BCM / DR Programs: Executive Buy-In Doesn’t Always Mean Support

First of all, apologies for the delay in posting something new; I’ve been enjoying the beaches of Australia and New Zealand for 3.5 weeks. 🙂  Anyway, to the blog for today…

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Well, it’s time to work on the Business Continuity Management (BCM) / Disaster Recovery (DR) program based on the maintenance schedule. You’ve got your plan all well laid out and people know it’s coming and are ready to participate…sometimes begrudgingly. Yet, for some reason your well-thought out plan isn’t going to plan at all. Continue reading

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Crisis Management: When Does a Crisis Start?

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.

**NOW AVAILABLE**
Books by StoneRoad founder, A.Alex Fullick, MBCI, CBCP, CBRA, ITILv3.
Available at http://www.stone-road.com, http://www.amazon.com, http://www.volumesdirect.com

A.Alex Fullick at the Australian & New Zealand Disaster and Emergency Management Conference (2013)

We’d like to give you a friendly reminder that if you’re attending the Australian & New Zealand Disaster and Emergency Management Conference in Brisbane, Australia (May 28-30, 2013), StoneRoad founder A.Alex Fullick will be presenting the topic “Heads in the Sand: What Stops Corporations from Seeing Business Continuity as a Social Responsibilty” on Wednesday, May 29, 2013. If you’re in the neighbourhood stop by; you’re sure to hear a great presentation.

StoneRoad 2013 (R)

7 Things That Can Ruin a BCM Program

When financial hardships strike an organization, the Business Continuity program usually takes a hit. In fact, often it will take a hit when times are good so that the corporation can focus on other initiatives; initiatives designed to build upon the good times and keep the company making money. Increase that revenue, YEAH!! When this occurs, resources get reassigned to other projects and the BCM program gets placed on the back burner or it will see resources funnelled away to support other initiatives.
What kind of things do organizations cut from their budgets that can undermine and slowly dismantle a BCM program? Here’s just a short list of some of the actions corporations will take in diverting BCM intended resources.

1. Training – Training is suspended because sending employees on courses to upgrade and keep skills current is deemed as being too costly, especially if travel and accommodation is required. This training also helps to bring new ideas to the organization on how to better their programs but at the same time many executives (or those that approve BCM training) will simply state that the corporation knows what it would do. Thus, additional training isn’t required. Or worse, they send BCM people on courses that have nothing to do with their role.

2. Tests / Exercises – Some BCM tests get cancelled because they take resources away from other initiatives that are deemed a higher priority. Not exercising – and validating – plans and policies can cause issues with recovery procedures when a real disaster occurs because they haven’t been validated and team members have not practiced what they need to do. Also, some believe that if you’ve exercised once before, that’s all you need to do. You did it so you don’t need to do it again. Wrong! The more practice and progressively challenging you make the exercises the more robust the plans and policies become – and the better you’ll be able to respond and recover when disaster strikes.

3. Business Impact Analysis (BIA) – An organization will choose to skip updating the BIA and utilize previous findings assuming that nothing has changed, which is rarely the case. If nothing changed – ever – then there would be no such thing as projects. Projects drive change; from technology to processes. When projects are implemented it will change existing processes, introduce new ones or cancel some others. All this must be captured in the BIA and then carried over to the appropriate plans (i.e. contingency plans, crisis mgmt, technology recovery etc). Remember, ‘change is constant’ and the BIA should be able to capture those changes and then funnel them through to the right areas of the program so it reflects the organization as it is now – not as it once was.

4. BCM Awareness Program – Awareness weeks or sessions, assuming your organization has them, are cancelled to concentrate on other initiatives or because management don’t want to put a ‘scare’ into employees. Most employees I’ve ever worked with have said they would like to know what is expected of them in a disaster; keeping it from them is not a good idea. You’re really harming yourself and the business in the end. Some of the best ideas will come from involving people and keeping them up to date on progress. To put this in perspective, I was told by a Senior Director of a client that they would be making a poster of a specific announcement and hang it up around the office. “Everyone will see it and know of it and we’ll make sure it’s updated as needed”” they said. I guess they didn’t notice that just outside this director’s office were 3 posters; 1 was no longer relevant for the last year and the 2nd poster had a due date on it that was just over 2 years. Hmm, I wonder if those were supposed to be updated too.

