This year’s theme for Business Continuity Awareness Week is 'return on investment'. As someone who has worked in business continuity in both the public and private sector for over six years I am seeing that the investment in building robust, easy to use and readily available business continuity plans is essential, but nowhere more so than throughout the world of education in the United Kingdom with the Conservative Government slowly but steadily guiding all Local Authority maintained schools towards an academy status.
The ability to manage everything down to what is spent on what and when is now making the academies much more business focussed than they ever were before, and this self-sufficiency of course means that they want to get more bang for their buck.
But they still need to understand their primary function... to provide education, and what it is that they need to continue doing that... whatever.
Major incidents in schools and academies can be much more disruptive than lost PE tops, grazed knees or spilled paints. Look at the total rebuild of Crockerne School in Pill due to a contractor's asbestos incident, or the total loss of Leyland School where teenagers set the school alight days before a new term.
Actually both were covered by Local Authority insurance providers at the time but now the academies need to convince the insurers that they too can cope with the disruption and have a plan.
Where’s the saving?
I have been working with many schools, academies and governing bodies over the last four years ensuring that they have an easy to use document that is fully exercised, which allows them to understand what they need to do during and after a disruptive event. I am now seeing the questions arise from Insurance providers. "Can we have sight of your business continuity/DR plans?" There will of course be several reasons for this but mainly the insurance provider wants to know that the school or academy is taking responsibility and has the ability to recover quickly and effectively, these insurance companies are also in a very competitive world themselves, trying to keep premiums down for their customers to protect their business and provide future growth in their own industry. Schools and academies can take advantage of this in their negotiations.
Of course education is just one example but it is a very good one. From a management perspective it has changed massively over the last few years and will continue to do so. The education pot is not a bottomless one, schools and academies need to make their budget stretch a long way to ensure that the children get the education they should in a safe and secure environment. But, through careful planning and preparation and quality time spent in areas such as business continuity that budget may just stretch a little further.
Steve deBruin AMBCI is the Business Continuity Lead at Bath and North East Somerset and North Somerset Council, UK.