BCP/ IT DRP Plans: Never Consider Them Complete

28 07 2014

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





Business Continuity Management (BCM) / Disaster Recovery (DR) Document Templates Available for Small and Medium Businesses!!

3 07 2014

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!

Happy planning!

Regards,
The StoneRoad Team

“Reduce Suffering Through Disaster Planning”

© 2014, Stone Road Inc.





BCM & DR Books to Help Build Your Program by A.Alex Fullick, MBCI, CBCP, CBRA, v3ITIL

3 07 2014

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.

1) Heads in the Sand: What Stops Corporations From Seeing Business Continuity as a Social Responsibility

2) Business Impact Analysis (BIA): Building the Foundation for a Strong Business Continuity Program

3) Made Again – Volume 1: Practical Advice for Business Continuity Programs

4) Made Again – Volume 2: Practical Advice for Business Continuity Programs

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!!

Regards,
The StoneRoad Team

© 2014, Stone Road Inc.





BCM / DR: eBooks Now Available by A. Alex Fullick (Stone Road Inc)

21 06 2014

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
OR

https://stone-road.netfirms.com/cart/index.php?main_page=document_product_info&cPath=3&products_id=201&zenid=3d712e28f2680972874f7e4a8d473940

Business Impact Analysis
OR

https://stone-road.netfirms.com/cart/index.php?main_page=document_product_info&cPath=3&products_id=202&zenid=3d712e28f2680972874f7e4a8d473940

‘Like’ Join us on Facebook too at Stone Road Inc.

The StoneRoad Team.
(C) Stone Road Inc, 2014





BCM / DR: The Little Test Activities Often Forgotten

26 04 2014

Having been a part of dozens of test to varying size and scales, I’ve come across quite a few instances where planners – including myself at times – forget to consider when organizing a BCM / DR test. I thought I’d come up with ten (10) areas that have at some point, been a fly in the ointment of test coordinators and caused issues further down the road and on one occasion, at the moment the test was scheduled to begin.

1. Production Priorities – Believe it or not, once everyone was so focused on testing they forgot to ensure that someone was left to support any production issues. While testing activities were underway, all members of a department were focused on ensuring that the test went well that no one was monitoring a production issue, which needless to say, caused allot of grief for business units. Don’t forget that even when you’re testing BCM/DR capabilities, you’re production environments are still ‘live’.

2. Test Strategy – Know ahead of time what strategy you’re going to leverage for testing purposes and ensure its communicated and agreed-to by everyone involved or else different groups will be working in isolation and not working towards the same thing.

3. Managing Scope – Keep people on track during planning and execution. If no one is clear on scope then the activities they plan and execute might not achieve the goals you’ve set. It also means that even though they might perform tasks successfully and everyone is happy, you still didn’t get what you originally planned for. It’s like being given a bicycle to get from A to B when you originally asked for a pickup truck. Sure you got to where you’re going but the goal was the truck. Did you really achieve your goal and scope if the scope and goal was to get from A to B with a truck? Nope, you didn’t.

4. Resource Assignment – When user activities are required it has been assumed the people needed will be available but often the department responsible for the resources are never approached about being part of the test and when they are, it’s too late because people are working on other initiatives. So make sure you speak with other teams early so that resources can be aligned early.

5. Change Management / Requests – This is relate to the scope; if you’re changing something – even times, dates etc – make sure everyone knows about it and that you document the desired change. Using the previous example about the bicycle and truck; it may have been a great idea to change the truck to the bicycle and it still worked for you however, the scope was the truck and there was no formal mention of changing it to the bicycle. If you’d managed it correctly and documented the fact you were going to use a bicycle, then it would have been known by everyone that the truck is ‘out’ and the bike was ‘in’ and everything would be a success.

6. Agreement – When you have key decisions made or need key decisions to be made, ensure you have agreement on the final outcome. It could be that if you make decisions without consulting impacted parties, they won’t support what you’ve determined and will continue on their original path. This only means confusion and failure further down the road. Keep everyone on the same page and part of the decision making process; if even as an FYI in some cases.

