To many, it might seem easier just to go the online application route to perform a Business Impact Analysis (BIA) or build Business Continuity Plans (BCP), Crisis Management & Communication protocols and even Disaster Team roles and responsibilities. However, it’s not always that easy. An online solution may not be the best bet to start with, as there are considerations organizations need to think of before going down the ‘online’ route.
1. Financial Considerations:
a. Product Cost – This is one of the main considerations for all purchases. If it’s too expensive – regardless of what it does and/or doesn’t do – many won’t consider it. So, the price is something that pops to the top of every list no matter what the requirements are. Once cost is balanced against other requirements, then the real decision get made. Want and need against the cost to get what suits the organization.
b. Administrator Training: Often, the purchase of a solution means that someone – either an individual or a group of individuals need to be trained on how to administrate and configure the new application.
c. User Training: In the past there have been instances where individuals must travel to the vendor’s location to receive training on their product – this may still occur for some products. If this is the case, then your organization must take into account the additional travel and accommodation costs attributed to the number – and length – of training courses that have to be taken before anyone can begin to use the product. In some instances, this might add weeks to your planned implementation schedule because the course offerings (training) may be dependent upon the vendor’s availability and if current courses have any available spaces.
2. Set-Up & Configuration: This requires your internal IT team to get involved. They need to ensure they have a server available or space on an existing server to house the new application. In many instances, they want to know more questions that you’re able to answer, and then chatting back and forth with the vendor for configuration requirements may take some time, especially if you encounter any issues.
3. Internal Technology Involvement: OK, so you bought the new online application – now what? Who internally is going to support it and do they need training on its workings and what’s required to support you and the internal users?
4. Support & On-going Maintenance: Make sure that if you have any questions, contacting someone for assistance is easily available. If you’re vendor is in another time zone, their support hours may not cover the time you’re in the office and thus, you only have a small winder each day to speak with someone. Find out what level of support is offered. In some instances most of the technical support ends up coming from your own internal IT personnel, which usually frustrates them, as they’re supporting a systems/application that isn’t theirs to start with.
5. Questionnaire Build: Most applications, such as those intended for Business Impact Analysis (BIA), come with some pre-existing questions, which you can leverage. However, in many cases the questions are generic and may not represent the full range of information you require. If that’s the case, then you need to ensure you have time available to plan out your questions and then insert them into the application. Depending upon the application functions, you may have to build in links between various questions. For example, if a question is answered with a ‘no’ then it skips the following questions that may appear if the answer to a question was ‘yes’. Good questions will help give you the information you need so be sure to spend time on the questions to ensure they meet the needs of your organization.
6. Reporting: One of the advantages to online applications, is they are able to provide all sort of reports and report formats. However, since each organization is different and the reporting isn’t standard from one organization to another – let alone reporting related to BCM/DR – an organization may have to design its own reports and build the criteria around them so that it gets the information it wants to make decisions based on the input from users. Designing reports may come at a later date once the user (BCM resource) is more comfortable with the application and when there is actual data to work from, rather than building the report before actual responses and input has been received.
7. Time: Time is money, as they say; do you have the time to get everything noted above coordinated before moving on to build your BCM/DR program? If the direction from senior management to build a program comes with deadlines (i.e. a BIA completed in 2 months with findings and recommendations) do you have the time to begin looking for an online solution, purchase it, design to you specifications, train users (including yourself), get users to complete the questionnaires (or whatever is being sought), capture the findings and present them to executives? Quite possibly not. The online solution may become a more long term aspect to enhance the program, rather than the component that kicks it off.
8. Growth: If you’re organization has grown by leaps and bounds it will become impossible to be able to manage all the various program components. Change would be happening so quickly (let’s hope) that a manual process would take too long and be too labour intensive to ensure plans are kept current, incorporating the change in so many locations (assuming new facilities are being utilized), new nationalities and requirements, new departments (spread over multiple locations) and new processes and client/vendor/partner needs. And this doesn’t begin to include the new challenges for Technology Recovery Plan (TRP).
In the end, an online solution will eventually expedite information and keep it manageable, it just can take allot of effort to get there. Sometimes the old manual method of acquiring BIA information is quicker and easier. Yet while that is being done, an online solution can be investigated and slowly built in the background being populated with the information being obtained from the initial BIA – when you’ve actually moved on from the BIA and working on developing contingency strategies and solution. The manual process for BCM/Dr can only last so long before it becomes harder to maintain. As the organization grows and hierarchical structures begin to ebb and flow to meet new challenges, the online version can respond much quicker than updating multiple documents.
In no way is this intended to deter organizations form using online BCM/Dr applications; in fact in the long run they can offer more good than negative. But, starting out fresh with them can cause delays and hindrances you may not have time to tolerate.
© Stone Road Inc. (StoneRoad) A.Alex Fullick, MBCI, CBCP, CBRA, v3ITIL