage your project and identify areas you need to watch for.  No one knows the entire organization – no matter what anyone states – but PM’s working on strategic and tactical initiatives can help identify interdependencies that others may not know about because that is what they are doing to help plan and execute their initiatives.  Make sure you become part of these PMO meetings and glean information from others; it will benefit what you’re doing.
  3. Determine Checkpoints: Once you’ve determined that you do indeed have dependencies and are in an inter-dependant relationship with another project, division, department or process, ensure that you establish some checkpoint along the way so that you know if the identified dependency is still relevant and applicable to what you’re doing.  You could be planning for something that no longer applies or is dependant upon you or that you are dependant upon.  Change is the only constant so if you don’t pay attention to it, you could loose out and find that you’re no longer in sync with what you thought.
  4. Review BIA Findings Regularly: As noted above, change is constant and things are constantly changing in an organization: department changes, corporate re-organizations, process changes (adds/deletes/amends) and personnel changes; nothing stands still.  Its common knowledge and good practice – at least within the BCM/DR industry – to review the BIA findings on a regular basis and ensure they are kept current to reflect the current status of the organization but that doesn’t mean that everyone does it.  To ensure that dependencies and interdependencies are managed effectively – and still relevant – a review of BIA findings must be performed on a regular basis.
  5. Validate Through Exercise/Tests: As part of any BCM / DR exercise, include the interdependent dependencies within your scope.  You could discover that what is considered a major dependency can actually be delayed or modified and not required immediately when a disaster occurs.  There could be some manual workarounds or manual processes implemented and the dependency isn’t as rigid or firm as you once thought.  So validate them through tests and exercises. 

 

Not only are dependencies present within the BCM / DR project – when developing BIAs and establishing contingency strategies – but they can also be present amongst competing projects.  To ensure your BCM / DR project and program captures the current state of the organization – at all times – it’s important to understand the dependencies within the project but also the potential dependencies between projects, as there could be duplication of effort.  If a competing initiative is performing the same task(s) that you require, see if you can leverage the initiative rather than recreating the wheel, as they may have some information you can utilize for the BCM / DR program. 

Not managing dependencies and ensuring they are captured in the BIA can mean that large complex and necessary contingency strategies being developed and implemented don’t actually end up meeting the need of the organization because a specific piece of the puzzle was overlooked and/or not identified appropriately.  It would be like identifying the need for a car and going through the entire process of purchasing the right car only to find that the person the car was acquired for, doesn’t even drive.   So pay close attention to your dependencies…

 (c) Copywrite April 27-2012 Stone Road Inc (StoneRoad)

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