Are We There Yet?
The distribution of the BCP would not have been able to take place without the approval of upper management. Following an extended period of revisions (at least three reviews were done), the plan was then approved and signed-off by the upper echelon. This experience proved to be both a test of patience and a likewise illuminating introduction to the world of office politics. This reminded me of waiting for term paper grades in college.
Lesson learned: The corporate world is not much different from the academic world.
Critical Tasks Bear Repeating
The various roles and responsibilities assigned to each BC team member were fully explained, and a thorough review of each section was conducted, elaborating on important and relevant sections within the BCP. Despite these detailed explanations, I found that several individuals asked for further explanations throughout the process.
Lesson learned: Teach repetitively until you are confident that all members are clear about their duties.
Updates Beyond Updates
Scenario: A BC professional is in the process of completing a time-consuming and important section of the BCP (call trees, vendor listing). The following day, a key employee leaves the corporation. Not only does this event impact the department and organization as a whole, but the BC coordinator must now think of all necessary modifications within the plan – call trees, organizational charts and contact information – that require modification. The new employee will need to be made aware of the existence of such a plan and his/her specific roles and responsibilities.However, should these changes be incorporated now or later?
Lesson learned: Such “perpetual” changes will never cease, and it is essential that new information is updated as soon as possible. Nevertheless, the issue remains: do such changes, as minor as these, necessitate a re-distribution of the affected pages to all key members at that moment in time? Can the BC coordinator collect such changes over a specific timeframe, incorporate them, and then send out the changes to all affected parties? The answer to these questions remain. Maybe, through my experiences, will I be able to assuredly answer such questions.
The creating and promoting of awareness – or even the existence – of a BCP within a corporation is a most difficult task. In general, employees do not have a positive inclination to attend awareness sessions to gain knowledge in this field, especially if there are no incentives to entice them (prize drawings, lunches, etc…). Sadly, the field of business continuity is not a top priority for a majority of employees.
Lesson learned: Participation in awareness activities is not an employee’s “cup of tea” unless attractive perks are offered.
Scheduling a Test Run
In a similar vein, scheduling a test with key members identified in the BCP is as difficult and time-consuming as any of the activities mentioned above. Last minute cancellations, other priorities, illnesses, and vacations are just some of the explanations members have given prior to the testing taking place. As mentioned in the previous article, one of the on-going hardships is to schedule meetings with various users on a one-on-one basis.
Lesson learned: The larger the group, the more difficult it is to get everyone together at the same time.
Make Yourself Accessible
Of all of the lessons described in this article, none can be more heartfelt as this one. The day I left for my vacation to Florida, the major power outage that blacked out a majority of the Northeastern US and Ontarian power grid occurred. On Aug. 13, 2003, several corporate offices were directly affected and no set procedures were in place to deal with such an event. Work on the BCP was not completed at that exact moment in time! In addition, a majority of the modes of communication were inoperable.
In retrospect, I thought to myself, “What would be the odds of something happening during my vacation?”
Lesson Learned: Did I ever learn a lesson! Numerous employees were calling in asking what should be done in such a situation – who should we call, what were the next steps, etc…. In fact, I needed to retrieve such calls from a pay phone at the airport. Nonetheless, the national general manager of IT and I ensured that an appropriate contact was referred to and resolved most of the issues. In retrospect, always be reachable through some sort of immediate communication medium (e.g. pager, cellular, Blackberry…) in order to promptly respond to unforeseen emergencies.
An interesting outcome from the power outage was that the only communication technology that was fully operational was wireless text-to-text messaging (Blackberry). All e-mail and most telephone and cellular communications were either inoperable or affected by an overly congested network. As such, increased reliance and use of such messaging became an important factor and created a much needed awareness and urgency to switch to this technology. As a result, more and more employees are now turning to wireless messaging and leaving cellular technology aside.
The Road Ahead
During the next months, increased awareness on the subject of business continuity and testing sessions will be warranted within many of the corporate offices. Maintenance of the current BCPs is always on-going, and several offices are scheduled for their first business impact assessment. In sum, the coming months will prove to be somewhat of a major stepping-stone for this business continuity coordinator.
Michael Barbara, CBCP, is the recently-appointed business continuity coordinator at a law firm in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. He has been employed there since March 2003. Barbara has previously worked as a business analyst and is a silent partner in a breakfast restaurant.