Tuesday, 1 May 2012

The meaning of letters in the world of business continuity

Donna Monkhouse - Your BC Eye
AMBCI, CBCI, FBCI all sounds impressive, but what exactly are you getting for your money when you recruit a qualified BCM professional with these letters after their name?

As a newcomer to the BCI and the world of business continuity, part of my company induction was spent with the membership team, and it was here that I was subject to an avalanche of acronyms that engulfed me with so much confusion that it threatened to suffocate 'my little grey cells' as they fought to digest and assimilate the coded messages that were winging their way to me.  This is my attempt to cut through the letters and shed some light on what these all stand for from a practical point of view.  

My key question is: what sort of skills and competencies can you expect if you hire an MBCI or FBCI etc. into your business?

Well let’s begin at the beginning with Affiliate Membership just because it seems like a good place to start.   For someone who is genuinely interested in business continuity or is possibly considering embarking on a career as a BCM practitioner, this is the best starting point.  Affiliates quite often acquire their Affiliate Membership to the BCI as a spin off from attendance at a relevant training course.   They may well have experience in BCM, but generally speaking they are not  yet qualified enough to take the examination that leads to statutory membership and any experience they may have is usually not certified. 

Now let’s move on to the different variations on a theme of the ‘BCI’s.  Anyone with the letters ‘BCI’ in their title, be it CBCI, MBCI or AMBCI or indeed FBCI all have some knowledge and competence across six key skills areas.  How much will depend on a variety of factors, which I will explain later.

So what are these key skills?

1.     BCM Policy and Programme Management, which means that they will have the skills and knowledge to establish appropriate policies and procedures for BCM in your organisation as well as set up, implement and manage a BCM Programme. 

2.     Embedding BCM in the Organisation’s Culture, which means they will be able to create a programme of activities that will help raise awareness of BCM with your staff and thus achieve corporate buy-in to BCM, which is critical if it is going to work.

3.     Understanding the Organisation, which means they are able to carry out a Business Impact Analysis, including threat evaluation risk assessments and mitigation measures. 

4.      Determining Business Continuity Strategy, which is in itself self-explanatory really.

5.     Developing and Implementing a BCM Response, which covers things like emergency response procedures, business continuity planning, including recovery and communication with both internal and external stakeholders.

6.     Exercising, Maintaining and Reviewing BCM, which means that they will be familiar with planning and coordinating walkthroughs and exercises to ensure your staff knows what to do when disaster strikes.

These are often referred to as the ‘basic skills of business continuity’.  However, how much experience and knowledge your people will have, how skilled and competent they will be, will depend on a variety of factors, including the number of years of practical experience they are able to evidence. 

The next step on the business continuity ladder is the CBCI, the Certificate of the BCI.  Individuals who hold this certificate are qualified across all of the six skills areas in line with the Good Practice Guidelines.  They may have some practical working experience in the field, but their experience hasn’t been officially assessed or proven by the BCI.

Moving onto our Associate Members (AMBCI), this is someone who too is qualified in the basic skills of business continuity, but unlike the CBCI they do have proven practical workplace experience (at least one year to be precise) in a business continuity role, which has been properly assessed.  

The ‘Specialist’ on the other hand, that is our SBCI, is the exception to the six skills rule.   As the title implies they tend to be specialists in one particular area only.  They may well have some knowledge across the six core skills, but generally speaking they are only master of one.  In order to achieve ‘Specialist’ status, you need to have worked in that area in that capacity.  Specialists have at least 2 years’ proven experience and assessed practical workplace experience in their area of specialism.  They will also either hold some form of certification from a professional body that is relevant to their specialism or be a member of a relevant professional body.

As we move further up the ‘food chain’ to the level of MBCI, that is Member with a capital ‘M’ as I was told by our Membership Manager, we once again have an individual who is certified in the basics of business continuity, but is proven to be more experienced with at least three’ years’ practical working experience in a business continuity role.  This is where we start to see some real value add to the organisation in terms of the length and breadth of the skills and competencies they can bring to the table. 

And finally to the crème de la crème, FBCI – this lovely “fellow” simply has it all - at least six years’ proven and assessed practical workplace experience in a Business Continuity role; at least two years’ membership with the BCI at either SBCI or MBCI level, as well as enjoying a reputation as a Thought Leader in BCM either through the publication of his/her work in one of the leading industry journals or as an active contributor to the BCI.   Fellows are a rare breed and in fact there are only 108 FBCIs out of a total of just over 7,000 BCI members, so pretty much an elitist group.

And finally, we need to understand how easy or not it is to get from one level to the other.  It is not, as it may seem an automatic progression, but behind it sits a rigorous assessment process that tests and proves the skills, knowledge and competencies of all individuals that wish to move up through the BCI Membership ranks.

So next time you are looking to recruit a BCM professional, remember your letters and know that you are getting technically competent and quality assured experts!

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