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Volume 30, Issue 3

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Thursday, 25 May 2017 16:50

Breaking down Business Continuity Barriers with Incident Management

Written by  TED MARQUARDT

Marquardt1

Technology is changing the speed and accuracy with which information is gathered, analyzed, and acted upon. Relationships are central to this technological evolution as are establishing connections among related data, and then surfacing useful information from those relationships to empower you to take action and make timely, informed decisions. This technological shift to inter-connectedness has impacted most areas of our professional and personal lives, and as business continuity professionals, the managing of incidents should not be an exception.

It is important to be able to manage your dictionary data, upstream and downstream dependencies, impact analysis assessments, and recovery plans. With this business continuity foundation established, you can then forge ahead to build upon your powerful inter-connected platform with incident management.

Whether responding to an adverse event or performing a test exercise, you need to be able to accurately identify the scope of an incident and coordinate your recovery efforts in a timely manner. The data you need to make these decisions should live within your business continuity’s system of record. Proper incident management will leverage this data - the dependencies you defined, the RTOs and criticalities you assessed, and the detailed tasks in plans you built. Transforming related business continuity data into timely, actionable information is what incident management is all about.

Business Continuity Challenge: Barriers to Effective Incident Management

Marquardt2When discussing the pain-points that business continuity professionals experience with regard to managing incidents, whether actual events or test exercises, the resounding theme is dealing with barriers - impediments that affect recovery efforts at the time of incident or test and obstacles that make it difficult to evaluate and improve the business continuity program’s effectiveness. Some of the common barriers that business continuity professionals are faced with include the following:

  • Disconnected data: One-off, standalone applications such as Word, Excel, or Sharepoint trap data in silos where it cannot be fully leveraged at the time of incident. Additionally, there can be a disconnect between the business continuity and disaster recovery areas of the business, where leveraging shared data would truly promote real operations continuity.
  • Uncoordinated recovery efforts: The flow of information is crucial during an event or test. The inability to coordinate who is doing what and when results from not having a centralized command structure view into the recovery efforts of related entities. Without a common, integrated incident response workflow, responders are not informed in a timely manner, and incident management teams are disconnected.
  • Outdated and cumbersome plans: An obstacle to timely recovery efforts can be the plans themselves. When responders are required to page through PDFs or pages in a binder to identify the tasks that need to be performed, valuable time is wasted. And what if the static PDF or paper plan is out of date? It is not unheard of for plans to be abandoned due to these issues ... just when they are needed most. Responders need to be armed with a focused set of current, up-to-date tasks.
  • Time-consuming post-mortems: During an actual incident or test exercise, much can be learned about the effectiveness of your recovery program. Unfortunately, the gathering and analysis of this information can be a time-consuming, labor-intensive process. Identified gaps and issues can get lost in disparate e-messages and handwritten notes, and results tracked in spreadsheets can be difficult to compile. You need to be able to address lessons learned in a timely manner to mitigate future risk.

Small and big problems occur daily. Regardless of the size and frequency, resolving a problem relies on understanding the “immediate knowns”: WHAT has been impacted? WHERE is the impact occurring? WHO can fix the problem? HOW do we fix the problem? As a business continuity professional, you already have the answers to these questions in your data dictionaries and plans. This is why you do the hard work to maintain a system of record and keep your recovery plans current and actionable.

Still, when an incident occurs or when performing a test, time would not be well spent scanning your data dictionaries and plans as you attempt to manage response resources and coordinate recovery efforts. You want to leverage the inter-connected data you and your planners work so hard to maintain and transforms it into timely, actionable information at your fingertips.

Marquardt TedTed Marquardt is a product manager for Sungard Availability Services. With 20 years of experience in software development, he appreciates how invaluable it is to collaborate with customers and understand the jobs they need to get done.