Wednesday, 31 October 2012

New York City – a suddenly quiet city awaiting the onslaught of Hurricane Sandy’s fury today- Post # 7

New York, NY – Tuesday, October 30, 2012 – 1500 ET
Ralph Petti MBCI, CBCP
We are reaching the end of the first day of the recovery of the great City of New York.  While we have heard all of the stories now with 4.7 Million HOUSEHOLDS without electricity, some 12 million people

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

New York City – a suddenly quiet city awaiting the onslaught of Hurricane Sandy’s fury today- Post # 6

New York, NY – Tuesday, October 30, 2012 – 1500 ET
Ralph Petti MBCI, CBCP
“Tuesday Afternoon”…such a lovely tune by The Moody Blues. In NYC, more like “Oh, What A Night”.
Given the fact that 95% of the transportation systems, compromised in the NY metropolitan area, are still out

New York City – a suddenly quiet city awaiting the onslaught of Hurricane Sandy’s fury today- Post # 5

Ralph Petti MBCI, CBCP
New York, NY – Tuesday, October 30, 2012 – 0930 ET
Morning has broken…”and it’s exactly the mess that we expected, or worse.

New York City – a suddenly quiet city awaiting the onslaught of Hurricane Sandy’s fury today- Post # 4

New York, NY – Tuesday, October 30, 2012 – 02:30 ET

Ralph Petti MBCI, CBCP
The storm is just departing us, but this is just the beginning. 4,000,000 customers are without power in the New York metropolitan area.

New York City – a suddenly quiet city awaiting the onslaught of Hurricane Sandy’s fury today- Post # 3

New York, NY – Monday, October 29, 2012 – 20:00 ET

Ralph Petti, MBCI,CBCP
The storm has arrived. 

Monday, 29 October 2012

The wrath of Hurricane Sandy continues - latest update

Ralph Petti MBCI, CPCP
New York, NY – Monday, October 29, 2012 – 16:00 ET
Now that we have spent a tense day of evacuations, road closures, political assurances and several casualties, we await the evening.  The wrath of Hurricane Sandy has intensified

New York City – a suddenly quiet city awaiting the onslaught of Hurricane Sandy’s fury today

Ralph Petti MBCI, CPCP
New York, NY – Monday, October 29, 2012  10:00am ET
For a Monday morning, this is the most unlikely “quietest place in the world”.  New York City, for all its hubbub and bustling, has been silenced by an impending act of nature that threatens to affect the entire East Coast of the USA and over 100 million residents. 

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Are you a good crisis manager? Lyndon Bird FBCI explores the key qualities of good leadership during bad times

Lyndon Bird FBCI
So, are you a good crisis manager?
This is a difficult question for a business continuity practitioner to ask because generally they will be asking it of a senior executive or even a CEO, who is unlikely to believe they are anything less than excellent. However, many examples, such as the BP communications debacle after Deepwater Horizon or the failure of Toyota's management to address safety concerns in the U.S., show that the ability to successfully manage a global company does not always guarantee success in managing a crisis.
Just because you cannot predict the exact nature of a crisis doesn't mean you cannot prepare for it.
There are some aspects to a crisis which differ from day-to-day management. Unlike managing commercial and operational challenges, in a crisis the route map to follow is often unclear and the consequences of failure much more serious. A wrong decision can potentially damage the reputation of a company beyond repair. Who now remembers what a strong and influential company Arthur Anderson once appeared? It failed not because it had a bad business model, but because in one situation it failed to take control of the crisis that eventually engulfed it.
However, just because you cannot predict the exact nature of a crisis doesn't mean you cannot prepare for it. Because it is usually so serious, top management often plays the leading role in dealing with external stakeholders, including the media. This is good in that it shows the organization is taking it seriously, but bad if that leader is ill-prepared. A crisis is too urgent for a consensus debating style of leadership, but conversely the biggest danger can be over-confidence. Often top managers are dealing with circumstances in which they do not know the details of what plans or capabilities are available (or at least not the details), what the latest information is relating to cause and effect and what is actually happening "on the ground."
The two crucial elements needed to make decisions are situational awareness and up-to-date information. It is too late to work out how you get the information when the crisis has happened, so a way of monitoring potential problems needs to be constantly running. Despite this, when the crisis erupts, managers can still fail if they are not perceived as being "on top of the situation."
Some ways in which they can show this level of leadership are:
  • Always tell the truth based on the facts that are available.
  • If you don't know answers to a question, explain why and when you might know.
  • Always follow up on what you promise.
  • Do not delay making decisions and taking action. If you delay taking action, you almost always make things worse and are seen to be drifting.
  • Concentrate on protecting reputation, not necessarily minimizing short-term financial loss.
  • Ensure proper processes and systems are in place so that situation changes can be constantly monitored and responses modified as appropriate.
  • Communicate with all stakeholders, regularly and often. Make sure technical mechanisms are in place and the correct people are involved.
  • Ensure that internal and external messages are consistent. Do not tell the media one thing and staff something different.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Creating the Human Cloud

