The maturing world of business continuity

Blog post   •   Nov 30, 2016 16:31 GMT

It’s been two years since winning the BCI Global Newcomer of the Year Award, and just as long since I featured in the Business Continuity Institute’s '20 in their 20s' publication, so I’ve decided to re-read my contribution to see what’s changed.

In 2014 it was clear to me that the academic world of business continuity was rapidly maturing. My undergraduate degree had a BC-specific module much like many other courses at the time. The BCI was also developing its very own diploma, and you only had to do a quick search online to realise the growing number of universities offering BC-dedicated postgraduate courses, and see just how popular the subject was becoming.

Add to this the emergence of the Business Continuity Management Academic Journal and it’s easy to see how some individuals were embarking on an exclusively theoretical BC journey for several years before ever even working a single day in the field. As a junior professional at the time I was becoming concerned about not having the right skills to take the next step in my career.

Professional immaturity and hindsight

So what has changed? On a personal level, my views on the development of junior professionals in our field has matured and I certainly see things differently now. At the time I remember being particularly frustrated by what felt like a lack of structured development and clear direction available to me. The BCI mentoring scheme was in its infancy at the time and I was probably one of the first to sign up along with the available mentors. My BC mentor wasn’t really sure what to do with me as the process was meant to be 'self-driven' by the mentee, and I wasn’t sure where to take it so I didn’t get very far with that. I’m pleased to say the mentoring framework by the BCI has made steady progress over the last couple of years and I have now signed up to the Mentor-Match scheme as a mentor should anyone wish to have me!

In 2014 I was also desperate for a competency self-assessment to help me understand exactly where to improve. I had already passed the CBCI with merit, but I still wasn’t any clearer on personal strengths and weaknesses other than that I could remember the contents of the Good Practice Guidelines. It’s because of this perceived lack of support, validation and long term development goals that I started to wonder if becoming a BC professional was even a real career.

I realise now of course that I rather naively expected the industry to mark out every inch of my career path and to explain to me at checkpoints how I was doing. I’ve since spoken to many undergraduates during my guest lectures over the last two years and I’ve come to realise that I’m not alone in this assumption. In fact, I get the impression that a number of people out there still have this level of expectation which I think needs to be levelled. This is a very self-driven process!

However, before even embarking on a career in BC/resilience, many students and graduates are looking to the industry for a solid step by step development structure, providing them with a warm cosy feeling that they have long term career journey ahead of them. I think this expectancy is partially driven by the current wealth of graduate recruitment schemes available which clearly offer this kind of structure (just take a look at the PwC, KPMG schemes etc). Although I’m yet to see any major firms offering a scheme specifically involving BC.

I also think the universities are partly responsible. They all look to reassure their students of life beyond the books by suggesting that there is a structure in place for them to develop which isn’t always the case. I’ve had some conversations with students who genuinely believe they will be guided by the hand through their career, which we all know simply doesn’t happen in the way they think.

I also expected too much from the BCI, senior colleagues and mentors. Their time and resources are extremely limited and so their efforts are essentially wasted if not used in the right way. Again, I fell into the trap of assuming the seasoned veterans would tell me exactly what I needed to do. I still believe we need to think smart and redesign the development journey for our members but that also requires us spell out what a BC professional actually looks like and how to get there. I think this alone is a major challenge given the emergence of popular concepts such as organizational resilience and cyber. We are still very much in the process of finding our place in that particular evolution so it might be a touch too difficult to fully define what is essentially a moving target.

More recently, there were some worthwhile discussions at BCI World 2016 during the #hire2retire session which looked at the business continuity career path. I would urge everyone to take a look. A very good insight from these discussions was captured by PwC’s Rebecca Robinson who recognises the need to remain flexible, but also to get out there and broaden your experience. Again this goes back to being a sell-driven professional.

Self-driven career positioning

If anything, the last two years have taught me the importance of self-driven career development. I needed to undertake some self-evaluation and decide on what direction I needed to take. My main aim for the future is to become a highly effective resilience manager with a good understanding of the threat landscape for the business in which I work. It’s because of this approach that I started to identify some seriously worrying knowledge gaps (namely IT security or cyber). I started to notice that more and more of my business disruptions/major incidents at work specifically related to IT/data breaches or threats thereof. I found myself constantly at the whim of the Chief Technology Officer and other technical staff to assure me that controls were in place, which of course found to be lacking when incidents really did occur.

I’ve spent the last year being immersed into cyber security so I can get ahead of the game. I’ve retrained in, CompTIA Security +, CSX – Cyber Security Fundamentals and CRISC and I now work closely on new and emerging technology in banking networks. I’m already stronger for the experience and I can comfortably challenge the views expressed by those in the business who are deemed technical who often try to bamboozle other management with 'tech-speak'. Ultimately this will make me a more effective resilience manager in the future when the right role comes my way. 

Luke Bird MBCI received the 2014 BCI Global Award for Best Newcomer and is a self published author in business continuity and has several articles published on the BCI and Continuity Central websites. He has successfully delivered and maintained a full programme of ISO 22301 certification and fully completed a series of major Work Area Recovery rehearsals around the UK . Luke is also widely known for his 'BlueyedBC' brand where he uses his online presence to share learning and experience among professionals in the industry and often attends universities to provide guest lectures to undergraduates studying the discipline.