So what’s it all about?
“Business continuity? What’s that all about?” That’s the typical question I hear when I mention I work in business continuity. This is probably the same response that we all see at a business level, particularly in small to medium sized organisations – but how do we change this? How do we spread the word about business continuity? How do we raise awareness of the real benefits of business continuity?
It’s not easy and raising overall awareness levels can only be achieved by us working together: sharing ideas and sharing experiences for the overall benefit of the business continuity industry. This is why I wholeheartedly support initiatives such as the Milton Keynes Business Resilience Forum (MKBRF).
Through this article I would like to share a little of the history behind the MKBRF and some of the concepts and ideas that contribute to the continued work being accomplished to raise awareness of that much misunderstood subject of BC. Those are concepts and ideas that, we on the MKBRF lead team, would like to share and feel could be replicated elsewhere, to spread the word.
How did it all start?
First, a little background...... Milton Keynes Council (MKC) is a unitary authority with approximately 250,000 citizens and with five businesses moving to or expanding in Milton Keynes every month, Milton Keynes a fast growing, busy place. MKBRF provides the opportunity for anyone or any organisation to learn about the benefits of conducting BC on a scale that is relevant to their requirements.
As BC practitioners, or those familiar with BC in the UK, you are probably aware that the Civil Contingencies Act 2004 stipulates that all local authorities have a duty to promote BC and resilience externally by providing advice and assistance to their local businesses and voluntary sector organisations but the Act does not prescribe how they should do this.
The concept of the MKBRF was initially proposed by MKC at its local Business Continuity Institute Forum in June 2006. It was felt that while the Local Resilience Forum provided some elements of BC, its primary focus was around emergency services response to critical incidents. The MKBRF wanted to become a vehicle to instil in the minds of local businesses that investing in BC was good for business.
Following an initial event, hosted by Milton Keynes Council, an independent lead team was established consisting of, and chaired by, voluntary representatives from local businesses, supported by members of the Council’s Risk and Business Continuity Team. This lead team has maintained momentum throughout the past eight years, or so, due to the willingness and support of those members, although some have changed along the way.
What does the MKBRF do?
The lead team meets on a regular basis to consider the proactive design, development and delivery of various types of events which, in addition to a learning experience, provides an ideal networking opportunity for those who attend. Due to the make-up of the lead team (in that we are not all BC professionals) we are able to consider different aspects of BC, including risk, security, facilities management, IT etc, utilising the skills and business connections of the individuals, ultimately drawing on experience to focus on the broader subject of resilience.
The Forum is a not-for-profit organisation that encourages members to join, for free, to take advantage of various opportunities including:
- Information and advice
- Sharing experiences between members
- Business continuity and incident management exercises
- Sharing threat and opportunity data (horizon scanning)
- Creating a network for local organisations and business continuity practitioners
- Providing mutual help and support
Events are generally free of charge. Although the MKBRF does not have a dedicated budget, it has been able to gain sponsorship from local and national businesses to assist with the associated costs. A full list of MKBRF events can be found on its web pages. This website also provides basic BC information to point the less experienced in the right direction whilst negating the need to leave their workplace.
The lead team are currently busy planning the next exciting event. To be held at the National Museum of Computing in the grounds of the historic Bletchley Park on 21st October. An apt venue for the subject matter of ‘Cyber Security’. With a prestigious line up of speakers, interactive sessions and a free tour of the museum, the MKBRF are aiming to attract a variety of attendees from across all sectors and businesses of all shapes and sizes. Details can be found on its web pages.
The membership of the MKBRF currently stands at just over 300 large, medium and small organisations predominantly based in Milton Keynes but several from further afield, ranging from novice to expert.
Using a variety of communications methods we have been able to attract 260 to an active LinkedIn forum (which does not require registration as a member of the MKBRF) as well as an excellent following on Twitter, currently over 600, and growing day by day – not bad as this is a relatively new initiative.
As the MKBRF continues to grow further connections are being made, for example, with the local Chamber of Commerce and further initiatives supported such as the re-launch of the Milton Keynes Evacuation Plan which provides yet further platforms to promote the benefits of BC.
The dedication of the volunteers to share their knowledge has kept this forum alive and it is thanks to them that this initiative continues to thrive and grow and this is an underlying message, should you start along a similar path, don’t give up at the first hurdle, keep going. Keep the messages you are trying to promote exciting, simple and interesting. Engage your audience in feedback and ideas for future events - everyone has something to share, we all learn from others. We believe that if just one nugget of information has changed someone’s perception then we have made a difference and by continuing to grow we will further increase this knowledge.
By continuing to plug away hopefully the response in the future will be ”business continuity? I’ve heard of that, that’s interesting, tell me more....”
Sue Stallard FBCI
Corporate Business Continuity Manager at T-Systems Limited, and Chair of the Milton Keynes Business Resilience Forum