I heard some interesting comments the other day while attending a project team meeting. It came from a business representative that was making all kinds of assumptions without really understanding what they were saying. I kept hearing things like; ‘technology will do…’ and ‘IT knows this (or that)…’ and ‘they know what we need…’ It got me wondering about what the business expects from technology (and the Technology Recovery Plans (TRP)) and what is not being communicated between the two areas; business and technology. Does IT really know what the business departments need?
First of all, in my personal view, there is no “technology” and “business” or rather, “Us and Them”, everyone is part of the business – the organization and it takes both sides of the fence as it were, to ensure the organization operates accordingly. Really, both teams are in the same yard and have to be working together, not separate and assuming the other side knows what’s going on. It’s just that each has a different role within the organization and they all make the organization. But what causes the division between the two when they are supposed to work together with the same ultimate strategic goal?
- Different Focus: Let’s face it, not everyone is focused on disasters and what to do when they occur. Most managers (and overall business units) are focused on their day to day activities; dealing with revenues, sales, client service and other front line (or backline in support roles) to worry about disasters. They believe it’s someone else’s focus and they should be putting plans and procedures in place (which mean nothing if there isn’t input from all areas).
- Empire Building & Protection: I’ve come across situations where one side of the other takes responsibility for BCM / DR yet neither has the full perspective on what’s required. Either IT understand the IT components without understanding the BU side of things or the BU has control of BCM and ‘assumes’ IT has everything in line on the DR side. By sharing information, some managers feel threatened that they will loose control of the program so they want to keep their empire in place. But the opposite is true; the more you share and cooperate the stronger the program will be ; it’s everyone’s responsibility after all.
- Personal/Personnel Differences: Some managers just don’t care about BCM/DR. Since it started – waaaaayy back when as and IT initiative – then it’s believed by many BU leaders that it still is. That’s old style thinking and is why many business units representatives have a distorted view of what BCM / DR really is.
- Strategic Misunderstanding: At least once in your business career you’re going to sit through some ‘great’ presentation about the corporate strategy and where executives want to take the company and the problem is that because of differing perspectives the BU and IT departments see things differently. This causes problems between the two areas because one changes direction (i.e. the BU on what it’s doing) but the IT side doesn’t necessarily change as fast because the change in strategy doesn’t always significantly affect the infrastructure (not that change in IT isn’t fast and there’s not impact(s) to infrastructure). When the new strategy is communicated to the organization, – usually ineffectively – differing views will appear. That can also mean that the BCM / DR field needs to change but often it doesn’t. It’s set up already and it works, so a change in strategic directly won’t impact the restoration and recovery procedures. This isn’t always correct, as the corporate priorities may change; what was once a lower priority focus is not a key player in the overall corporate strategy.
- Tactical Misalignment: If there is a misunderstanding in the meaning of the new strategic direction between the Business and IT – meaning they didn’t ask for clarity when it was communicated – the actions taken by both to address the strategic direction of the corporation (tactical action items) become misaligned. This means that the BCM / DR program won’t be meeting the needs of the corporation.
- No Strategic Direction: With the above two items taken into account, if there’s not strategic direction for which a restoration and recovery process (including BU activities) is to built, then it’s going to be hard to know what should be prioritized when restoration and recovery efforts are activated. It also means that there is probably no commitment from the Executive level towards BCM / DR. If the organization doesn’t know where it’s going or where it is, then no BCM / DR program will be able to establish itself and be able to identify where the organization should be when a disaster occurs.
- Hiding Errors: When exercises occur and the results aren’t always flattering (i.e. they uncover gaps in thinking and planning), the actual results can – and do – get manipulated to hide the mistakes. No one wants to stand in front of the executive and state that something went wrong or that they uncovered a major issue (though they should) but this then tells executives and others in the organization that everything is ‘bunnies and rainbows’ when in fact, it’s ‘dragons and thunderstorms.’ This is also done to keep the ‘users happy’ or the Business Unit representatives happy and leads them to believe that things are rosy as well, when it really isn’t. It also adds the false impression – Personal/Personnel Differences – noted above. Don’t hide the errors, mistakes, missteps or gaps; the more people know the more suggestions you’ll get on how to resolve the problem and make it go away.
- Terms and Definitions: Everyone has a different meaning for BCM / DR. If the Disaster Recovery/Planning it used by the BU, then it can show they firmly believe the program sits with IT; it’s an old IT term after all. But BCM / DR is inclusive of every area and what needs to be done for the program and if no one understands the terminology, the incomprehension will run rampant and no one will be speaking the same language.
- Roles & Responsibilities: Again, this comes down to assumptions in what the other side is/is not doing. Each assumes the other will be executing activities. For instance, if IT fully owns the BCM / DR program (or projects) then the BU assumes they have everything in a disaster but that isn’t true. IT doesn’t suddenly take over the management of payroll or Public Relations communications but the perception is there that all BCM / DR related tasks are managed by IT. I think the manager of Public Relations might have something to say about that…;)
- Lack of Awareness & Training: It’s a simple one but if no one is aware of the BCM / DR program, what it entails and what is expected of themselves, then no matter what is in place, it won’t work. BU must understand what IT does (maybe no so much on the detail of how they do it) and IT must understand the needs of the BU and what they will be doing. How can you have a working program – on both sides – if neither is aware of some of the issues, concerns, dependencies and interdependencies?
- No Real Home: If the BCM / DR program doesn’t have a solid home in which its to reside within the organization, both sides will just function as though it’s being taken care of. To some degree the IT side will be working on restoring and recovery systems (possibly out of sync with what the BU needs) and the BU may just be focusing on the front line with the clients, partners, vendors and customers; all the while, believing something is in place.
There are just some of the ways communications can get muddled and activities become misaligned. Some are more obvious than others but sometimes items outside the program can have an impact upon what needs to occur within the BCM / DR program. Take these into account if you’re having problems getting your program off the ground or if there’s some lingering issues that cause the problems; it could stem from problems within the organization well beyond that of simply not having a BCM/DR plan in place.
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