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As business continuity planners, we know the importance of protecting our organization. But will everyone in the firm agree with that assessment? Will they back a business continuity plan? It is hard to achieve proper levels of protection without having full commitment from all involved.

In this article, a simple procedure for gaining commitment and raising awareness is outlined. The tips are based on procedures followed in my organization. We successfully implemented a training program that raised awareness and garnered commitment from all levels of personnel. If your company needs to improve its BC planning awareness among employees, perhaps implementing a training program similar to ours will give you a good start.

First, I recommend a visit to your company’s human resource manager. Most training groups are aligned under human resources. If your HR manager understands the importance of training and awareness for employees, you have a better chance of getting the program implemented in your company. After all, your top priority in business continuity planning is to take care of your people. If you are providing awareness and training, you are caring for your organizations’ employees. HR understands this element.

Second, visit with your company’s training group, if one has been established, and explain what you want to accomplish with your awareness/training program. The team should be experienced in putting together training curriculum and can become a valuable resource for you. If you do not have a training group, talk to your HR department about putting one together.

Third, pick a focus. Do you want awareness training for your managers and those responsible for the business unit plans? Or do you need training for the day-to-day employees only?

Once you have decided your goals and needs, plan an awareness meeting with the executives. You should provide a broad overview of how the BCP plan would work and what it would offer your organization. Getting the executives to support the process is vital in implementing BCP within your company.

During the meeting, you should address the following points:

  • General overview of the BCP process
  • Plan status and plan priorities
  • Outline the aid you will need while you implement the process

Once you’ve gained top-level support, move on to the director or department managers. You will want to explain the key points of the process and involve them in planning for key elements in the plan. This can be done in two stages: awareness and implementation of a training exercise. I would suggest you tie the two together. This allows the business unit managers to become involved in the process and share their skills with the employees.

Points you will want to cover during this meeting include:

  • BCP process overview
  • The importance of BCP
  • Responsibilities and roles
  • Plan a table top planning exercise using an actual disaster scenario
  • Create a checklist of key items that are critical to business units
  • Recap as a group
  • Develop an action plan
  • Establish a future date for follow up and assessment

Your third meeting should be conducted with the remaining employees in your organization. Again, you should include an overview of why BC is important and the overall BC plan. You will gain better participation and support from employees if they understand the overall BC process and what their individual roles will be.

Following the initial meetings with each group, you will need to establish a routine for regular follow-ups throughout the year. Keeping the BC topic fresh and on everyones’ minds is key to maintaining commitments. You may wish to meet with different business units on a quarterly basis, and rotate these throughout the year.

The following is an outline of how to establish a training meeting and exercise. It is based on our financial group’s experience.

1) Visit with the business unit director first to get approval. Be sure to select a date and time for the training that best fits with each departments’ schedules.
2) Have the director assign employees from each of the areas to participate. You want participation from day-to-day employees that are aware of critical functions and how to maintain them.
3) Create an agenda. This should be time specific. In our case, we designated four hours for our training exercise.
4) Develop a presentation defining BC planning and its components. Add in some disaster statistics and important key points such as who is responsible and why.
5) Next create a disaster scenario. Ours was an event that nearly occurred to our organization: a toxic spill.
6) Create a planning checklist. What key items are needed in the plans to prepare for a disaster? Team members can compare what they have against what they need. Providing this allows the groups to stay focused. You want your scenario to go as smoothly as possible. If you make the process too difficult and the groups fail, you may have difficulty maintaining support. Make it a positive experience.
7) Create an exercise. This gives you a hands-on environment and gets the groups involved in the process so they understand the importance of the process. In our case, each group was given the scenario we created earlier and were told to complete different steps of the recovery using changing criteria. The test included details such as the backup tape was done on Tuesday evening, but the disaster occurred on Wednesday afternoon. What do you do about Wednesday’s data? This allowed team members to think through the process and analyze their needs for changing environments.
8) Make sure to invite to the exercise any system or technical support staff that may be needed to answer questions.
9) Provide supplies such as easel pads, markers, paper and an environment away from the office so team members can concentrate on the planning process. If you try to conduct the exercises in the normal work environment, you will lose people to everyday tasks.
10) Bring all current business unit documentation so that the business units can compare what criteria they have and what they are missing.
11) Have each business unit provide a summary and action plan. Have each group recap what they came up with for their plan, priorities and action items. This helps the other groups determine other priorities or action items they may need in their plans as well.
12) Create an action plan. The business unit manager should assign the priority items to employees within the business unit.
13) Follow up with the progress of the business units. Make sure you are provided with updated action plans.
14) Provide lunch if possible. Use this time to discuss any additional items that might not have been thought of during the exercise.
15) As you incorporate each of the business units into the process, make sure to include them in your bi-weekly/monthly business continuity meetings.
16) Finally, work with human resources to set up training as part of the company’s orientation of new employees.

The key is awareness; everyone needs to know what will happen if disaster strikes. By following these steps and providing training for all levels of your organization, you can achieve greater awareness and, as a result, greater protection for your company.

Candy Wehenkel is the business continuity manager for Anderson Merchandisers and has been conducting business continuity for five years. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Printed In Winter 2006