Effective business continuity management is essential to many businesses in this fast-paced modern world, in which being out of action for even a short time can have dire consequences for the organisation.
Being confident that you’ve done all that you can to prepare for unforeseen business interruptions is a great comfort, however there is a balance to be found between being sufficiently prepared, and how much of the organisation’s time and resources are expended on the process. So it makes sense to give consideration to the ways in which your Business Continuity Plan might be made ineffective, so that you can avoid these.
Some of the reasons that Business Continuity Plans (BCPs) can fail include:
- Insufficient focus on the business impact analyses phase – if this process is not done correctly, the organisation will not accurately identify the issues that are of sufficient risk to the organisation to require contingency planning, reducing the efficacy of the resulting BCP.
- Inadequate support from senior management – if the BCP is prepared and implemented as a compliance exercise or because it sounds like a good idea, but without genuine understanding and support from the top, the resources required to make it really effective are unlikely to be allocated.
- Lack of ownership – related to the above, someone needs to be responsible for the BCP who has the necessary authority to make organisation-wide decisions and authorise appropriate expenditure/resource allocation.
- Confusion between BCP and DRP – the criticality of IT systems can cause organisations to focus their efforts on Disaster Recovery Planning (DRP) which is IT-specific, thinking that they have achieved Business Continuity Planning, which in fact focuses much more widely on the entire organisation. There’s not much gain from recovering the IT systems in isolation from all other critical systems and resources of the organisation.
- Inadequate training – all members of the organisation, not only the Business Continuity Leader/Team, need to be aware of how the BCP works and their role within it, so that there is no confusion in a real emergency.
- Inadequate testing – without a regular and realistic testing process the efficacy of training efforts won’t be known, and unanticipated problems with the Plan won’t be identified and fixed until a real business disruption event occurs.
- “On the shelf” syndrome – many organisations prepare systems documentation such as BCPs and consider the job done. The document goes “on the shelf”, potentially never to be seen again. To maintain effectiveness, BCPs must be live documents, regularly updated to ensure all information is still correct.
- Depth and breadth – the development of an effective BCP can’t be achieved overnight or with a shallow view of the organisation and its processes. A deep understanding needs to be developed of critical business processes, risk factors, impact analyses, realistic recovery time objectives, costs, logistics, and people issues, across the entire organisation, without any unchecked assumptions being embedded.
- Responsibility – the clear assignment of responsibility is important for success, from BCP leadership at the top level down to distributed responsibility at the tactical level, so that confusion is avoided and there are appropriate and sufficient people assigned to all necessary tasks.
Consideration of these potential problems with the organisation’s BCP can assist you to ensure the end result is robust but nevertheless cost-effective.
Please contact QRMC if you would like assistance with your Business Continuity Plan.