Friday, 18 October 2013

Horizon Scanning

Colin Ive

As new threats appear, it is easy for busy Business Continuity practioners to miss these with their heads so deeply burrowed into the challenges of organisations. Practitioners are already overloaded with work and, as we have seen in recent years, this is often due to cutbacks, to having an amalgamation of roles or simply by being directed to focus on achieving compliance with new standards and increasing demands from customers etc. Yet without an effective and externally focused ‘risk radar’ seeking out these threats on a permanent, efficient and effective basis, an organisation can find itself suddenly confronted with unwelcome surprises which could impact their business either directly or via a failing supply chain. Surprises which can severely damage their bottom line!

As is often the case, as well as a threat there is also an opportunity. In this case an opportunity for the Business Continuity practioner to build horizon scanning into an organisation so that it becomes simply part of ‘business as usual’. How? By promoting the importance of establishing a ‘risk radar’, particularly into the mind set of supply chain or procurement managers.

The recent disasters that have affected supply chains across the globe e.g. the Japanese earthquake with its subsequent tsunami followed by the huge floods in Thailand, must sound a wakeup call for all organisations not to simply rely upon luck, but to establish a ‘risk radar’ to spot possible threats. Not only this, but also to have systems in place to analyse their impact and what steps they would need to take to mitigate against them. The time for action is prior to or when a disaster occurs and not simply waiting to see what happens.

An organisation cannot be expected to monitor all suppliers so there is a need to focus efforts on key suppliers and key supply chains, so providing a manageable yet importantly relevant short list of suppliers.

In this issue and its resolution, there is a clear opportunity for different functions of the organization to work together in monitoring the radar. Certainly the supply chain or procurement functions should have a formal role, but I would argue that ALL staff, no matter what their role, should be encouraged to keep their eyes and ears open to potential threats. Sales staff may be aware of an important customer who is affected by a developing risk so should consider puting ahalt on orders. Engineers or designers within the R&D function often have good contacts with suppliers or potential suppliers before any purchasing takes place, so should be encouraged help the ‘radar’. HR staff can pick up on trends by monitoring advertisements for certain staff key to the organization who may be attracted to leave, a threat often too late to deal with once someone hands in their notice! Any one of these staff can pick up on information so should be encouraged to share it across the organisations silos. It's better to share than to say after the event "oh yes I heard about ‘X’ weeks ago".

The Business Continuity practioner can be the catalyst for pulling together and establishing the ‘risk radar’ but they cannot and must not be left on watch alone. Horizon scanning of suppliers, customers and external threats are a responsibility to be shared.

Colin will be discussing this issue further in his Practitioner Presentation at the BCM World Conference and Exhibition. The Practitioner Presentations are part of the seminar programme at the free exhibition.

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