Business continuity and shoes!

Blog post   •   May 03, 2016 16:50 BST

Q. How can you develop robust business continuity and still have enough budget left for a pair of shoes?

Within the heart of every business there is a hole that only business continuity can fill.

I would like to present a low cost, continuous improvement model that has proved successful in providing business continuity management to a large organisation and an additional capability that it did not have before.

Generally speaking we develop or employ one expert, who is trained to a recognised standard and responsible for BCM across the organisation. In some cases BCM is combined with emergency planning and risk under the title of 'Resilience Manager'. Personally I think that putting three jobs into one is not ideal, however I understand that organisations have to 'cut their cloth' according to the pressures they face.

Whatever the setup, and depending on the budget, the BC programme will be delivered via a project team, a single manager, or a manager guiding a number of BC representatives (in addition to the day job) that receive training as they go along. These are all tried and tested processes, the result of which sees us where we are today. Many organisations aspire to align with ISO22301, and consequently the BC programme is driven along those lines.

It is important that BC managers should be trained to a high level of expertise. This is a necessary, yet expensive process, but brings with it a measurable return on investment in the form of continued service delivery. In addition, I think that those members of staff who are given the BC plan to develop or update should also be given some formal training to assist them. In my own organisation this training took the form of a two day fundamentals course, which was delivered by an outside trainer. This was very successful and properly equipped staff (with some guidance) to produce BC plans for their area of work.

This approach worked well for the first year, but because of staff moving post, we found that the following year we needed to repeat the process. Again, no bad thing, because those that had moved on took with them a basic knowledge of BC elsewhere inthe organisation. At year three, we decided that the training costs were becoming prohibitive, but still necessary. Consequently, I gained a teacher training qualification at night school, wrote a fundamentals and plan development course aligned to ISO22301 and the Good Practice Guidelines 2013, which I now deliver to our staff annually.

Senior and middle managers that have attended this course have found that it has improved their knowledge and understanding of BC, allowing them to give the correct level of support to staff that are tasked with developing their plan.

The development of a BC response also creates an additional capability that can be called upon in times of high demand. For example, by activating the communications room fall-back procedure and staffing the now vacated room with minimum staffing, we produced an additional capability to deal with high volume calls. Working the organisation on the failover server frees up the main one for maintenance and repair without loss of performance. It should be understood that this type of use of the BC plan cannot be sustained for very long, and must be used carefully, but it does work.

The costs associated with this course are minimal, and break down as follows; in house training venue, 'on costs', staff salary, two days away from day job and the price of two BC text books given to each student.

The benefits to the organisation include:

  • Significant cost savings on outside training
  • Staff trained to a consistent standard
  • Widespread promotion of organisation's core values and objectives
  • Continuous improvement of BC awareness within the organisation
  • Identifies future experts in BC who understand the organisation and how it works
  • Provides a capability that can boost production or service delivery at little or no cost

Generally the best time to deliver training of this kind, particularly if you need a working budget to buy books for example, is between January and March. I have found over the years that almost all departments have money that they are looking to spend before the end of March, or face losing it from the following year's budget.

I can already hear finance shouting “it’s not like that anymore”, well, my experience is that either departmentally or organisationally there is very often some money around. Spending some of it on in house staff BC training is a low cost option that will develop staff, and produce long term benefits for the organisation, and maybe still have enough for shoes.

John Ball AFBCI is the Business Continuity Coordinator at Sussex and Surrey Police.