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.”