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Spring Journal

Volume 32, Issue 1

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Corporations can not meet today's levels of productivity and expectations for corporate earnings if their systems, networks or critical suppliers have interruptions that affect productivity. Likewise, if customers do not choose to buy your products or services for any reason, an interruption to corporate earnings expectations could occur.

Disaster recovery as an industry has evolved over the past quarter century from a data center operation into a methodology for corporate survival called continuity planning. Disaster recovery teams have struggled for years to obtain sponsorship and recognition on "Mahogany Row". Today, everyone from The Wall Street Journal to Entrepreneur is extolling the importance of contingency planning for dealing with both conventional interruptions and the possibility of a Y2K failure.

Indeed, as an industry, we have focused on IT infrastructures and "Mean Time to Recovery" as the definitions of our value. But, I believe that on the eve of the new millennium, we have the ability to reposition our industry for the future.

Corporate boardrooms have come to recognize that the productivity and competitiveness of their organization are completely dependent on technology to meet revenue projections. Since realizing that Y2K is a business issue rather than a technology issue, corporate executives have turned toward a broader application of contingency planning. An application that will assure the continuity of business regardless of the disruption source. CEO's suddenly realized that the joke wasn't quite as funny about not wanting to be a CIO going into Y2K because they would probably get fired on January 3rd. This given the fact that they, as the CEO, would probably be fired by the Board of Directors on January 7th because business was interrupted and it occurred on their watch. In the last of half of 1999, we as contingency planning professionals must take stock in where we have arrived and hold firm. We must not retreat "whence we cometh". That is, we have finally arrived in the boardroom and we must not relinquish the position we have justly earned. Our value as a key component of the corporate infrastructure has been elevated. Continuity planners are now responsible for ensuring that business continues in the event of any type of business interruption, whether it be a Y2K failure, natural disaster or power outage. We must not accept that Y2K is just a singularly focused event requiring heightened action. We need to acknowledge and accept that business is dependent on technology. We must also accept that anything that interrupts or diminishes our companies' ability to compete or meet the expectations of a market analyst is a threat to the survival of our company.

In today's economy, it all boils down to shareholder value. We have migrated from a five-year plan through a one-year plan. In fact, many organizations now conduct business according to quarterly plans, with the purpose of enhancing stock performance. CEOs and boards of directors are laser-focused on two things: competitiveness and due diligence as it affects shareholder value. Continuity planning, as it was born from disaster recovery, can now evolve in "Competitive Diligence". The IT infrastructure of any given organization is more valuable every day, since that organization is more dependent on those resources to meet their objectives. The requirement for high-availability systems and networks is engineered through redundancy and mitigating single points of failure. Productivity takes on a whole new level of significance if we can now communicate to executives that disaster recovery and contingency planning are not merely cost center activities. Rather, they are mission critical elements of the new due diligence requirements necessary to protect the organization's productivity and competitive position.

I have heard from some individuals in the continuity industry say publicly that they can't wait until Y2K is over and they can get back to emergency management and disaster recovery activities. Please don't let this be you. Instead, take stock in the real estate you have fought so hard to obtain. Take notice that you are uniquely positioned to understand how your corporation works, what activities are most critical and how to fit all of the pieces together in case of a technology interruption or regional disaster. You can assist many other departments through the application of lessons you have learned and transfer methodologies to prepare for unforeseen circumstances.

The most pressing application of your skills in contingency planning within your organization may be to assist marketing and sales. Yep, the people who typically only call you with a problem. What is becoming increasingly alarming is that many customers are planning to freeze their IT infrastructure in the fourth quarter or delay any new purchases until after January 2000. They want to be sure that nothing new is introduced to their systems after their final Y2K tests. "Good idea" you say. But how does that affect me? You are potentially affected if your company's customers deploy this strategy toward your sales force. Your own company could potentially not have buyers for its products or service during the fourth quarter. Therefore, there will be a negative impact on your company's shareholder value if revenue targets are missed.

Planners take pride in the value you bring to your company by protecting the "Bottom Line". By applying your talent and training to other elements of your company or industry, you bring credit to yourself and strategically show that to be productive tomorrow, we must all plan today. Seize the day.

Michael W. Braham is a Certified Disaster Recovery Professional (CDRP) who has presented papers at numerous national-level forums on voice network survivability and emergency operations centers. Braham was the Founder and President of the Association of Contingency Planners (ACP), Capital Area Chapter and served on ACP's National Board of Directors Steering Committee for FEMA's Project Impact program. Mr. Braham, a native Virginian, is a graduate of George Mason University located in Fairfax, Virginia. Upon completion of his Bachelor of Science degree, Mr. Braham served as a United States Marine Corps officer and AV8B Harrier Pilot.