As a haggard old former techie nursing the scars of years in the DR trenches, I’m very excited by the opportunities that well implemented cloud computing can bring to BCM.  It’s easy to be an evangelist for a technology that, when done right, can reduce at a stroke so many of the challenges we have faced for years.
Just think of it: with cloud computing we can have our recovery testing done on live systems, with live traffic, with no data loss nor downtime and a far reduced risk footprint.  We can know that software and patch versions are always consistent between data centres; our work area recovery seats will require only a browser and a secure network to access the exact same interface users have in their regular office; and best of all, we will have happy stakeholders.  Sorry, I mean happy ‘interested persons’, safe in the knowledge that the IT systems they rely on will be there when they need them.  It is true indeed that a well implemented cloud infrastructure can be a tremendous benefit to BCM.
Alan Jacobs CBCI
But can the lessons from cloud be applied to other areas of BCM?  Can our human assets use the same principles of scalability, automation, consistency and flexibility? I think they can; and I don’t think we need to invent anything new to do it.  I think we just need to use the tools we already have to bring about another step forward in capability.
Let’s look at a couple of the characteristics of cloud computing, scalability and flexibility, and see how we could recreate them in our ‘people’ plans.  
First there’s scalability.  Cloud providers deliver this by having a pool of IT resources that can be turned easily from one task to another depending on the requirement at any given time.  They have to carefully manage their estate to make sure they deliver this scalability when it’s needed without having expensive kit standing idle for long periods of time.  Sadly none of us can afford a pool of human resource to wait for assignments but in large organisations we can be more flexible about how we allocate the time of those we have.  We can create a culture of knowledge sharing; of working practices based on collaboration, without silos or ivory towers; we can offer secondments and temporary assignments to our staff in different areas within our business to share skills.  We can create the expectation that at peak times we might all be required to help out in one area or another.  We can think like farmers do during the harvest; turning all available hands to whatever task we need, when we need it.  Most people love a challenge and being asked to help in a different area of the business makes people feel part of something larger.  It’s exciting and interesting for our teams and it breeds a culture of flexibility and a sense of a shared goal.  The added benefit is that when there is a crisis we already have a pool of experienced and adaptable people willing to lend a hand.
Now how about recoverability?  Cloud providers create IT infrastructures that synchronise constantly to off-site storage and are moved readily and automatically when a failure is detected.  This is a little trickier to do with people but the first step is to make them mobile and responsive.  Encourage a home working capability.  Even if you don’t want it to become the norm, at least create an environment where everyone is used to doing it and knows how to make their home office as effective as their work one.  Where possible, measure your staff by results and not attendance.  Allow them to work from home when THEY need to (waiting for deliveries etc) so that when YOU need them to it’s already second nature.  You need to make sure they can do this after an incident so check your internet gateways and authentication mechanisms are resilient and won’t be affected by the same problem that sends your people home.  
At the same time as making sure that your existing staff can do the job from anywhere make sure that you can transfer processes to new staff, or outsource partners, quickly and efficiently if you have to by having effective process documentation.  You should be able to easily explain how you do things to new people so if you suddenly have to move a business process to a new location you can do so with the minimum of disruption.  Ideally create business processes across geographic boundaries so instead of having to ‘move’ a process you simply have to scale it up in one location until you can switch it back on in the other.
Of course this is all idealistic, and we know that in the real world there are many barriers to achieving this ideal of the human cloud.  But if you take it as an aspiration you can show your people that you are a dynamic, forward thinking, and effective organisation.  And that in itself is a great motivator.
Alan will be presenting at the forthcoming BCM World Conference and Exhibition,which takes  place 7th to 8th November 2012 at Olympia, London as part of Stream B.  Alan's session will be unveiling the mystery of cloud computing and looking at its impact on BCM and the opportunities that cloud affords business continuity.  Alan works as a Business Continuity Consultant at T-Systems Ltd.