5. Maintenance Initiatives – Business Continuity Plans (BCP) or other BCM components don’t get updated, which means that the best any BCM program can do – when not having been maintained – is take the organization back to the state of services and systems at the last time of updating. This is very specific when it comes to Technology Recovery Plans, which if not updated will only bring back systems that could reflect the structure of the company three year prior – assuming maintenance hasn’t been performed for three years. It could end up costing a corporation more money to purchase software and hardware to help bring the recovered systems to more updated levels. This can also increase the time it takes to recovery causing additional delays in getting operations running again. Also, there nothing worse that trying to find someone through call trees or notification applications (or whatever method is used) only to find that they changed numbers and now you can’t find one of the key people you need to help get restoration and recovery efforts started.

6. BCM Support / Investment – Investment in BCM is reduced or halted. This would include future initiatives such as building a new data centre, upgrading the backup tape systems, renewing key components of a Disaster Recovery (DR) vendor contract, or ensuring that a hot-site DR site (which can be internal) is linked to the main data centre to ensure that constant communication is kept between the two sites. Sometimes these initiatives are cut in favour of sticking with what is known for now (i.e. restore from tape), which can be detrimental if it takes 24 hours to restore from tape but certain systems and services need to be available and fully functional by the 8 hour mark. Just like an old car, the older it gets the harder it is to find anyone who has the skills and knowledge to fix the issues and the parts become scarcer and scarcer and the level of reliability on the car slowly begins to slide down the scale.

7. Organizational / IT Change Management: Nothing last forever or rather nothing stays the same forever; change in constant and the organization is constantly changing. If organizational change management (OCM) and IT change management aren’t incorporated or monitored by the BCM/DR team, plans will quickly become obsolete. They’ll only represent the organization as it was before the last change, assuming that while various BCM/DR program components were made, no changes ever occurred (and we know that isn’t true). So keep an eye out for change at all levels because if you don’t, you’re program will quickly fall out of step with the rest of the organization.

When any of these occur, the corporation begins to put itself in danger because what may have been a strong BCM program is now being scaled back and no longer receiving the focus it should have. When the corporation is growing and expanding during the good times, so too should the BCM program, otherwise if the corporation is hit with a disaster situation, it will have a program that only reflects the corporation before it expanded and implemented new initiatives. The corporations BCM program is only as good as the resources and the focus it receives from the top tier levels of the organization and the amount of respect it gets.
StoneRoad 2013 ®

**NOW AVAILABLE**
Purchase books by StoneRoad founder, A.Alex Fullick, MBCI, CBCP, CBRA, ITILv3, at the following locations:
http://www.amazon.com, http://www.stone-road.com/shop & http://www.volumesdirect.com.

9 Things to Consider with BCM / DR and the Use of Manual Processes

When teams are determining and developing their Business (unit) Continuity Plan (BCP) the fact that manual procedures will be used, often crops up. ‘What will you do in a DR situation?’ they’re asked and the answer all too often – and quickly – comes back as “we’ll do ‘x’ manually.” Really, is it that easy to do; just revert to a manual process for what normally includes many checks and balances and possibly varying numbers of applications?

In some instances it might be that easy. If you telecommunications are still up you can answer calls and take down information clients are looking for and then call them back when applications come back up. Not a full manual process but you can at least get some client service going. For those old enough to remember, your credit cards were taken manually by restaurants and shops by copying the card imprint using carbon paper. That wasn’t a manual process back then – it was the process. However, if anyone in the restaurant or shop industry wants to ensure they can continue to service clients – and get paid by patrons – they still have an old dusty machine and credit card slips hidden in the back cupboard of the office. In this case, many places use this as the backup process – and it’s a manual process.

But it’s not always that easy to just say you’ll do your processes manually anymore. With huge strides in technology and technology dependencies (and interdependencies) and service level agreements, not to mention the level of governance required in today’s business world, switching to a manual process may not be that easy and in many cases may not even be possible. For that reason organizations must really think through what they can and cannot do manually and take into consideration some key factors.
Below are 9 things an organization must consider before reverting to manual processes during disaster situations and before it’s inserted into any business unit BCP.

1. Short Term Use: If you’re going to use manual processes, remember they are only intended for short term use. They are not meant to be used for any long term use, as it could cause you other problems down the road. They are short term fixes used

2. They May Break Regulations: Sometimes a manual process breaks a rule – or sidesteps a rule – so that a function can be completed. In a disaster situation when (if) you’re using manual processes, be aware that the process may not meet your usual standards simply because technology has been taken out of the loop.

