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Searching for the “Eureka” moment

Apr 19, 2011   //   by David   //   Blog  //  No Comments

 Although Glen Abbot has worked for many household names and blue-chip businesses, we often have to provide the spark that creates the “eureka” moment. This, to us, is the moment when the true value of being prepared and developing Business Continuity plans becomes apparent to senior managers/Directors in our client organisations. Many of our clients are driven or nudged grudgingly towards Business Continuity by their regulator or by a company they supply.

But this doesn’t, in our experience result in an organisation who “get it”. Doing something, because your told to, as an alternative to doing something because you see and understand the benefits from doing it, rarely results in a deep understanding and interest in the matter. Business Continuity planning in the United Kingdom went through a huge surge in demand during the period of 2005 to 2007. This was probably attributable to the launching of BS.25999 and the arrival of the Civil Contingencies Act.

Yet what has happened to the wave of enthusiasm which arose then? The Civil Contingencies Act is still on the statute, and is indeed being revised and in some cases strengthened. Yet the public sector bodies to whom it principally applies are seen to be reducing their commitment to Emergency Planning and Business Continuity. We appreciate that there are financial constraints but is reducing the available experienced BC resource a risk worth taking? It seems that many UK senior managers and Directors haven’t yet had a “eureka” moment and are doing BC because they’re told to.

So, how do we as a community of BC professionals inspire them to that moment? Despite a history of incidents, many caused by weather (Snow in Dec ’10/Jan ’11, Floods in ’04), there just doesn’t seem to be a culture of recognising the need to be prepared at the top levels of British businesses and organisations.

The title of this blog entry is asking for anyone who reads it to reply, sharing with us what it was which created the “Eureka” moment in your organisation. For some it might have been when your CEO was in the car park following a fire evacuation and discovered that the call-centre agents standing beside him had no idea what they were supposed to do to keep the company operating. It might be because there was a virus which made your IT systems unusable for a few days. Maybe your building has had a fire or a flood? Whatever it was, we’d love to know what was your management “eureka” moment?

Communications, Communications, Communications

Apr 4, 2011   //   by David   //   Blog  //  No Comments

When you consider the Business Continuity arrangements for your organisation, and how your organisation can recover from an incident it becomes very clear that how you communicate is critical to your ability and timescales for recovery from an incident. This is particularly so during the early stages of the incident. Speed of communications is becoming a critical consideration.

To paraphrase the saying about property, in the early stages of any incident it is all about Communications, Communications, Communications. This is particularly true as we’re living in the age of citizen enabled mass communications. Almost every mobile phone now has a camera, and the rise of “social” networking systems like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube is giving the citizen an instant publishing platform . The concept of the “Golden Hour” has possibly gone. Whereas the emergency response and communications could be considered and a press release drafted before the world outside were aware your incident now you may find images are published on-line for all to see before you’ve even had time to assemble your crisis management team. This all points to the need to have crystal clear, easy to use communications system defined and tested long before ay incident occurs. Think of it as laying down the road along which you will drive your messages when the incident occurs. You’re unlikely to achieve a controlled recovery if you’ve not got any system in place to send out messages before the incident occurs. If the incident is newsworthy you may well hear about on Sky news before you’ve got your communications mobilised – unless SkyNews is responding to a well managed media brief which means you had planned your communications.

So, having planned the media management aspect of communicating through and incident – now you must put in place a system to communicate with your other stakeholders – not least of which is your staff. As you read this article ask yourself this simple question : “How would my organisation rapidly communicate will all members of staff?”

Staff communication

Any crisis that occurs will create an element of fear and shock. The ability to rapidly communicate with staff becomes paramount. Using a well designed software platform you can have the ability to quickly relay any important messages via voice call, text or email.

Mobile vs Landlines

From OFCOM statistics, last year saw a landmark change in the uses of mobile phone. For the first time there were more calls made mobile to mobile than made across the traditional land line network. Instant communication via mobile phone systems that can distribute a message to over 200 phones per minute makes using modern technology to stay in touch a viable option. Using software to communicate via landlines is also an option should the original recipient be unable to be reached by mobile. However a word of caution here as to the viability of mobile technology as emergency services do have the ability to commandeer the mobile network should they feel it is warranted

Keeping phone numbers up to date

Any plan that is to be used in the event of an incident must ensure that all phone numbers for staff or third party contacts and suppliers should be kept up to date and current to ensure passing the right message to the right person and ensuring you assemble the correct members of any recovery team. Although this can be a laborious job it is relevant to ensure currency to maintain the level of recovery/incident response

Systems

As the business world changes more and more companies are relying on Voip (voice over internet protocol) communications for telephony and call centres this ensures clean and cheap communication especially if the business has a call centre based offshore. Whenever a crisis occurs this can create a problem if the power is lost to the company server rooms then this will mean the Voip system will also be unusable. The old days of a latent power being kept in the old style telephone systems are becoming less and less. Having a robust communication system that will work outwith the current server topology and can communicate via other methods is paramount.

Response

The Incident Management Centre will receive responses from recovery, support and other teams during the time of crisis and the way this I handled is key to any recovery and having an automated response system makes the job easier which also gives you the ability to send critical recovery documents with any esponse that will assist the effective recovery in a timely and succinct manner.

All your communications planning should be done in the cold light of day, not in the heat of the moment , as the incident threatens to engulf you. Always plan for the worst possible incident with the highest possible impact on your organisation and make sure your communications are planned and tested against that scenario. How much better do you think a car manufacturer could be communicating if it had considered the possibility of having to recall every car it built in the last five years?

Glen Abbot has become UK’s leading Business Continuity specialist. Glen Abbot’s consultants have over 100 years of experience in resilience, business and risk management, IT and systems planning.

Glen Abbot has developed the 7Ps Framework for developing resilience in an organisation.

 

All About Sunspots

Apr 4, 2011   //   by David   //   Blog  //  No Comments

While you may think that it’s ridiculous to worry about sunspots and solar flares as part of your business continuity planning maybe you should step back and ask yourself – is it really so ridiculous? After all, who had the risk that European airspace could be completely closed for a period of weeks as a risk in their plans?

So maybe we *do* need to think about packing more than Factor 50 suncream when we think about sunspots. Can we even imagine how we would communicate without having the ubiquitous mobile phone available to us? In less than a generation it’s become an indispensible part of our social and business fabric. Yet this is exactly the type of communications which may be at risk from solar activity.   Radio based systems, which means mobile phones, satellite navigation systems, microwave communication links even perhaps the cordless phone you use in your home could be affected.  The problem with this risk, is, like the Icelandic volcano, there’s not exactly a lot we can do to prevent it. All we can do is watch carefully for expert advice, and consider in advance what we could do to mitigate the effects of the risk.

Over the next few months Glen Abbot will be looking at this risk, assessing the threat levels and providing some solid business continuity advice on dealing with it

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