7. Documentation – Make sure you document all aspects of the test; most notably scope and goals and objectives. If you don’t who do you know you met them? You won’t even be able to talk to audit and prove you did what you set out to do because you don’t have anything that captures what you originally set out to do and quite possibly, nothing that sums up what you actually did (a test summary document).

8. Focus on Test Planning Rather Than Planning the Test – Try not to get far off the path here. It’s one thing to ensure you plan the test so that it doesn’t impact production systems or other critical aspects and it’s another to set up the test in a way that it has no relevance and doesn’t reflect what you’d actually do in a real situation. If that happens, you really aren’t testing anything. You need to know where the gaps are in the plans and that they’ll work in a real situation.

9. Test Timelines – Estimate activity sequences and schedule accordingly. If it takes 24 hours to get a mainframe up and running – from scratch – then have end users come in at the same time as the main frame team would be ridiculous, as they’d be sitting around for an entire day before they can do anything. That won’t make them happy.

10. Test Schedule – Plan ahead. When planning efforts are underway to schedule major initiatives over the next year or so, make sure that testing is part of that planning effort. This ensure that departments are aware of the test ahead of schedule and that they are able to plan for that initiative. Also, if you have 3rd party DR vendors involved, you often have no choice but to schedule test time a year in advance or run the risk of not having any time available to test, as the vendors other clients will take up all the available time.

Some of this may seem obvious but you’d be surprised how often the simply things can derail a test. Keep in mind the little things and you’ll have a great chance of success. Remember, if you have the most luxurious car in the world, it does nothing if you don’t have the key.

© 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.”





BCM/DR: Understanding Want and Need

15 01 2014

BIA results can help determine many aspects of the BCM/DR program to come; they validate what is required – and what’s not. And what’s required and what’s not is determined through the development of the various strategies and approaches that are created as a result of the BIA findings. However, that doesn’t stop individuals of all levels from believing they know what they require for their restoration and recovery strategy regardless of what the BIA findings state.

This is because many individuals have a difficult time comprehending that they may not be the most important area within the organization and thus, aren’t required to be available immediately. And if a department – or particular aspects of a department – aren’t required immediately after a disaster, many will disregard that fact and begin to state what they must have; what they want vs. what they actually need.

The difference between want and need is something that all BCM/DR practitioners must clearly understand and communicate to department leads; especially those responsible for acquiring, developing and implementing the various strategies required to address BIA findings.

A department that is not required to have its processes become immediately available after a disaster will want specific action to be taken so they can become available sooner but resources, BIA findings and cost will determine that it is not needed.

Sometimes business people – even some IT personnel – will state they want something but there isn’t any information / data to back up their requirement. The BIA and resulting continuity, restoration and recovery strategies required to address those findings, determines what is needed and what isn’t. Here’s the difference between want and need:

• Need is based on what the agreed-to BAI findings state is required – based on the strategy developed. Then you know what you need and it separates from the want.
• Want is based on feelings and desire, and no one wants their department processes to be formally classed as not being required during a disaster – or at least not immediately required.

Need is something that if isn’t available, a department that wants to be up and running cannot be up and running because dependencies required to run the department (i.e. items that arrive from other departments) aren’t available or aren’t required based on BIA findings. So even then, when a department wants to be available, it still can’t become available because one of its dependencies aren’t needed. So even when people state they know what they want and what they believe they need, the BCM/DR professional must ensure that the strategy departments want aligns to the strategy the organization needs.

Make sure you know the difference and if asked why something isn’t provisioned for, you’ll understand – through the BIA findings – the reason.

© 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.”





12 Reasons Why Organizations Will ‘Forget’ What to Do in a Disaster

16 09 2013

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

Books by A. Alex Fullick Available at the following:
http://www.stone-road.com, http://www.amazon.com & http://www.volumesdirect.com








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