Friday, 16 March 2012

Have you ever asked the question what Business Continuity is really for?

Lyndon Bird FBCI
Lyndon Bird, FBCI gives his view.
Business Continuity Management (BCM) has been around for about a quarter of a century, so you could argue it is a bit late to start asking what it is really for.  The trouble is, with so many competing terminology and standards around, business continuity is threatening to get lost amongst the crowds!
The universally accepted purpose of business continuity is to “safeguard the interests of its key stakeholders, reputation, brand and value-creating activities”.   It’s about building a framework for organisational resilience so that you are better prepared to deal with potential disruptions or threats when they happen. 
A lot of papers on Organizational Resilience imply that Resilience is a new overarching discipline within which BCM is a limited player, having little overlap with Crisis Management, Risk Mitigation or even Emergency Planning.
At a time when everywhere we seem to be talking about breaking down the silos, it would seem that the one discipline that IS a holistic management discipline is being forced out of the ring.   There are even some that recommend that BCM and Crisis Management be treated as separate disciplines.  This misunderstanding finds its roots in the belief that Crisis Management deals with unpredictable events that have a strategic impact on the business and BCM deals with predictable events that you can plan for.  But at what point does an incident become a crisis, and how do we tell the difference? 
Professor Dominic Elliot, Professor of Business Strategy and Business Continuity at Liverpool University once commented to me:  “when you look at the definition of BCM it is difficult to think of anything more strategic than brand, reputation and value protection”.   So why are businesses reluctant to adopt BCM at board level? 
On the surface BCM appears to be a complicated science with a proliferation of national and international standards attached to it.  Once you have a standard, you get compliance and then it is no longer strategic.  This is what is taking BCM out of the board room and out of the realms of strategy.
So what is BCM really for?
In my view it is certainly not just for meeting Governance, Risk and Compliance obligations.  If it is not strategic it has no meaningful future and those who view it as a tactical response to technical failures miss the point.  BCM is not Business Continuity Planning – that is just one output from the lifecycle.  Its real value is providing an organisation with the capability and confidence to maintain ‘Business As Usual’ regardless of the external circumstances in which it might find itself.
If you would like to hear more about how you can get started with BCM, then tune into Lyndon’s live webinar session on Tuesday, 20th March 2012 at 13:00.  To register click here  Attendance is free.

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