By Ashley Goosman, Disaster Empire:
COVID-19 is a watershed moment. Is this the end of business continuity as we know it? COVID-19 was a wake-up call for business continuity (BC) practitioners that our use of technical language and process is less than compelling. Few business groups understand what we do and why it is essential. Even when they do, our colleagues find it challenging to implement continuity plans in a way that aligns with current business practices. I saw multiple organizations dissolve their business continuity programs altogether—this was a failure to connect with leadership and the business.
However, some of us participate in programs that did thrive. I suggest this was because of positive relationships rather than the underlying value of business continuity plans themselves. COVID-19 was a watershed moment because it washed away the obscure and unintelligible aspects of business continuity programming, exposing the critical elements. Practitioners are well-served to look at what went well and begin to unpack the unhelpful parts of their programming. By this I mean, find ways to simplify your program, align with present-day business practices, and build for the future.
What business continuity should do
As I talked about in a recent blog, How To Increase Participation In BCM Programs, we should be demystifying business continuity management. We can do this by being clear about business continuity’s goals, transparent about the process, and giving our business partners actionable data. Last, we need to listen to our customers and provide a product that is meaningful to them.
Additionally, business continuity needs to align closely with risk, crisis management, and a customer-centered approach to maximize effectiveness. Working in a vacuum will no longer provide successful outcomes. Increasing partnership across domains is vital to increase organizational resilience. Working across disciplines not only improves business continuity’s knowledge of potential threats but enables greater integration cross-functionally. As your colleagues in other departments gain an increased understanding of the BC’s value, you also gain from the deeper dive into their areas of expertise. Taking a 360 view of the organization enables a more comprehensive capacity to prepare, protect, and respond to events when they happen.
Supply chains and third party impacts
The worldwide pandemic exposed the third party and supply-chain risks to operational effectiveness like no other event. Already a rising concern before COVID, the prolonged event showcased how just-in-time production threatens business production. One fix for this is an increased cross-functional focus on third-party management. Another is to leverage operational resilience to ensure critical services and impact tolerances are understood when things go wrong.
And things will go wrong. There is increasing concern on the part of the business to meet SLAs due to a primary vendor experiencing an outage. Now, there are downstream concerns about vendors of your company’s vendors experiencing a business interruption. One example is the global outage experienced when many websites went down due to the Akamai disruption on July 22nd. Although short-lived, this event demonstrated the potentially widespread nature of an event. It also uncovered the interconnectedness businesses have to each other to service a customer. No company is an island, and business continuity needs a seat at the corporate table to identify gaps, risk tolerances, and recovery strategies.
BC needs modernization
Business continuity needs to embrace modern tools and techniques to remain relevant. We are in an era of cost-containment and ongoing organizational change. However, BC would benefit from the use of enhanced platforms and intelligent automation. Continuity teams are typically understaffed. Leveraging good tools with forward-thinking developers can significantly decrease shadow work and increase program effectiveness.
Regardless of power outage concerns, paper plans are as outdated as VHS tapes. Instead, practitioners would benefit from embracing modern business solutions. We should align with our company culture. Doing this helps us resonate with business leaders by displaying content that is meaningful to them. If you follow my blog posts, you know that I shared Why Dashboard Are Better Than BCPs to articulate this point. Just like other business units, we have to advance our methodologies and kept them relevant. Todays’ BC platforms provide mobile-accessible dashboard views from anywhere.
The continuity continuum
We recognize the end of business continuity as we know it because it needs to happen. I suspect the most significant push-back to these ideas will come from among ourselves. Change is always tricky, and it is human nature to become complacent. To argue the plans are needed because regulators demand them is no argument. Every business person I talked to over the last year applauded these ideas. Supervisory authorities are signaling their interest in proof of execution rather than concept. We need to prove our planning works. The rise of operational resilience is evidence of it.
As much as business continuity works to identify dependencies across an organization, operational resilience demands to test that service continuum. Continuity’s singular focus on the recovery of individual functions is only one piece of the puzzle. Instead, we need to adopt a genuine organizational resilience approach that strives to enable an organization to continue its core mission regardless of an interruption. The most remarkable improvement during COVID was business units actively wanting to align cross-functionally. They recognized the need to be in sync, and we need to incorporate this mindset into our future practice.
This article originally appeared on Disaster Empire and is reprinted with permission here.
About the Author: Ashley Goosman has worked many high-profile crisis incidents ranging from pandemics, floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, severe snow/ice storms, tornados, and terrorist incidents. She was a member of the Massachusetts Operation Helping Hand advance team at the Mass Military Reservation for Hurricane Katrina response to support New Orleans residents air-lifted by FEMA. She served as an adjunct Senior Instructor for healthcare administrators, teaching a grad-level course on Terrorism and Disasters for seven years. Currently, she maintains the disasterempire.com blog to give back and a source for disaster resilience knowledge and analysis. In her current role she is as a Business Continuity and Crisis Management manager for Liberty Mutual Insurance, helping employees Enterprise-wide respond to and prepare for business interruptions.