Thursday, 13 February 2014

A vision of the future

I’m relatively new to business continuity management, with only a little over ten years’ experience in this industry that is said to be made up of the 'Men in Grey' - bearded and grey suited men. Someone said this to me at last year’s BCI World Conference, I then looked in the mirror and sure enough that was me already.

So in my short time what changes have I seen, what incenses me and what gives me hope that as an Institute we are making progress?

Like many when they start out in this industry, I was volunteered as opposed to being a volunteer. It was in the days of PAS56 (Publicly Available Specification 56), the forerunner to BS25999 and now ultimately ISO22301.

My experience was that the business in Eastern Europe that I worked for needed to comply with various standards and regulations and business continuity management was beginning to be the latest fashionable topic.

Returning to the parent company in England, I was suddenly considered an expert because I had actually read the existing standard - "Dave can write us a plan" I was told. Oh dear! No ten pillars of business continuity (PAS56); no BCM Lifecycle (BS25999); just "write us a plan." This was post 2000 and the millennium bug scare which had achieved a lot in some respects, but also suggested that BCM was exaggerated to create a cottage industry.

So have we truly progressed? The point in time when business continuity management moved forward for me, I can now see clearly was driven by the right Top Management influencers driving it. Even then however, the dark side of 'minimum compliance' versus 'budget availability' was always present.

I’m proud to say I now tutor the topic for the BCI via one of its top training providers and in doing so I meet people from many business sectors from Directors to BC Coordinators, and yes, some of those who have been volunteered.

I still see in some of the biggest and multi-facetted global organizations a culture centred on compliance; equally I see huge amounts of dedication, expertise and frustration from people hugely committed to business continuity management.

So what incenses me?

The fact that we still use dramatic events to explain the concept of business continuity. As impacting as they are, and perhaps getting more frequent, I'm incensed that we still think this is how to promote this topic.

The fact that we are often still at loggerheads with the risk industry and that we struggle to embrace each other’s discipline to a common objective.

The fact that we as an Institute analyze supply chain continuity each year and come up with very similar data, yet we still do not have the means to change those findings through a common understanding of the issues.

Finally, the fact that whenever you attend forums, presentations are largely centred around statistics that depict the frequency of events and a series of pictures showing how bad things can get, invariably with no evidence of what we can do to make things practically better.

So, what is the solution and what are you doing about it I hear you say. My view is simple, but the solution may be a little more complex.

Organizations in this day and age have to be commercially driven, be they charities, public sector or private sector, small medium or global; they have to be commercially efficient. Top Management are driven by success often evidenced by financial targets.

The most common phrase I hear when discussing business continuity management and disruptive events is “what’s the chances of that happening?” the classic response borne out of risk appetite and risk attitude. Why spend budget on an unlikely event?

Top Management speak of 'risk' - they can comprehend this because it’s built in to us all from birth. Planning is counter intuitive, reacting is natural.

Something we all must do, and I try to, is promote the concept of business continuity as a value adding, commercially driven, essential part of a successful organization. This includes understanding your Top management’s appetite and attitude to risk, their maximum attitude to disruption (over time).

When it comes to procurement and managing supply chain continuity, Top Management need to understand the 'Risk/resilience Assessed Total Cost of Ownership'.

As an Institute, as BC professionals, we need to place business continuity at the top table by giving Top Management reasons to adopt it based on commercial efficiency, not compliance.

This cultural shift that the BCI Good Practice Guidelines tell us is so hard to measure will happen if we present commercial evidence as to why Top Management need business continuity management.
My part in this transition is to constantly discuss business continuity management in terms of a commercial imperative and offer solutions and concepts, not statistics and photographs.

David Window is the Managing Consultant of Continuity 22301 Ltd in Cheshire, UK.

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