3. Less Audit and Governance: If you are developing manual processes and see a need to have them, know that the level of governance and audit tracing by various technology applications won’t exist if a manual process is leveraged. Still, consider adding some level of audit or governance to lessen an potential future impacts.

4. Serious Emergencies Only: Consider the use of manual processes only in real emergencies. If an application – or some other situation – is very short term, it may not be necessary to bring everyone up to speed on what to do when using the manual process. It may simply be easier to wait until the application (or other dependency) becomes available once more.

5. Not Widely Available (or known): It may seem a bit strange to withhold information but manual processes aren’t something you want everyone to know about. If everyone did know about them, they might be used in non-emergencies, which would completely cause chaos down the road when an issue pops up with the work completed. If you have them, keep them separate from regular operating procedures and don’t distribute widely to people until necessary.

6. Not a Process Replacement: Since manual procedures are intended as a short term fix, they are not a replacement for regular operational activities. They are only mean to be used to continue a critical operation – or as a short term partial fix – until normal operational activities can continue (i.e. applications become available etc). A manual process does not equate to an alternate method of doing the same thing; it’s short term because the normal operational activity can’t continue as is due to an unforeseen circumstance and will be stopped as soon as it’s feasible.

7. Determine Use Requirements: When Can They Be Used? Under what circumstances can – or will – the manual process be utilized? It could be that as part of normal operating procedures, a manual override is required by a management representative because our own authority doesn’t allow for us to continue with a function. We’ve all be in the situation where we are waiting for something to complete but we need to the ‘special authority (or input)’ of a manager before we can continue. You also want to ensure that the manual process can’t compromise your operations and utilized for underhanded purposes, so know when it is appropriate and when the manual process fits into operations – either as a disaster contingency or as part of governance processes.

8. Oversight Requirements: Need some level of oversight on manual processes – even in DR situations, as audit / governance / legislative requirements may still need to be captured (depending on the process and procedure being manually used (i.e. old credit card slips). Keep in mind that developing oversight processes during a disaster period may delay the actual recovery timeframes and can cause unnecessary work but it all depends on what manual process(es) you’ve decided to develop and implement for DR purposes.

9. Documentation – DR Use: Keep these documented and ready for use in a DR situation (part of a BCP plan for use by the appropriate departments (an appendix)) and kept in a separate location from other operating manuals. Quite possibly, they can be kept in a locker or other container at the DR restoration and recovery centre. Make sure you keep things updated too and reviewed every so often. Even if you do have manual procedures in place, they are based on regular operating procedures, so when those change the manual procedures may need to be reviewed as well.

If you’re in a position to use manual processes to get your operational activities completed, that great however, in a DR situation you aren’t operating in normal circumstances and manual processes may not be the norm even when there isn’t a disaster. Think carefully of what you can – and cannot do – with manual processes before you document and incorporate such worded activities into BCP plans. Incorporating them before you’ve considered the ramifications might cause another disaster situation further down the road…sometimes before you’ve even recovered from your first disaster.
© StoneRoad, 2013

**NOW AVAILABLE**
Books by StoneRoad founder, A.Alex Fullick, MBCI, CBCP, CBRA, ITILv3
Available at http://www.stone-road.com, http://www.amazon.com & http://www.volumesdirect.com

10 Issues to Remember When Initiating and Developing a BCP Program

Most organizations don’t want to imagine what would happen if a disaster struck their operation, but what if a disaster did strike. How would your organization respond? The best way to know how to respond is to develop, implement and maintain a Business Continuity Management (BCM) program. A BCM program provides a framework for building organizational resiliency with effective responses and safeguards that protect its reputation, stakeholders, employees, and facilities.

BCM is not just about remedying technology shortfalls, as many organizations believe. It’s also about securing, protecting, communicating and preparing corporations from disastrous impacts upon its workforce, facilities and its technologies – To minimize the impact on operations. BCM touches every aspect of an organization from the mailroom, the field and the call centre to the manufacturing floor and right up to the boardroom.

To make your program effective, consider some of the following suggestions when planning:

1. Start With the Worst – Begin the planning with the worst-case situation your organization can imagine. For many, this example is the tragic events of September 11, 2001. Work backwards from there and you’ll start to fill in many of the dangers that can harm your corporation. You’ll also be able to start challenging the worst case situation and begin to get more inventive with potential impacts – and develop the plan accordingly.

