Planning and Management

Based on current disaster recovery trends – and on many years’ experience and wisdom – here’s what the experts recommend to help companies survive and succeed in 2010 and beyond:

Increased supply chain assessment. Tight economic conditions have required all businesses to operate as efficiently as possible. Tight credit has caused most businesses to trim inventory to near-critical levels while business bankruptcies have increased. These kinds of supplier disruptions can have significant ripple effects throughout the supply chain, says Roger Peters, Managing Director of RSM McGladrey, possibly shutting dependent businesses down.

“Understanding your key suppliers’ and customers’ financial and business recovery position has become increasingly critical,” he says, “and supply chains must be assessed if they present significant risks to your organization.”

David Fulton of FDI Consulting says companies are looking more closely at supply chain continuity. “Just-in-time inventory companies want to know that they will not be shut down due to a disrupting event at a key supplier,” he says.

Challenge BC assumptions. Troy Harris, a Manager at RSM McGladrey in Charlotte, NC encourages organizations to challenge the assumptions that tend to determine their business continuity plans. He also suggests they challenge the scope and objectives of their plans, to make sure they are truly prepared for a disaster.

“Furthermore, regulators and auditors are more closely scrutinizing the validity of the assumptions that are included when the organization claims that their BCP is thorough and effective,” he says, adding that disasters over the past year, from flu to flooding, have demonstrated the need for a wake-up call.

Differentiate BIA RTOs from actual recovery capabilities. Harris says that while a company’s business impact analysis (BIA) may have established the recovery time objective (RTO) for resources and functions, such information does not necessarily indicate the organization’s true recovery capabilities.

“In order to keep management educated on how long it would take to restore operations following a disaster and to facilitate successful coordination of critical internal and external independencies, it is necessary to properly reconcile the BIA RTOs with the organization’s true recovery capabilities.”

Although an organization may always have differences between their RTO targets and their actual recovery capabilities, Harris stresses the importance of clarifying such variations, through realistic testing, to highlight areas that need attention.

Cash is not King this year.  It is Emperor! Gary Patterson, President of Fiscal Doctor, reminds us of the importance of cash management in the continuing recession. We are not out of the woods yet.

More careful spending on testing and training. The two aspects of BC programs that need the most help are Testing, and Training and Awareness programs according to Bill Ashland, President of Disaster Game LLC.

Ways to do more with less include training that does not require travel, and being a more informed buyer.

“Look for opportunities to leverage the experience of your professional network to learn what works and what doesn’t,” Ashland says. “Make sure you can try before you buy, or buy with the confidence of a 100% satisfaction guarantee.”

A greater need than ever to understand companies’ concerns. A new wave of H1N1 will require new and updated Pandemic plans, says Ted Brown, President and CEO of KETCHConsulting. Brown also sees increased concern about supply chain, and about terrorism. These trends, he says, will generate needs for planning services and Emergency Notification Software.

“With over 50 vendors out there,” he says, “clients will continue to look for consulting help in evaluating and selecting a vendor.”

What needs to happen to help justify purchases, Brown says, is executive education tailored for HR, CFO, Marketing, Sales, Production, Security, Facilities, and the Supply Chain Owners.

More automation. To help clients lower their BCM costs, TAMP, providers of Consulting and Software for Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity Planning, have enhanced their BCM software with unique automation that significantly reduces manual efforts to manage BCM data and keep plans up-to-date.

“TAMP has found a recurring trend in those that seek BCM software to automate the BIA to BCP process workflow,” says Tom Abruzzo, the company’s president. Adding this functionality is just one of the ways in which the company is evolving to meet changing customer needs.

Lessons from H1N1. Faced with the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, organizations did a lot of work – many for the first time – focused on reducing risk. Robert Giffin and Brian Zawada of Avalution Consulting say the experience has helped companies think more proactively.

“The work organizations completed in responding to H1N1, mainly focused on reducing the risk of infections, has helped cement the position that business continuity is about risk reduction, not just ‘reactive’ response and recovery planning.”

Compliance with new standards. Giffin and Zawada also predict that BS 25999, ASIS’s new standard, PS-PREP and ISO’s work on a preparedness and continuity standard will all start to drive a realization that a Management Systems approach to business continuity is not only expected, but will be commonplace in less than five years.

“This standards maturation effort – which so many other disciplines experienced years ago – will most likely result in the most significant performance and alignment improvement since our profession expanded outside the data center.”

Stricter expectations of third parties. BC professionals need to carefully evaluate third-party consultancies and solutions providers now more than ever. “Developing detailed requirements and selecting providers with a proven track record of introducing viable, enduring and business-aligned solutions is the key to success (and your reputation protection),” say Giffin and Zawada. So beware of providers with stale, antiquated approaches.

Their number one piece of advice? “Think outside the box, learn your business and inject yourself in areas critical to the strategic goals of the organization – especially in areas where management may be concerned or a customer is making inquiries.”

Software alone is not enough. “We are seeing more mid and small-sized businesses recognizing the need for a continuity of business operations plan,” says Steve Elliot, President and CEO of Elliot Consulting Services. “The recognition is that an IT-only recovery solution does not address the needs of business operations. Further, these companies are recognizing that using a software tool does not provide them with the specific business recovery strategies that are required to restore their operations. ‘Push the button – Get a plan’ is not the solution.”

Margaret D. Langsett, Executive Vice President of Virtual Corporation says BC is taken much more seriously than it once was. “Gone are the days when business continuity program ownership was assigned on the basis of who missed the meeting,” she says. “In all sectors of private industry, not-for-profit and government, leadership is paying closer attention to resiliency and preparedness than ever before.”

She sees these three major trends: BC planning decentralization, planning data integration and BC program justification.

Langsett offers three pieces of advice for today’s BC professionals:

“Consider obtaining an advanced degree in business continuity or one of its subdisciplines; focus on metrics; and choose vendors for their ability to become your partners.”

Looking beyond the workplace. “In the general area of disaster preparedness, I see more consumer concerns and family preparedness trends,” says Linda S. Hanwacker, The LSH Group, LLC. “Also, schools and governments are adding more disaster recovery planning and implementation initiatives to their budgets.”

On the work front, Hanwacker says recent trends in Cloud computing and Business Intelligence (BI) make planning and management services more attractive to customers and will add value to the disaster recovery proposition. “Businesses can tie their bottom lines to both of these initiatives,” she says.

The LSH Group is focusing its services on risk strategies tied to recovery. “We feel that business can do better strategic planning and allocation of their budgets with more informed choices that are tied to their risk,” Hanwacker says.