Status Reporting: A Blessing and a Curse!

Arrgghhh!!!  It’s one of those days! Status reports; we all hate doing them, or at least I’ve met enough people that dislike them it feels like everyone hates them.  They have to be created and submitted an inopportune times and get in the way of the job we’re trying to accomplish.  However, they are a key tool to communicate what you’re doing; the accomplishments (often overlooked), the current ‘lay-of-the-land’, the risks and issues and where you might be needed assistance from Sr. Mgmt to keep things on track.  In BCM/DR it can become a big pain in the ol’…well, you know.  This can be because BCM/DR often gets pushed to the backburner so why do a status report to detail activities on something no one really pays attention to anyway, right?  Many of the status report being used by organizations are so completely out of touch with reality, they are mostly thought of as negative and nothing but a burden, especially for those that have to populate them week after week.  Here’s just a small list of common complaints about status reports.

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Ebola Protection Not as Good as They Say!

Well, it doesn’t see like I’ll be quiet about the Ebola virus anytime soon. If you’ve been paying attention to the news you’ll see that Spain has had a few cases and has recently had a nurse test positive for the disease and she was wearing protective clothing. So, is what we have in place good enough? Do the ‘people that know’ actually know how to stop and confine the disease from spreading if the care workers are still catching it? Continue reading

Ontake Volcanic Eruption (Japan): Early Warning Systems Good Enough?

On Saturday, September 26, 2014 Mount Ontake – 200km west of Tokyo – suddenly erupted, spewing ash and rock over a wide area and killing nearly 50 people (at last count). What’s strange is that this volcanic eruption occurred with no warning – at least that’s what the specialists are saying at this stage. I’m not so sure that’s true.

It’s always been said that Japan has one of the best early warning / monitoring systems in the world due to its location on the Pacific Rim of Fire. If the best monitoring system in the world didn’t catch this, then is the best system even worth it? I mean, these systems are developed to help save lives and provide early warnings to evacuate people and ensure life safety. Yet, that didn’t happen so are the monitoring systems we have in place any good? Are they providing any help at all?  Continue reading

Ebola and People’s Overreaction?

So I’m listening to the radio in the car on the way home from work and not surprisingly there’s comments about the current Ebola crisis in West Africa – it is a major headline after all and serious matter. In fact, as I was listening this particular broadcast was talking about the fact that Ebola had made its way to Dallas, Texas from Liberia via a male visitor.

Now, what got me surprised was that commentators and experts were saying that people should be panicked or scared of Ebola (in the Western world anyway) and I agree with them. But then they went on to kind of criticize people for being scared; taking their kids out of school, buying masks and disinfectants. They were saying that people were over reacting and there was no need to do this sort of thing. Yet, when flu season in making the rounds – in schools, office buildings, subway systems and shopping malls – people are blamed for not taking the proper precautions to ensure they don’t catch the flu, getting sick and getting other sick (and taking a flu shot of course). So what’s the difference? Continue reading

BCM / DR: A Single Solution for Everyone?

What if there was only a single BCM/DR methodology that all organizations would follow? Would it be able to address the specific concerns of particular industries or generalize to the point where it adds no value? Would it be able to address all situations, all possible scenarios and all industries in all countries? How could any single methodology address every situation and every minute detail; taking into account language interpretation, definitions and culture? Could it be done?

If everything was the same and the same perspectives were leveraged it would make sense for what satisfies the needs of a manufacturer to use the same rationale that suits an insurance company. But that is impossible isn’t it? There are other concerns for a manufacturer has that an insurance company wouldn’t. That’s like saying what is good for one person is good for another. Well, we know that’s not correct because we are all individuals with our own wants, needs, desires…and dislikes. Continue reading

BCP/ IT DRP Plans: Never Consider Them Complete

All organizations with a Business Continuity Management (BCM) or Disaster Recovery (DR) program always strive to have their Business Continuity Plans (BCP) / Disaster Recovery Plans (DRP) in a state they can use: in a state they believe will cover them in any and all situations. They want their plans to at least cover the basic minimum so that they can be responsive to any situation. But if an organization takes its program – and related plans – seriously, then these plans are never fully complete.
For a plan to be truly viable and robust, it must be able to address as many possible situations as possible while at the same time must have the flexible enough to adapt to any potential unknown situations. If it’s ‘carved in stone’ it makes a bit tough to adapt the plan to the situation (the situation won’t adapt to your plan).
This flexibility – and it’s maintenance (which keeps the plan alive) – includes incorporating lessons learned captured from news headlines and then incorporating the potential new activities or considerations that may not be in the current BCM / DRP plan. These plans aren’t quick fixes or static responses to disasters; they are ‘living and breathing’ documents that need new information to grow and become robust. This is why they should never be considered as complete; as the organization grows and changes – and the circumstances surrounding the organization changes – so to must the BCM and DRP plans.
It’s like trying to pin a cloud to the sky; it can’t be done. A BCP / DRP plan can’t stand still; it must be flexible, adaptable and continue to grow.
Risk profiles and risk triggers will continue to change as the organization develops and implements its strategic and tactical goals and objectives – the BCM program and plans must be able to follow along to assist in ensuring the organization can respond to a situation that might take them off their strategic path. A good plan or program is not a destination, it’s really a desired state of being where plans and processes are nurtured to grow and expand – it’s not a plateau you reach and then stop.
So if you want the best BCP / DRP plans to address as many situations and scenarios as possible when your organization is hit by a disaster, understand that to ensure they do just that, don’t ever consider the plans complete. Think of them as an entity that needs to grow and needs attention, otherwise when you need your plans, they won’t be able to help you because they’d reflect contingencies and strategies that represent the company when the plan was first developed – which could be years earlier.

