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Winter Journal

Volume 31, Issue 4

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What is the worst position to be in as a recovery planner? Unemployed, underpaid or overworked? I suppose we would all have our opinions of the most undesirable position.

My sympathy goes out to any planner asked to create a recovery strategy simply to satisfy legal, regulatory, or contractual requirements. I’m sure there are individuals out there who have found themselves in this position.

Seldom, if ever, will this scenario be announced beforehand. On the contrary, you’ll probably be working your way through the professional practices and one day discover that you’re all alone in your efforts. So how do you continue to deliver a quality service and remain true to your profession and your personal credibility? Let’s look at some warning signs:

1. Project unannounced at an enterprise level
2. Unspecified budget
3. Inconsistent or unavailable executive sponsorship
4. Lack of accountability among involved parties
5. Poor attendance at scheduled meetings
6. Late or no return of scheduled deliverables
7. A constant push to “trim down” expenses that is inconsistent with business impact
8. Draft documents being distributed in response to queries regarding DR
9. Little or no effort being applied to continuity components
10. Status reports not read or followed up


We can all look at this list and say, “I’ve dealt with some of that.” Being able to apply one or two of these frustrations to our daily tasks is just part of the job. It doesn’t necessarily indicate that you’re producing a shelf doily for someone’s office. Once you’ve gotten to the point that most or all of these comments can apply to the same project, you’re probably creating “window dressing” for a customer that isn’t committed to a working plan or strategy. It’s extremely difficult to remain motivated toward delivering your best when you’ve faced this revelation. Nevertheless, this is exactly our challenge and we must rise to meet it.

Don’t assume, just because you’re approached and asked to develop an emergency strategy that the requestor understands their needs. Take plenty of time to work with your sponsorship to define objectives and success factors. What is the goal of the plan? How will you know when the planning is complete?

It’s at this point that you will establish and communicate the need for a business continuity strategy. Although we can see the common sense in our efforts, that sense is all too uncommon among the general population. Once your sponsors are aware of the depth and complexity of the project and understand the expectations, draft an executive announcement introducing you and the project to the rest of the enterprise. That announcement should then be sent out from the highest-ranking senior official available.

Your sponsorship team will no doubt be the money machine for your project. Tenaciously pursue a dollar amount that can be committed to paper. At this point you’ll have few of the actual figures from a business impact analysis (BIA) or pricing from a recovery vendor. What you can have is a willingness to commit.
For example, a simple statement like, “We’re willing to invest up to 10 percent of our operating budget to fund this effort” is a good start. Later, if you demonstrate through a BIA that the risk of financial loss is much greater, you can revisit the original figures together and discuss revision.

Once you’ve established this relationship with your executive sponsors, don’t let it dissolve. Keep them involved by requesting feedback and providing regular status reports. Make sure they know that you’re taking the responsibility seriously and they should do the same. Your status reports should include subproject status and meeting minutes. In addition, this is your vehicle for communicating unmet timelines, missing deliverables and poor attendance at meetings.

In most situations you will not have supervisory responsibility for individual contributors. Your executive sponsors however can quickly reestablish priorities and enable the weak producers. If you do not get a timely response when issues are raised through reporting, contact your sponsor. Ask them if they have had an opportunity to review your status report. Communicate the necessary information and restate your need for their support.

After the BIA has been completed, you’ll be able to intelligently discuss the financial risks to the organization. No one is happy about spending money on recovery efforts. It’s a necessary safeguard to ensure the quick and structured response to unscheduled events.
This response can ultimately reduce the financial loss that would otherwise follow. If you’ve identified a potential loss in the millions and your sponsorship is throwing pennies at a solution, be cautious.

Understandably, not all viable solutions come with a six-figure price tag. However, zero downtime, state-of-the-art technology is not cheap. If the BIA is identifying a significant financial risk, make sure your sponsors understand that. Cover all options with them from the most cost effective to the most elaborate. As hard as it is to accept, electing to “do nothing” is a legitimate approach. As long as your sponsors understand what is at stake, they are at liberty to spend as they feel appropriate.

Your role as a planner is to help your sponsors understand the implications of various scenarios and recommend appropriate solutions. The decision to fund a solution will always remain with them.

Always remain mindful of the continuity plan as an aggregate rather than a collection of disarticulated components. A masterfully designed technology recovery plan means little without a continuance effort. In the ideal world this will fall under your sphere of influence. In many cases it will reside within the various business units.
If you find another entity responsible for portions of an overall effort, engage them. By working together the entire plan improves. Blur the edges that divide responsibilities and leverage the commonalities between the roles. Share your resources and solicit support when needed. While it may be true about “too many chefs spoiling the stew,” too many people involved in business continuity is seldom our problem.
Finally, resist the urge, (and the requests) to release draft copies of your documents. An audit response that identifies a document as “pending approval” is not uncommon. It demonstrates an awareness of a situation and the steps that are being taken to correct it.

Conversely, if the rush is on to finalize documentation on an unfunded or untested process for the sake of an audit, you may be exposing more than your creative efforts. Let your integrity guide you as you work with your sponsor’s requests. Be sensitive to their needs while explaining any reservations you may have. Maintaining your credibility should be the goal. Ultimately, do what you feel is right and you will be respected.

Our profession and the customers we support deserve our best effort, always, without compromise.

Patrick Ridder is a continuity professional with more than 20 years of healthcare experience.