Wednesday, 20 March 2013

How well are you weathering the storm? Lorraine Darke, Executive Director of the BCI provides the insider view on the official launch of the CMI’s annual BCM Survey Report

Tuesday of Business Continuity Awareness Week saw the launch of the Chartered Management Institute’s annual Business Continuity Management Survey which is supported by the BCI, the BSI and the UK’s Civil Contingencies Secretariat. The setting for this year’s launch was the rather imposing setting of the Grand Committee Room, House of Commons, Palace of Westminster and took the form of a discussion around “Weathering the storm: is lack of business continuity management holding back the UK economy?” Member of Parliament, Barry Sheerman, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Management hosted the event.

BCI members, Martin Caddick MBCI, Rob McAssey AMBCI and Néstor Alfonzo Santamaria AMBCI formed the majority of the panel which was chaired by CEO of the CMI, Anne Francke.

The CMI’s annual survey, now in its 14th year, is markedly different from other business continuity surveys in that the respondents are not business continuity practitioners but more general managers who look at disruption, and potential disruption, giving a different perspective. Research purists may argue that the methodology underpinning the survey – that of a self-selecting group of 637 individuals from a sample of 25,000 – is not robust but the longevity of the survey and the benchmark it provides cannot be disputed.

As was highlighted in the theme for the evening’s discussion, the extreme weather experienced in the UK over the past 3 winters ranked most highly as a continuing threat based on recent disruptions. When we refer to “extreme” that is, of course, by UK standards and I am sure that our members based in Canada, Scandinavia and other Northern countries will have a different opinion. What was particularly interesting was the low threat rating given to cyber-attacks by the respondents to the CMI survey as this threat is given increasing importance by business continuity practitioners in BCI surveys. This perhaps highlights the difference between visible and obvious threats that can be seen by general management and less visible threats which may already have been dealt with as “business as usual” by specialist practitioners.

Our BCI members on the panel did an excellent job of reinforcing the business continuity message of “don’t focus on the cause but look at the impact of an incident”. Martin Caddick of PwC talked about: the cost of implementing business continuity and whether it could be seen by senior management as a waste of money if never invoked; the scale of the cost of an incident which can rise exponentially once the reputation of an organisation is threatened; and how a robust business continuity programme may bring about a reduction in Business Interruption Insurance premiums.

Rob McAssey of the Adidas Group gave us a lovely case study of embedding business continuity – firstly in the UK, then throughout Europe and finally worldwide – the stress being on ensuring the process is enjoyable by those participating. Finally, Néstor Alfonzo Santamaria, a Contingency Planning Officer at the City of London spoke of a collaborative approach and how the 33 Local Authorities within London have worked together to share best practice to help make London more resilient.

Questions from the floor to the panel, as might be expected, questioned how business continuity as a specialism fitted within a management structure and asked whether the discipline shouldn’t just be embedded within management roles as the norm. The panel agreed that embedding was an aspiration but as organisations move towards this they should identify key processes through BIAs, plan how to keep these processes operational during and after an incident and carry out regular exercises to test these plans using a range of stimulating scenarios. With his tongue only slightly in his cheek, Néstor advocated a Zombie Apocalypse scenario urging the audience to “pretend and enjoy”.


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