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10 For 10: The Top Business Continuity Issues For The New Year

The first decade of the new millennium has come to a close. With the arrival of 2010 it is time to reflect on issues that will demand our attention in the new year. In an industry so vast and complicated, the list could be endless. With the help of industry experts we have narrowed it to 10 issues that will be prominent in 2010. Some are actual tasks that planners will be tackling; others are areas of concern that planners will face within the industry itself. Each deserves scrutiny and is a starting point for further discussion and examination.

Coping With Budget Cuts and Staff Reductions

The continuing economic situation remains the top concern. Budget cuts are creating a trickle effect that impacts a multitude of areas. Many companies are reducing staff, acquiring fewer supplies, and slicing travel budgets. Stretching the funds to meet all needs requires tough decisions. Is it better to eliminate the annual exercise or bypass an upgrade on existing software?

Such battles are being fought in organizations across the country. As a result, other issues are emerging. Lack of adequate staff often leads to time constraints on existing projects and no progress on impending projects. Planners are voicing frustration at the demands on their time, sometimes resulting in lack of motivation to take on any additional projects despite their importance to the growth of the program.

Gaining Commitment and Funding

Keeping and gaining commitment for business continuity programs is another growing concern. Key personnel are choosing which departments are the most viable. Alarmingly, some are deciding to accept the risks and deal with them in a future scenario, instead of taking proactive steps for prevention and recovery. This back-step in the business continuity industry is disheartening to see in an industry that has made remarkable headway in the past decade. It is becoming more difficult and more vital for planners to fight for funding for their needs. Proving the value of business continuity programs is a timeconsuming task for the already weary business continuity professional.

“Despite strong corporate board support for BCP and DR, business units are being increasingly critical of director allocated BCP/DR costs. An increase in executives, accepting risk, rather than mitigating or paying for disaster recovery may result in reduced BCP capabilities,” said David Shimberg, business continuity/ disaster recovery manager of Premier Inc.

Attending Fewer Training and Awareness Programs

Economic conditions have decreased attendance at major conferences and enrollment in formalized training. This results in a smaller pool of well-trained and up-to-date business continuity planners. Many have expressed concern about the shrinking educational budget and the ramifications of it.

“Budgets for training and associated programs have been severely slashed over the past two years and support from sponsors and exhibitors that help support training programs and conferences has also been reduced,” said Shimberg.

Conference attendance provides invaluable information, networking, and problem- sharing. It also offers a chance to attend certification courses and gather continuing education activity points for maintaining existing certifications.

“Non-certified BC/DR planners are having a hard time obtaining certification, which provides a decided advantage, and certified professionals are having a hard time justifying conference attendance which provides critical CEAPs,” said James O. Price, CBCP, 3J Contingency Planning Services.

Implementing New Technology A variety of new technologies and methodologies have emerged in the past few years. Virtualization, cloud computing, and others have jumped to the forefront. Are planners fully ready for these technologies?

Has there been adequate training set in place? Are the benefits and drawbacks fully explored for your organization? These questions and more are on the list of industry experts.

“New technologies, such as virtualization and cloud computing, are playing an increasingly prominent role in the data center. BC/DR planners need to increase their knowledge on how to address and protect against new, potential problems and issues, as well as how to use these new technologies as part of their disaster recovery solutions,” advised Kathleen Aris, senior manager, events marketing for SunGard Availability Services.

Exploring Industry Standards

The emergence of new industry standards and regulations have kept planners busy as they struggle to understand and relate these to their organizations. The push to establish one international standard (ISO) is emerging. This concept, along with managing current regulations and standards, will require much attention for continuity planners in 2010.

Debate over the ISO has already begun and will only increase in the upcoming year. Practitioners must also learn about the ramifications, penalties, and documentation that accompany the standards. This process can be very time-consuming and sometimes confusing. Proper education on the standards will be essential for practitioners.

Preparing for Pandemics

This subject has gained much attention in the past year and will continue to do so in 2010. The emergence of the H1N1 virus brought awareness of pandemic planning to its highest point. Previously, caution over the Avian Influenza, or Bird Flu, kept this topic in the spotlight. Despite the massive media coverage, there is much work to be done in providing competent pandemic planning. This includes not only preparing for a possible outbreak, but also battling the complacently that often comes with these types of long-term events. Shimberg said, “Despite H1N1 reports and trends, I find a higher level of weariness of the subject than there should be, which may lead to lower readiness or participation in preventive programs.”

Establishing Remote Workstations

Telecommuting has become a top issue in the past few years, partly because of a potential pandemic, but also for environmental and costsaving reasons. Employers must plan for the possibility of having personnel work from alternate locations. With the emergence of new technology and security risks, the process is a continual one.

Experts have said the demand for remote workstations will grow at a fast pace. As these demands grow, consideration must be given to the overall infrastructure. And in the case of a pandemic or other major disaster, there are even more issues to examine.

Is existing infrastructure enough to handle increased usage? If a pandemic were to occur, would current bandwidth be adequate? Are there plans in place to limit non-essential use of the Internet? All of these concerns are something to consider in 2010. As the need for available technology increases, the demand must be met in a timely manner.

Managing Expanded Roles in BC Programs

Business continuity programs are no longer only about technology or facility loss. It is important to encompass a wide range of responsibilities. According to Robert Giffin, director, Avalution Consulting, the scope of business continuity has expanded to include pandemic/personnel loss in 2009 and will expand further to areas such as data breach and other high impact, low likelihood events. This expansion was recently addressed in an article by Brian Zawada, MBCP, director of consulting services for Avalution Consulting. He encourages planners to involve their BC program in other areas of the organization, adding to the value of the program.

“Become more value-added by rethinking your program’s boundaries and your contributions to business continuity management. Expand beyond traditional availability risks and begin to affect change by coordinating risk mitigation strategies and/or responses to a broader series of operational risks with business continuity implications,” said Zawada in the article.

Improving Public and Private Cooperation

It is vital to continue to build solid relationships between public and private sectors. With the increased push for resiliency in all sectors, continuity planners need to strive to build better and more productive relationships between the two sectors. Efforts should be made to include public officials in an organization’s planning discussions. In return, the public sector must include the private sector when establishing plans for public infrastructure, transit, and more. Cooperative exercises and training would be very beneficial for both sectors.

Janette Ballman has served as an editor with Disaster Recovery Journal since 1991. She has reported on numerous disasters and business continuity issues during that time. Ballman received a journalism degree from Mississippi University for Women in 1989.

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