|Lyndon Bird FBCI|
The London Olympics is now over and we are still coming to terms with its success. Those who had predicted chaos and possibly carnage have been proven wrong. Every few years an event or threat seems to emerge that gets everyone’s attention. Sometimes it is an esoteric threat that few understand like the millennium bug; sometimes it something that might harm us personally like a pandemic; sometimes it is a massive event that might go dramatically wrong in innumerable ways. The odd thing is that the predictions of doom and destruction thankfully never seem to manifest themselves.
Now this is not being complacent, in fact just the reverse. The positive message about this is that however complicated, large or frightening a threat seems to be it can usually be mitigated perfectly well by good planning, good organisation and plenty of practice. The Olympics did not just happen at random, the organisers knew the dates and schedules for years, they had the brainpower and expertise of leading experts from around the world to call on, and they had time to test and rehearse everything until it was perfect.
The problem most organisations face in dealing with Business Continuity, however, is precisely the reverse of such high profile threats. If something that is totally unpredictable happens at a random time and causes large losses of property, assets or even lives what can you do to protect yourself or your organisation? Unlike the millennium bug or the Olympics you have no idea what the real threat is or when it could show itself. Business Continuity Management (BCM) addresses this paradox by concentrating on impacts rather than causes. It is impossible to identify every threat faced by an organisation or the exact way in which even predictable threats like fire or flooding will affect different businesses or individuals.
However, it is possible to identify what products or services must be delivered in what timeframes, what resources need to be in place to allow that to happen and how an organisation needs to be ready to deal rapidly with any crisis regardless of cause. For example, those organisations that had planned for staff shortages during a possible pandemic already had the key components for their Olympic plan. The threat during a pandemic was that staff would be too ill to come to work; the threat during the Olympics was that they simply couldn’t get to work because of travel difficulties. However the BCM question was the same: “how do we continue our critical activities with low staff levels in the office?” Concentrating on impacts, rather than threats is at the heart of BCM.
The UK Cabinet Office believes that this message is one that small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) need to hear and heed. They claim that SMEs account for 99.9% of all private sector enterprises, 59.4% of private sector employment and 50.1% of private sector turnover. Without a resilient SME sector the UK is unlikely to kick start the economy anytime soon. BCM will not achieve this on its own accord but it is a core component to security, longevity and success for any organisation.
The UK had a great Olympics by making the right decisions, plans and provisions well in advance. Just because you cannot predict the exact nature of a threat doesn’t mean you cannot do the same by concentrating on what is really important for you to accomplish - regardless of the external circumstances you find yourselves in.