We’re pleased to announce the new book by StoneRoad founder, A. Alex Fullick, is now available: “Testing Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity Plans: How to Plan and Execute Successful Tests”. It comes on the heals of his successful book “Business Impact Analysis”. Like all of Mr. Fullick’s books, they are all based on real-world hands-on experiences taken from nearly 20 years in the BCM/DR industry. Get your copy at amazon.com or at our own shop on stone-road.com. Read the full press release below! Regards, The StoneRoad Team ************************************************** Continue reading
Not every business can spend thousands and thousands of dollars on expensive software packages to get their BCM / DR programs off the ground – or has the time to get software configured and ready for use.
Having experienced these challenges first hand, StoneRoad developed a cheaper alternative: we developed document templates for Business Impact Analysis (BIA), Business Continuity Plans (BCP) and more.
Visit the StoneRoad site and go to the Shop section to view the various templates available and get your program moving with a low cost alternative to expensive software! Each template provides instructions on what information is needed so that you can build your program with less fuss – and with more results!
Here’s just a sample of our document offerings:
1) Test Scope Charter Document (Word Document)
2) Business Impact Analysis (BIA) (Excel Worksheets)
3) Operating Unit Business Continuity Plan (BCP) Template (Word Document)
4) Emergency Employee Logistics & Pandemic Plan (Word Document)
5) Test Executive Summary (Word Document)
…and more. We’re adding new templates all the time to help you. We even have BCM & DR books and ebooks available.
So download what you need and get started!
The StoneRoad Team
“Reduce Suffering Through Disaster Planning”
© 2014, Stone Road Inc.
The message about disasters, disaster planning and business continuity is slowly spreading throughout the globe, as we see more and more organizations beginning to realize the value of preparedness and response activities to protect their operations and instil confidence in those they do business with.
Here at StoneRoad, we’ve seen a spike in people asking us questions and seeking advice on Business Continuity Management (BCM) / Disaster Recovery Programs – and we couldn’t be happier.
So we’d like to remind you that there are some great books by our founder, Alex Fullick, that can help provide great insight into how a good program operates – and how it shouldn’t. The books noted below are available on Amazon.com and at our own shop over at www.stone-road.com.
Keep an eye out for the next book by A.Alex Fullick; “Testing Disaster and Business Continuity Plans” expected to launch in the fall of 2014.
Until then, happy planning!!
The StoneRoad Team
© 2014, Stone Road Inc.
We’ve been a bunch of busy beavers here at StoneRoad. We’re very happy to announce that two books by our founder A.Alex Fullick, ‘Heads in the Sand’ and ‘Business Impact Analysis’ are now exclusively available as ebooks at the StoneRoad shop.
Get your copies now using the links below:
Heads in the Sand
Business Impact Analysis
‘Like’ Join us on Facebook too at Stone Road Inc.
The StoneRoad Team.
(C) Stone Road Inc, 2014
Many organizations can build comprehensive BCM program and plans; detailing every action and activity needed to ensure the continued operation of an organization when a disaster strikes. However, even the most comprehensive program and plan can still suffer greatly when they are needed the most because many organizations’ DR team and team members forget what it is they are supposed to do.
There are many reasons for that. Sudden changes in environment can throw people for a loop, as the situation throws chaos into their normal day and it’s easy for people to forget what to do when they are required to do it. Sometimes the reason for plan activities or action items being forgotten occur even before the disaster situation makes itself known.
Below are some of the reasons why people – and organizations – forget their activities before and during a disaster.
1. No Executive Support: It’s easy to forget some initiative within an organization when even the executive leadership don’t support it. After all, if they don’t care for something, why should anyone else? It’s that simple, without executive support people will quickly forget that there is BCM or DR program in place for when a disaster occurs. Even executives will wonder where it is and believe it or not, even without their support having played a part in its development (if at all) will wonder why no one knows what’s going on and why people aren’t performing tasks.
