Nothing happens without good planning and implementation strategies and this is required when planning out the development of the Business Continuity Management (BCM) / Disaster Recovery (DR) program. It’s impossible to just start something without having any idea when you’ll be finished or what you need to reach along the way to be able to take the next step.
Often, to get proper buy-in from executives, a BCM/DR practitioner has to provide a timeline alongside the goals and deliverables the project will provide. Its one thing to provide the reasons why you need a program and if those are accepted by executives as valid reasons (let’s hope they think so…), the next question will be, “When will it be done?” So, a draft timeline must be mapped out; from how long a BIA will take and when the findings will be delivered to when the 1st test will occur.
Of course, it will all be built upon assumptions such as resource availability for example, but a high-level timeline must be provided to executives. Below are ten considerations a practitioner must keep in mind when building the BCM/DR program:
1. Communicate Schedule – At first you’re communicating the schedule to the executive team hoping for buy-in on need for a BCM/DR program build but you also need to communicate the schedule with other stakeholders. For example, if you’re going to be meeting with all division leaders, they should know what you’re timelines are so they can work within those or recommend amendments if the timeline is unrealistic (to them).
2. Base on Agreed-to Availability – If a department isn’t available due to some high-priority initiative during the week of a specific month, then schedule around them and accommodate their priorities. It could be that you meet with them first or schedule them last so that they don’t experience any distractions as they implement their own high priority project. Meet with the department/division leads to ensure that timing is mutually satisfactory.
3. Report Progress – Once you’re got a timeline developed and approved, executives are going to expect a report on your progress; not just on the deliverables but if you’re moving on track to the timeline. Are you behind schedule or are you ahead of schedule and if you’re behind, what you’re going to do to try and get back on schedule. Keep in mind, you may be behind schedule due to an unforeseen circumstance, which had resources focusing on something else and the BCM/DR meetings needed to be rescheduled to later dates. If that’s the case, make sure this is communicated to the executive team, as they will understand if there were unforeseen circumstances based on an incident or sudden client issue that refocused individuals. They won’t be happy if you’re behind schedule for not ‘valid’ reason and have no plan to get back on track.
4. Issues, Risks & Assumptions – If the unforeseen circumstance, as noted in #3 above, there hopefully will have been a documented risk; a risk that states that the schedule is based on no unforeseen circumstances occurring and that available resources aren’t refocused for any amount of time to deal with it. If resources are repurposed to deal with the issue, then the BCM/DR schedule will be impacted. By doing this, executives will understand the reason for being behind and will allow you to re-plan but won’t be happy if you were always planning a ‘perfect path’ – that nothing will go wrong.
5. The Right Resources – When scheduling, make sure you’re going to get the right person to interview or participate. If you are assigned someone who is impossible to schedule a meeting with because their calendar is continuously full because they are over allocated, you may find your timelines slipping. Make sure you get the best resource participant from the department and ensure they have time committed to the BCM/DR program.
6. Project vs Program – Be sure to break up the overall timeline into min-projects. For example, when you will begin and end the Business Impact Analysis (BIA) project and when you will perform the BCM/DR strategy development project. Each must have a start and end date with a specific deliverable planned. All this needs to be sketched out.
7. Determine Milestones – The end dates noted above in #6 may also be your milestones; key points you’re striving to achieve in your overall timeline. Make sure that you have a few key points captured, as these are used in the progress reporting with executive management, so they can ‘see’ your progress.
8. Dependencies – If you have any dependencies between program phases, identify those up front so executives – and others – understand why some phases are performed in a specific order. For example, the development of BCM/DR strategies cannot begin until the BIA phase has completed and findings presented or a test cannot occur until specific plans have been developed and implemented.
9. Schedule Around ‘Them’ – When scheduling, try to schedule around the individuals themselves, as they have other responsibilities to deal with as part of their daily routine. If anyone’s schedule must be accommodating, it must the BCM/DR practitioners, not the department individual. Keep them in mind when schedule and show respect, meaning don’t schedule them over lunch or late on a Friday afternoon, it’ll only create a bit of animosity – unless you’re paying for lunch. Don’t forget, people have vacations so try not to ‘jump’ on them just before they leave or on the first day they get back.
10. Know the Executive/Board Schedule – When you’re reporting the status of your program build, you’ll be required to present the updates to executives (or a likeminded committee) and you need to know what their timeframes are. Do they meet every 2 weeks on a Wednesday? When does your status report need to be submitted to get on the agenda? Know these types of dates in advance.
11. Know ‘Busy’ Timeframes – This should be a no-brainer; don’t schedule around the busy timeframes when individuals are not going to available to attend meetings or provide information. For example, if there are numerous activities that occur at month end; don’t schedule people during that time. Use it to catch up on your own materials and update status reports etc.
12. Revisit Timelines – During each phase, review the schedule for the next phase to ensure you are on track and make adjustments where you need to. Keep your timelines realistic based on what’s happening and forecast what you think the next phase(s) will consist of. For example, you may have determined that 2 months would be enough to spend developing technology restoration and recovery strategies but based on the BIA findings, you may need to extend that by another month because you need to contact a 3rd party vendor.
© StoneRoad 2013
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.”