© StoneRoad 2014
A.Alex Fullick has over 17 years experience working in Business Continuity and is the author of numerous books, including “Heads in the Sand” and “BIA: Building the Foundation for a Strong Business Continuity Program.”

Regards,

A.Alex Fullick, MBCI, CBCP, CBRA, v3ITIL | Director, Stone Road Inc. | 1-416-830-4632 | alex@stone-road.com

“Failure isn’t about falling down, failure is staying down…” – Marillion

BCM & DR: Can Organizations be Resilient?

There’s allot of talk of organization’s becoming resilient and how they need to be resilient if they are to compete successfully and respond accordingly to the ever increasing disasters of the world – both man-made and natural in causation. But that begs the question: Can organizations be resilient? In this practitioner’s opinion, yes, they can though it takes more than a single aspect to become resilient.

Many would have you believe that you can buy resiliency off a shelf; a service or product purchased from a firm touting that they can make your organization resilient, as though the procurement of a ‘product’ will make an organization resilient. Well, unless they are a pseudo-psychologist or have a background in leadership psychology, they can’t; at least not completely. Sure, it’s fine to say that Business Continuity Plans (BCP) and Technology Recovery Plans (TRP) et al will make an organization resilient but that’s just not the complete picture. It’s only part of the overall picture.

It’s just not a simple concept – though it would be great it if was. What will make an organization resilient? Is there some sort of magic ingredient that will suddenly ensure that an organization will bounce back from any adverse situation? Well, yes and no. It’s not one single ingredient, it’s multiple ingredients that when combined just so, will help any organization get through difficult situations.

The following sections outline some areas that must be considered as part of the overall resiliency plan if an organization is to become resilient. See which one’s fit within your organization and which items you might want to focus on to improve or instil a sense of resiliency.

1 – Previous Adverse Experiences
Resilient by definition means ‘bouncing back from adversity’ so no one can be resilient if there hasn’t been previous adverse situations that the person / organization hasn’t bounced back from. How is an organization resilient if it’s never had an adverse experience? How can you measure resiliency? What are you measuring against? What has it bounced back from to prove it became resilient? It can’t be because it’s wouldn’t have anything to bounce back from, so how could it ever know it was resilient? It can’t. Of course, some would say that because the organization didn’t suffer badly during a disaster, it was resilient. Well, maybe it really wasn’t a disaster or major crisis, just a well-timed and coordinated response; that doesn’t automatically equate to being resilient.

2 – Plans/Process
It would be ridiculous to suggest that BCPs and TRPs etc don’t help make an organization resilient; of course they do. These are what get opened up and followed (or used as a guide) when the ‘real’ situation occurs. Through consistent validation and testing, amendments are made and they become more and more robust over time; able to deal with a myriad of situations. If the plans are living, validated and leveraged, then the plans will help the organization become resilient. Not just from providing point by point activities but because the validation and the testing that goes on behind them helps instil a sense of accomplishment and progression to those who use them.

3 – Technology
You can set technology functions up in a way that keeps it going even when the power goes out; even when a primary server (or other component) goes down and data/communications are redirected. You can keep the ‘green lights’ on in many ways (too many for this small article). The technology component is the single most discussed area of resiliency, to the point where many organizations believe they are resilient simply if they have a strong technology recovery or IT disaster plan in place. Well, we know that IT is only part of the overall picture.

4 – Leadership
Leaders are usually leaders because they are resilient as a person, not because they have a high profile title behind their name. They have fought there way through the ranks, overcoming obstacles and thought their way through many complex challenges, all so they can be the leader – or a leader – of an organization; a reward for hard work and perseverance. A good leader will give back to the organization and help train others within the organization how to better focus energies and deal with adverse situations.

5 – Culture
Who creates the culture? Leaders, create it. If the aspects noted in #4 are true, then the corporate culture will eventually sway in that direction, even when those that oppose the leader find they have to deal with the new way of doing things or decide to leave for other pastures. We all know what flows downhill when theirs a problem, but if a good leader really is a good leader, then the good also flows downhill. This positive aspect will help

6 – People
People. People are the most important component of resiliency. Without resilient minded people, no organization will ever truly be resilient. Its people that bounce back from adversity and as the old English adage states, ‘Carry On.’ From the org’s leadership right down to the newest person walking through the door. They all must work together to support each other; from the top down to the bottom up. Everyone has something offer in an organization and everyone has a role to play when a disaster occurs.

When all these aspects are combined, then and only then, will an organization have the chance to become resilient. Then, an organization must encounter a situation that tests all these components and that’s when an organization can determine if it’s resilient or not. Once an organization has bounced back and can stand in front of its clients, customers, partners and the general public stating that it has weathered the storm with its reputation intact, that’s when it becomes resilient; not when it buys a product or service off a shelf.

© StoneRoad 2014 (A.Alex Fullick)