2. No Leadership: Continuing on from #1, people want leadership during a disaster; they believe that those responsible for the organization in good times, is also responsible for the organization during bad times and will provide guidance and leadership on what needs to be done when a disaster occurs. If there is no one taking responsibility for the disaster, then people are left hanging – wondering what to do. This doesn’t mean the leader or coordinator of the response functions is responsible for the disaster, it means they are taking the responsibility to lead the organization resulting of the disaster. Even if employees and members of various DR teams are aware of their activities, they are still looking at the organizations leadership to provide direction and provide answers to any key questions that may come up as a result of specific situations discovered based on the disaster. If executives and/or senior management aren’t part of the decision making process and part of the BCM program, they won’t know what to do or what is expected of them. The executives themselves won’t be aware of the DR/BCM team makeup or what any of the program protocols are. They could end up trying to lead the organization through the disaster, blind.
3. No Plans: One of the biggest reasons people will stand around wondering what to do is that there isn’t a plan – even a bad one – in place for them to activate, reference and follow. In a nutshell, the organization has done nothing to promote any sort of disaster response or planning mechanisms and when disaster strikes, there is no know prioritization of what needs to be activated. All the responses are made up on the spot, which could pose even more problems for the organization. It’s like a jigsaw puzzle; you don’t start putting the pieces together until you know the picture (or at least most people don’t) and you can’t rebuild a corporation after a disaster when you don’t even know what pieces you need first to rebuild it. No plans in place can mean the end of the organization, as it will take too long to figure out what is priority between the business and technology and getting the two to agree to a restoration, recovery and resumption strategy. You can’t ‘wing’ it in a disaster…
4. No Delegation of Authority: It’s often quite comical when someone is required to perform BCM activities, as captured in a DR/BCP or crisis management plan but they aren’t give the authority to do so. This can mean they don’t have the delegation of authority to make decisions or provide guidance to others or they don’t have the IDs and/or passwords to perform functions. It’s like giving someone a car and telling them it is all paid for and its there for as long as they want it but not giving them the key. This is one thing that stops many organizations from performing activities; people don’t have the authority to do anything and thus, they are waiting for direction from others when in fact they are the ones who are supposed to be providing the direction. If someone doesn’t have the right authority to perform activities, they will be a roadblock to other activities and many groups may be standing and waiting around for guidance and information. And further on the point of IDs and passwords; often this information is created and placed in a secure location that people forget about. Rarely are they reviewed and updated and even remembered because they are placed in an online folder, which is no longer available because technology has failed. These IDs and passwords are for use only during a disaster so they rarely get reviewed. These should be part of an annual (at least) review to ensure the people remember where they are and what they are – and remember that these are probably powerful IDs and passwords and only a few key people should know about them to start with. If someone leaves the organization, make sure you change the passwords and remove their ID just in case. When you test, try activities using these profiles to ensure that they are current and validated; that required activities can be performed using these ‘generic’ IDs and passwords but are amended after the test so they are fresh and those using them – the users – can’t use them during normal business hours.
5. No Testing/Validation: If validation activities are not performed, then how can anyone know exactly what to do? Testing is a form of training and training will help people identify their roles and build BCM plans and processes. When testing, start off small and then build upon successes – and upon problems – so that the program becomes stronger and stronger. If no one participates in test then no one has the opportunity to practice their roles and areas of responsibility; they then need someone to remind them or provide guidance to them as to what to do. Also, if you only test once or rarely, people will forget what they need to do and where their materials are located.
6. Assumptions: A key reason many stand around not knowing what to do, or forgetting what they need to do, is related back to the assumptions made during the initial stages of building and implementing plans and processes. All too often non-technology departments (i.e. “the business”) will make assumptions about technology departments (i.e. “IT”) but without ever validating that the assumptions are correct; sometimes never even letting the other know that an assumption has even been made. From personal experience, there have been too many instances where one side of the other states that ‘IT/business knows x or y…’ or that ‘IT/business will do…’ and it almost never proves to be true. Both teams end up confused not knowing what to do because they are waiting on the other for information or they are assuming that something is occurring while they’re just waiting for some confirmation that an activity is done. In reality, everyone is standing around not knowing what to do or who to even talk to. If you’re using assumption in your initial planning, through exercises and tests, the amount of assumptions being used should dwindle over time as they either become actual roles within a plan/process or become proven to be false and are removed from a plan/process.
