How to keep the BC planning tool relevant and useful as the years roll by and the organization changes.
Kaiser Permanante first deployed business continuity plans across the organization in 2001-03. At that time, the business continuity department was created and staffed with five full-time BC professionals including me. With assistance from our BC consulting partner, we rolled out BC plans to more than 6,000 departments nationwide.
Our BC program strategy has always been, “teach the clinical and business management team to update and maintain their BC plans themselves.” As you can imagine, there is no way the team of five BC professionals could update, maintain, and exercise that many BC plans. Essential to the success of this approach has been using an automated BC planning tool. We have utilized the same BC planning tool over the years, and today have more than 9,000 BC plans in use by more than 10,000 planning team members. In this article, we will explore some of the challenges, and through them, the successes and lessons learned over the years to keep our planning teams engaged and the use of our BC planning tool relevant.
Kaiser Permanente is one of the nation’s largest not-for-profit health plans, serving more than 8.6 million members with headquarters in Oakland, Calif. Kaiser Permanente has 35 hospitals, 165,000 employees, 15,000 doctors and locations in Colorada, Georgia, Hawaii, Ohio, California, Oregon,Washington, Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C.
Challenge No. 1 – Managing Changes
In an organization as large and dynamic as Kaiser Permanente, change is a way of life. With a small team supporting such a large end-user community, we needed creative approaches to address a number of challenges:
- Reflecting organizational change within the planning structure
- Addressing changes in BC plan personnel assignments
- Training new and assigned personnel
With regard to managing organizational changes, making the changes to plan hierarchy was easy – just restructure the hierarchy as needed within the planning tool. The more interesting challenge was how to ensure that the aggregate reports we developed would continue to apply. As example, we produce certain aggregate program metric reports at the site and regional levels. Any organizational changes across those boundaries would lead to a new reporting structure. We were able to design our aggregate reports so that they would properly aggregate data based on whatever planning structure existed, no matter how it was changed.
When we first deployed the tool, we implemented a data and document management philosophy of “single entry, multiple use” that continues to serve us well today. Essentially, this design philosophy suggests that you design the BC plan layout and content to meet your BC program needs. Consider what data and documents are required, and then structure the BC planning tool to capture those data and documents in the most efficient manner.
For example, since the BC plan owner’s name is displayed in multiple places throughout the BC plan, we capture their name once in the data collection web form and display the name wherever it is required throughout the body of the plan. This philosophy has been extremely helpful in gaining wide user acceptance of their responsibility to maintain their own BC plans by eliminating redundant data entry and minimizing the work effort when changes are required.
With an end-user community of more than 10,000 users, our BC program team has ongoing responsibility to train new users as they are identified. We also function as the help desk for existing end user questions about BC planning tool navigation and use.
In 2009 we trained about 2,000 new users across the organization. During the same timeframe, the BC program team responded to an average of 25 end-user calls per day. Training of new users on how to navigate the planning tool takes 45 minutes and is delivered classroom-style and in instructor-led, Web-based training format we developed ourselves. We also provide the end user with a one-page quick reference guide that summarizes all of the key navigation functions of the planning tool. As evidence of our success, we know that end users retain more than 95 percent of what they learned 12 months prior. The success of our training program has had a significant impact on the hours we spend training and retraining end users. As a result, we spend much more of our time consulting with business on creating a better BC plan. We launched the “Business Continuity Planning (BCP) 100% Club” to recognize Kaiser Permanente facilities and campuses where every department plan owner has reviewed and fully updated their BCP using our BC planning tool. Twenty-three facilities won the award in 2009!
Challenge No. 2 – Keep it Simple, Grow Slowly
From the very beginning, we have integrated a business continuity maturity model (BCMM) into our BC program strategy and goals. “Start simple, then grow slowly” was the tenet of our original BC program deployment.
The BCMM defines a six-level maturity framework within which organizations evolve. It identifies that BC planning practices mature over time as the organization becomes increasingly familiar with business continuity concepts, methods, and tools. This concept of evolving the BC program over time was very appealing to our national Business Continuity Management Governance Council and continues to be a recurring theme in our annual updating of the BC program goals and objectives.
