Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Business Continuity - getting buy-in at the top

Lyndon Bird FBCI
It is difficult to get buy-in at the very top in organizations because BCM is wrongly seen as an operational matter. In a booming economy it is easy to think that sufficient resources are available to deal with any adverse incident that might occur. However, in these more challenging times, there is less confidence in the ability of an organization’s capability to simply “buy itself out of trouble”.

Many strategic decisions are taken without full consideration of the consequence of interruption such as, the growth of outsourcing, off-shoring, long supply chains and low cost manufacturing. Whilst generally adding short-term value to the bottom-line, when any of these strategies fail to deliver, reputation and brand image are compromised. Short-term financial losses might be containable but long-term loss of market share is often much more damaging.

So getting buy in at the top requires a Business Continuity professional to have better understanding of the concerns of Top Management and an ability to communicate any risk concerns in a language they are familiar with. Real high-profile examples help grow awareness and promote management attention but only if the business consequences of a disruptive event are emphasised, not the technical failures that caused it. Many leaders were shaken by the corporate impact that the Gulf of Mexico oil spill incident had on the finances, share-price and reputation of BP, a truly global business. Business Continuity Managers can benefit themselves and their organizations by using their skills to identify their own organization’s potential high consequence events.

A traditional difficulty is that BCM practitioners do not report at a high enough level to affect decisions. Although often true, they are not without influence and one way to use it is in developing an innovative testing and exercising programme. In the past too many exercises have concentrated on evacuation, safety and emergency response. Although worthy enough subjects, top management employ specialists to handle safety and security on their behalf.

However, choosing scenarios that really interest the leadership team can work dramatically. They are engaged once the scenario shows up business vulnerabilities, areas which competition can exploit, where critical clients might be lost. Techniques such as War Games, Stress Testing, Scenario Planning and Horizon Scanning are becoming important to business. These are areas in which the BCM professional could and (in future) really should take a leading role. By using scenarios that highlight fundamental business threats and challenging top management to respond can be scary, but it also can raise the profile of BCM rapidly.

Another area in which BCM professionals can get more top level attention is in taking a more assertive position to organizational change. Clearly there are limits to which individuals can become involved in strategic decisions, but by producing a well thought out analysis of the consequences of change, they can often get senior management interest. Decisions might be reviewed or modified if consequential risks were better articulated. BCM professionals might have to do this through a Risk Management organizational framework but they can make their voice heard.

Much of the importance of BCM is to facilitate the conversations that otherwise would not take place. Surprisingly, the BCM leader can often provide a unique perspective of an organization’s vulnerabilities and resilience capability because the role requires that he or she understands the end to end process and how things interact. BCM professionals must work on their soft skills and not use the rigid mentality of the compliance mind-set. They must concentrate on finding value and benefits for BCM and promoting them. For example, if having proper BCM in place helps you get on the approved supplier list for a major customer, make sure everyone knows about it. If it were a key deciding factor that actually won a big contract, make sure that Sales, Marketing and Finance recognise and publicise that fact. If BCM helps procurement eliminate high risk suppliers, again get that message out through whatever communication vehicles are open to you.

Lyndon Bird FBCI
Technical Development Director of the Business Continuity Institute

1 comment:

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