7. No Awareness & Training: It’s a simple one really; no one knows what to do in a disaster because no one has told them about it. They haven’t been part of the overall program build or design (not that everyone needs to be part of every phase) and haven’t been told they are responsible for specific activities. Often, DR team members don’t even know they are part of that team until someone asks what they are going to do in a meeting full of other managers – some not sure why they are their in the first place. This also means that they haven’t bee involved with any testing activities to help validate plans, which is one of the best opportunities for training; executing activities under controlled circumstances to actually learn what needs to be completed and understand expectations.
8. Plans and Processes are Written in Isolation: Sometimes its not even a case of forgetting what needs to be done, as outlined in a BCP/DR plan – it’s never being told of what is in the plan and not being part of its build. All to often plans are build in isolation meaning someone not within the department is writing its contents based on what they know and what they hear at meeting yet if the actual user isn’t part of that development or the person responsible for actioning activities isn’t part of the plans development, they aren’t going to know what activities they are responsible for. Ensure that all plans are written with the person or persons responsible for the plan itself; the person who’ll actually be responsible to action the activities within the plan.
9. No Review of Plans (by Users): One of the best ways to ensure that a BCP/DR plans everything it needs and that the content is clear and understood, is to ensure that its reviewed by the actual user. When they review existing plans, as noted in #8 above, they can recommend enhancements, additions or even deletions based on real knowledge of what needs to be done. If a plan was written in isolation and not review was performed by an actual user, it’s no wonder people don’t know what actions to take or even where their plans is – if they even know there is a plan in the first place. If no review of the plan is performed then the users themselves don’t become familiar with content and what is expected of them. Instead of initiating proactive measures they wait for someone to tell them what is expected and in many cases, those individuals are assuming that ‘plan’ users know what needs to be done.
10. Focus on Blame: When an organization has a disaster, often you see the Public Relations (PR) representative or the President stand in front of a microphone being questioned by members of the media – or even the public sometimes – and they spend allot of time pointing the finger of blame or trying to deflect any criticism or questioning on what the organization is doing. When employees see this, they will spend their time trying to find the cause of the problem or the ‘right one to blame’ rather than concentrating on a proper response, restoration and recovery strategy. All hands are on deck to find out what is wrong and who should be help responsible but if leadership is busy with that approach then employees will be too, as they won’t be focusing on the right tasks at hand. It ends up being a crutch that organizations leverage so that they can start their restoration and recovery activities in the background, away from the face of the media. Usually, this means they didn’t have any strategy in place to begin with and the excuse that someone else is to blame is used as a smokescreen to cover the fact that behind the scenes, no one knows what to do within the organization.
11. Checklist Approach: If BCM is checkbox on someone’s report, the chances are it’s a checkbox on an executive report. They eventually see the checkbox ticked and then there is no more discussion or promotion of the BCM initiatives. This also means that the only reason the program was stated in the first place was to ensure someone’s checkbox was ticked and that it drops off of any report or audit ticket. Chances are good that the work and value of the work performed to plan, develop and execute plans was minimal at best and won’t be of much use during a real situation. Thus, no one will pay close attention to the BCM program and the related plans because it’s treated as a one-time thing – forgotten when the checkbox is identified as complete.
12. Seeking Direction: Like many people, when something occurs everyone looks around for direction; who will take control of the situation and tell us what to do? Staff will look to management while management is looking at executives; each expecting the other to provide direction on what they should – or shouldn’t – be doing. Think of when a fire alarm goes off in a facility – even a fire drill – most people keep working or start asking if it’s a real situation or not. Should be get up? Should we leave? Many wait to be told to leave before they bother responding to the alarms. If people can’t understand that they need to leave when the fire alarms go off its no wonder they don’t understand their role when a disaster strikes. Everyone is seeking direction from someone else.
Finally, panic is something that can run rampant during a disaster. When that happens, any thought of gaining control of the situation can go out the window and there’s no way anyone is going to pay attention to their role on a disaster team when that happens. This is why many of the items noted above need to be addressed prior to any situation occurring. When people are more aware of what to do and have been through it a few times – each more challenging than the last – they are better prepared to deal with the situation when it’s real – not faked under controlled circumstances, as it is usually done during a test. There will still be an element of panic – it’s almost a given – but putting measures in place to deal with it ahead of time can help reduce its impact and increase the chances considerably that no one will be standing around wondering what to do; they won’t forget.