Management agreed it was more important to have a successful program launch from which we could enhance planning over time than it was to create comprehensive BC plans from the start. As a starting point for the initial deployment of our BC planning tool, the BC plan template focused on a subset of the elements you might find in a comprehensive BC plan:
- A thorough BIA to determine function and service recovery time objectives
- A subset of functional dependencies, e.g. IT applications, communications services, interdepartmental workflow
- High-level recovery task information
- Detailed recovery resource requirements for loss of workplace, e.g. personnel, medical and office equipment, clinical supplies, etc.
- Job action sheets linking department BC plan owner responsibilities to the hospital’s emergency operations functions
We picked a pilot medical center and worked closely with all clinical and business departments to ensure that their BC plans were complete. We then used the BC planning tool to clone copies of those plans for 29 other medical centers to use as “starting point” BC plans which they would simply edit as part of their initial BC plan build. We took a similar pilot and cloning approach to our regional and headquarters functions as well. This approach was phenomenally successful. We had greater than 95 percent participation across the organization.
This strategy of cloning plans from existing departments has continued to be valuable as Kaiser Permanente adds new facilities. Over the past seven years Kaiser Permanente has added many new facilities across the country. Initial BC plans for each of these new facilities were generated from BC plans already in place at identical or similar departments in another location.
Since the deployment of the original BC plan template, we have slowly been ratcheting up both the BC planner’s competency as well as the comprehensiveness of department’s BC plans. Every few years we have introduced new content and incorporated it around training for the user community.
Challenge No. 3 – Minimize the Work Required
In a BC program deployment where responsibility is placed in the hands of the management team, it is crucial to always keep in mind that these BC plan owners and planning teams already have a full-time job. BC planning is done “off the corner of the desk” and for most is not a daily activity. Wherever the BC program can leverage work already done, it will pay major dividends in gaining support and gratitude from your user community.
When we first implemented our planning tool, the BC planners had to enter all of the information directly into the planning tool. This included data for personnel, IT applications, clinical equipment, supplies, etc. Over time, we have modified the BC plan template to incorporate links to other Kaiser Permanente databases where some of this information is already maintained in electronic format. In linking to these external data sources, we simplify the work effort for the end user in a couple of ways:
- Offer lists of available choices rather than type in entries manually
- Provide automatic updates by BC planning tool any time the linked data changes
This also has a significant benefit for the BC program office in that using external data links to populate certain data fields within the planning tool ensures that we get standardized responses that can easily be sorted and data mined.
Examples of the types of data that you might want to consider will vary by what industry you are in. For us here at Kaiser, the following data fields have either already been integrated or are in the process of being integrated over the next few years:
- IT application
- Office equipment
- Fixed and portable medical equipment
- Department names
- Site names
- Personnel types (roles or titles)
Find Your Way Forward Toward Resiliency
Through the challenges discussed in this article, you have seen how Kaiser Permanente successfully and continually reinvents the use of its BC planning tool within the thriving BC program. I encourage you to take time to think about your program as evolving and changing, similar to how it is described within the BCMM. Focus on small steps that can be achieved within a single year’s planning cycle while keeping your eye on long term, measurable goals and objectives. Always be sensitive to the time availability of your user community. Constantly be vigilant to hear suggestions (that might sound a lot like complaints) to leverage work already done. The more successful you are at demonstrating that you are attuned to the needs and pains of your user community while meeting the objectives of senior management, the more widely accepted will be your planning tools. Through them, the overall resiliency of the organization will be met.
Cheryl LaTouche, CBCP, has worked in the BC profession for more than 15 years. LaTouche can be reached at (510) 625-4803 or via email at Cheryl.LaTouche@kp.org. Business Continuity Maturity Model® and BCMM® are registered trademarks of Virtual Corporation. For more information on the BCMM®, visit http://virtual-corp.net/html/bcmm.html.