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Leading From the Front in Business Continuity Planning

By Cassie Steele:

If the past year or two has taught us anything it is that business interruption events can take the most unpredictable forms. Looking back, it is intriguing to see today that in March 2020, just as the world was cottoning on to the scale of the looming crisis, 51 percent of businesses had no plan in place for how to deal with it.

It’s a clear illustration of just how important leadership is when it comes to business continuity planning. Sitting down and formulating a plan doesn’t generate revenue, and ideally, it is something that you’ll never have to use. It’s only too easy to put off doing it, then when something does go wrong, the business is left like a rabbit in the headlights.

Adding Value
Whoever is in charge of business continuity management needs more than organizational awareness. He or she must also have all the qualities of a dedicated leader to ensure business continuity planning  is taken seriously at the coalface but also that it has its rightful place on the agenda in the corridors of power.

After all, let’s not kid ourselves, senior executive management and those at board level are only going to get behind an initiative if it adds value to a business. Selling the benefits is a vital part of being an effective business continuity manager.

Risk and Governance
Risk management is a corporate governance activity that is taken far more serious today than it was 10 or 20 years ago, even in companies that are not subject to listing rules forcing them to do it. Yet there are plenty of executive management teams who still see business continuity planning as something separate to that, and who associate it only with IT backups and the like.

The problem is that not all business interruption events can be easily predicted. Sure, we can all talk about the possibility of an IT server crash or a building fire, and businesses based around, for example, the Gulf of Mexico, know exactly what to do if another Katrina or Ike blows in. But the events that have the biggest impact are the black swans. The minority of businesses that had a pandemic response plan in place at the beginning of 2020 were the ones with business continuity planning embedded within their risk management framework.

Agile Management
So a good business continuity manager needs to be organized, imaginative and to possess an almost evangelical approach to the discipline to ensure it gets its seat at the top table. Yet even that is only the beginning.

When a business continuity is called into action for real, it is inevitably at a moment of high stress, whether it’s two feet of snow, an IT shutdown or, heaven forbid, another pandemic. The business continuity manager needs to be able to keep his or her head when all about are losing theirs.

Effective business continuity planning depends more on strong leadership than you might think. It’s not an easy hat to wear – do you think you have what it takes?

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