© StoneRoad (Stone Road Inc) 2013
Many of us don’t hear about a crisis until it hits the newswires, either through social media, news websites or through a posting on a social site we might follow. In some cases, we might not know about a crisis until we see 1st responders racing down the road heading towards and emergency.
Some will automatically see a disaster as a large catastrophe and one of the BCM/DR industry definitions of a disaster is that it’s a sudden, unplanned event that prevents the organization from performing normal operations. Though both a crisis and/or disaster can start well before the public or media even get wind of the problem.
Sometimes a disaster doesn’t begin until after a period of time when a lesser level of operational hindrance has been experienced. Then when the disaster itself occur, the management of the situation will determine the level of crisis; meaning how well the crisis is handled from the perspective of the public, media, stakeholders (vendors, partners etc) and employees.
For an operational impact, it could be that a key application is offline but is that a disaster? Probably not. If the offline application has a major impact upon people causing major distress and problems such as something in health care or the financial industry, then yes, that application being offline – even for a short time – is a disaster. How the immediate response and post-disaster activities are managed is what will create the crisis for the company. If you get something up and running within a very short time (and in today’s world that’s usually no more than an hour) then it might not be a disaster and a quick response and communication to the community will suffice. If it’s longer, then the management level and involvement of the situation and the level of impact it has becomes a disaster.
Still, if an organization has an internal Crisis Management process in place, early identification and response measures may prevent the incident from escalating and becoming a crisis – or a disaster if nothing is done about it – in the media or public eye. It was just an incident that didn’t have any major impact. Oddly enough, it could have been a major interruption but the impact on Service Level Agreements (SLA), employees, customers, vendors and partners was limited in size and scope; it was just a major incident for the company involved because of the resources (financial, time, personnel) it took to get resolved.
So, when does a crisis start?
It starts the moment the organization believes that someone – anyone – will begin to ask questions. It could be a client, employee (who will access social media about it if they haven’t been educated about not communicating corporate activities), vendor, partner or in some cases a financial institution or legislative body. An organization may be able to manage the situation internally with little impacts being had on external – and internal parties – but as soon as questions are asked about the disruption, you have the start of a crisis. It’s how well you manage those initial questions – along with the incident response itself (I.e. getting the critical application up and running as soon as possible) – that will determine how big the crisis escalates. If you don’t manage it properly the crisis will grow and escalate, making it a ‘Public Relations’ disaster.
The start of a crisis is different for every organization. It all depends on the level of preparation, preparedness and response is developed and instilled within the corporate operations. If an organization doesn’t have anything developed or the level of development is sub-par and very ‘flimsy’, the crisis starts quickly and escalates quickly – reaching that “PR” disaster timeframe in record time.
Hello dear readers!! We’ve been a bit quiet lately over here at StoneRoad due to multiple vacations (Singapore, Australia, New Zealand and more) and now that we’re all back, it’s time to start posting once more. Enjoy…
The StoneRoad Team
**The below section is an abbreviated bonus taken from the Appendix of the book, “Business Impact Analysis (BA): Building the Foundations for a Strong Business Continuity Program” by A.Alex Fullick. The full text can be found in the aforementioned book.**
Business Continuity Management (BCM), like most corporate programs, is often plagued by common mistakes; these common mistakes also apply to the Business Impact Analysis (BIA. The following are some common mistakes that need to be addressed to ensure that the BIA is effective:
1. Minimal Management Support – Senior management must buy in to the need for continued maintenance of the BCP program. The program requires on-going resources to ensure that the program is funded and there are dedicated resources assigned across the organization. The people who head up the BCP program must have the requisite training, as well as the skills to provide leadership, prioritize tasks, communicate with stakeholders, and manage the program.
2. No Timely Follow Up of Results – A BIA is conducted almost always in support of an enterprise-wide business continuity program. The real value of a BIA is the follow-up activities that lead to effective recovery strategies being implemented based on the BIA priorities of the business processes. Occasionally, so much effort and cost is put into the BIA that business continuity planners never get around to fully implementing the follow-up recovery strategies and plans. Without the implementation of these follow-ups, the value of the BIA becomes wasted.
