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Volume 27, Issue 3

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My, How Time Flies

It’s hard to believe that 20 years ago, I wrote my first column for the Disaster Recovery Journal.

You may wonder how I ended up writing the column for the DRJ magazine. Let me explain. When I decided 20 years in the disaster recovery/business continuity industry was enough, I informed SunGard Planning Solutions I was ready to retire. (Devlin Associates Inc., which was started in 1973, was acquired by SunGard in 1987). SunGard decided it would be fun to “roast” me before I officially retired. They invited all of the attendees at their May 1992 conference to attend dinner and the roast.

The “roasters” were prominent figures from the computer security/disaster recovery/business resumption planning arena. Rich Arnold was one of the prominent figures asked to participate and he seemed very happy to roast me. The following morning, he approached me with the idea of writing a column for the Disaster Recovery Journal, since I wasn’t going to be doing anything except golf. I figured he meant writing the column for a year or two, so I agreed.

Well here it is, 20 years later. And I’m retiring again. (I’m sure many of you are saying, “Finally.”)

When I was thinking about the subject for my final column, I thought I would write about the major “supply chain disruptions” of 2011 – one caused by the earthquake/tsunami/nuclear disaster in Japan (April) and then a second by the floods in Thailand (August).

As I began accumulating information for the two disasters, I decided to look through a book where I keep all of my prior DRJ columns. (Yes, I have all 20 years of my columns.)

I noticed my initial column for DRJ (Fall 1992) centered on Hurricane Andrew. That column reminded me there were a number of vendors/suppliers affected by Andrew in 1992. When I turned the next page, I realized one of my columns dealt with a disaster at an “outsourcer.” (Roof collapse of a computer center serving banks in a March blizzard in 1993.) I found it ironic that 19-20 years ago, we realized in addition to recovering from a disaster to our organization, we needed a contingency in the event suppliers were unable to service/supply us.

As I looked further through the book, I thought the subjects we concerned ourselves with then, are similar to those that concern us today. The depth may be different, the breadth may be different, and the terminology is definitely different, but the articles still revolve around one major need ... to be prepared.

Early on, my columns focused on being prepared to resume business operations after a disaster. My more recent columns have keyed in on being prepared to resume business operations after a crisis has struck an organization. I believe that business continuity professionals should be just as involved in preparing the company/organization to bounce back from a crisis, as they are to resume operations after a disaster.

The effects of a crisis on a company’s business operation can be mind boggling. Look at the damage to the reputations of Penn State, Syracuse, and senior officials at both universities. Those crises came “out of the blue.” It seems that most crises occur as a surprise.

Some other examples of organizations forced to quickly manage a crisis in 2011 were:

  • Bank of America – botched technology upgrade
  • Research in Motion – interruption to BlackBerry service
  • Citigroup – cyber attack exposing 360,000 user accounts
  • Epsilon – theft of millions of individuals confidential info
  • Sony – Playstation’s intrusion exposing information of 77 million accounts
  • JPMorgan Chase – errors in processing foreclosure paperwork
  • Netflix – the negative reception to separate subscription plans resulting in cancellations
  • Synthes Inc. – a company’s executives sentenced to jail – illegal use of bone cement
  • Wilson, Sonsini, Goodrich – an executive is charged with criminal insider trading

Conclusion

It has been a great run for me. In my 40 years in the BC/DR industry, I was fortunate to have met many interesting people -- at my seminars, at our conferences, and during my consulting projects. I’ve travelled around the world, met BCP professionals from other countries and found they have the same enthusiasm, as you all have. I have acquired a great number of friends during those years.

Confucius said, “Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life.”

That’s the way I feel about my career in our industry.

Although I will be retired, if any of you feel you need to talk with me about business continuity planning, you can always contact me at esjdevlin@aol.com.

Ed Devlin, CBCP, has provided business recovery planning consulting services since 1973 when he co-founded Devlin Associates. Since then, Devlin has assisted more than 300 companies in the writing of their business recovery plans and has made more than 800 seminars and presentations worldwide.

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