2. 3 Pillars of a Business Continuity Plan (BCP) – Every BCP plan must address three things; Workforce Availability, Facility Availability and Technology Availability. If each plan has these three core components, an organization can respond to any disaster situation and expand their capabilities by adding varying situations and scenarios through validation exercises.

3. Dedicated Resource – Assign a person with the appropriate training and authority to get things done, if not, the program will quickly fall to the wayside in favour of other initiatives. This may include getting outside help to get the process kick-started (i.e. consultants, contactors etc).

4. BCM Program vs. BCM Project – The BCM program must live on and continually meet the needs of an organization, as it grows and changes; so to must the BCM program. A project has an end date but a program must live and breathe and contain more than just a single aspect of BCM. Therefore, when the Business Impact Analysis (BIA) is completed, that’s just one ‘project’ of the overall BCM program; you’ve got lots more to get through and develop.

5. Exercising/Testing – Plans mean nothing if they haven’t been validated. Every organization must exercise its plans to make sure they’ll work during a disaster. It’s better to find gaps in your plans through exercising and under controlled circumstances rather than when the real thing happens.

6. Executive Support – If no one is there to champion the BCM program, it won’t last too long. In fact, there’s a good chance it will run out of steam and end up on the backburner of boardroom discussions. Having executive support shows the rest of the organization that BCM is taken seriously.

7. Awareness & Training – It can take a long time to develop continuity plans and create processes and procedures but if no one knows how to use them, where they’re kept or under what circumstances they’re required, they won’t be of any value or use. Remember, awareness and training are not the same things and every level of the organization must received its fair share of both if the program (and all the developed plans and processes) are to be useful and successful.

8. Focus on People – This should be a no brainer; BCM is about people. It’s people that build the plans, use the plans, review and exercise the plans. It’s people that will be impacted by not having plans in place; clients, vendors, employees and communities. If you state that technology availability is the most important part, you’ve basically told those individuals – who you need to help build plans – that they aren’t important. Keep in mind; people first.

9. Business Impact Analysis (BIA) – Every company must understand what it does and how it does it. A BIA is the process of analysing business functions and the effect that a disruption might have upon them. Knowing this will help corporations develop appropriate Business Continuity Plans (BCP) and other contingency strategies. Ensure you get agreement on the findings, don’t just state what they are and move forward. The findings from a BIA are what the attendees believe is important and it could turn out that what they feel is important to the company is not what executives believe is important. Make sure executives are in agreement with the findings before you start developing restoration and recovery plans – you could be way off the mark.

10. Program Maintenance and Monitoring – If program components aren’t maintained and updated the Business Continuity strategies developed – and the related documentation – will reflect the corporation as it once was, not as it current is.

11. Bonus: Using Software Only – Software can be very beneficial for maintaining and gathering information but beware, it doesn’t take into account the nuances of people or scenarios specifics. It may tell you that you need 10 desktops in 24 hours but the situation itself may call for something completely different based on what has occurred. Don’t fall into the trap that DR/BC software will answer all your questions and save you; it’s a tool to help you.

Having a BCM program in place is a part of an organizations Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) but there are other benefits to implementing a program. First, your organization will have the security in knowing a robust plan is in place to deal with disasters, providing safety and security for all employees. Second, a proper BCM program will provide a competitive advantage. Those organizations will strong programs win out over organizations that don’t have BCM plans in place because there is knowledge that your organization will have developed a way to provide a product or service even during a disaster.

It’s not easy building a BCM program; it can be tough to develop, implement and maintain but it will only take a single crisis or disaster to prove its worth. A single crisis or disaster can be one too many. Are you prepared?
© StoneRoad (2013)

**NOW AVAILABLE**
Books by StoneRoad founder, A.Alex Fullick, MBCI, CBCP, CBRA, ITILv3, available at http://www.stone-road.com, http://www.amazon.com, http://www.volumesdirect.com

BCM document templates available in the ‘shop’ section at http://www.stone-road.com.

17th TIEMS Newsletter Now Available!!

The latest TIEMS (The International Emergency Managers Society) newsletter is now available online; co-edited by StoneRoad’s own A.Alex Fullick.

There’s lots of good information and some interesting workshops coming up. Check it out and enjoy!!

http://www.tiems.info/images/TIEMS%202013%20Newsletter%20-%20February%2020-02-2013%202.pdf

Regards,
The StoneRoad Team