3. No Agreement on Scope (Level of Detail) – This level of detail can span an entire spectrum. On one end, some BIAs will contain relatively little detail to provide a higher-level executive view of the analysis. On the other end, and far more prevalent, are BIAs that include for each business process its corresponding input dependencies, output dependencies, recovery point objectives, recovery time objectives, and financial impacts. The common mistake here does not involve selecting the right or wrong level of detail – what’s appropriate for one company may be totally inappropriate for another – but rather, failing to reach agreement among all relevant parties as to what level of detail best meets the requirements that are driving the BIA in the first place.
4. Minimal Executive Support – One of the factors that most influences the relative success of a BIA is the degree of executive support offered at the outset. The kickoff process usually consists of two parts: a widely distributed email and an initial presentation. The email should come from the highest level executive sponsoring the BIA and should be distributed to all parties who will be participating in the effort. The email should emphatically voice the executive’s support for the project and insist on the support of al participants, particularly during the interview process.
5. Poor Questionnaires – An important step of any BIA is the collection of data from business units. The manner in which this data is asked for often spells the difference between a full, timely and meaningful collection of data, and one that is delayed and incomplete. One of the best ways to avoid this situation is to develop survey forms that are thorough enough to capture all relevant information and simple enough for business users to complete quickly and easily.
6. Lack of Preparation for Interviews/Workshops – Interviews are the cornerstone of a successful BIA, yet few planners prepare adequately for them to ensure their effectiveness. Interviewers need to learn as much as they can about a given business unit prior to the meeting, including a thorough review of the respondent’s survey.
7. Lack of Critical Focus – Analysts frequently make the mistake of asking business users ‘what are the most important business processes within their department?’ The reason this is a mistake is because virtually all critical business processes have a large degree of importance and value – otherwise they would not be designated as critical – resulting in less likelihood of it being easy to prioritize processes according to value or importance. A much better question to ask is ‘how long can a business process be idle before major impact is felt?
8. Focusing on the Tools Instead of the Process – Some analysts who conduct BIAs become very focused on the tools they will be using in the collection, compiling and analyzing the data provided by the business users. The emphasis often shifts inappropriately from the process being used, to the automation that can be applied to the process. There is an inherent flaw in this approach. If a poorly designed manual process that is being used to collect and analyze the data suddenly becomes automated, what you typically end up with is a poorly designed automated process.
9. Ineffective Interviewing Technique – I have known more than a few BIA analysts who preferred to rely solely on surveys, questionnaires and emails to collect needed data. The example previously cited concerning the over-focus on tools shows how this can less than desirable results. Analysts often say that setting up interviews can be more hassle than it’s worth. They will mention how interviews often start late, or may be cut short, or have to be re-scheduled, or cancelled altogether. In my experience, the real reason some BIA analysts try to steer clear of face-to-face meetings is that they tend to use ineffective techniques when interviewing business process owners.
10. Insufficient Results Analysis – Analysts conducting a BIA collect a wealth of information during the course of their efforts. But the value of this information is sometimes diminished by poor or incomplete analysis of the data. Analysts need to look for trends, patterns, relationships and discrepancies among and within the data to ensure a thorough and meaningful analysis.
11. Unclear Presentations – Data that is thoroughly collected and well analyzed is sometimes de-valued by an unclear or confusing presentation of the information and results. Managers in general and sponsoring executives in particular, expect BIA analysts to summarize their results in high-level presentations that are succinct and effective. Unfortunately, this does not always happen. Analysts gather a huge amount of data in the process of conducting BIA. In compiling and analyzing this data, analyst sometime err on the side of presenting too much information rather than too little.
12. Undefined Scope – Often, the BCP focuses entirely on system restoration. Resumption of business needs to include the people and processes required to resume operations. Many BCP programs are headed up by IT departments. ‘Tunnel vision’ can often cause these departments to focus on system recovery and not take the people issues into account. During an event, the people issues are often the most difficult to resolve. The scope of a business impact analysis (BIA) pertains to the number of business units, such as Finance, Administration and IT, which will be participating in the effort.
Don’t let your BIA efforts fall to the wayside; make sure you have strong BIA approach and you’ll end up with a strong BCM / DR program.