Senior-level sponsors of business continuity programs have spoken, and here’s what they wish you’d do…
As Published in the July/August 2010 Issue of Continuity Insights Magazine
“It’s the economy. Business continuity isn’t a priority this year. I don’t know why our steering committee meetings are no longer attended. I’m not sure why my budget was cut beyond those of other departments. Why did my program experience a staffing reduction twice that of other areas in the business?”
The preceding comments and questions are frequently communicated by business continuity managers who may not have a program aligned to the strategic needs of the organization or who are not meeting the expectations of the program sponsor.
Based on discussions with numerous business continuity program sponsors, five requests (a.k.a. points of feedback) are heard as common complaints when commenting on the business continuity program and the approach taken by the business continuity professional charged with advancing the preparedness effort. The purpose of this column is to describe each of the five “requests” in order to enable each of you to take a step back and avoid having your program sponsors deliver this feedback to during the next performance review.
- Put yourself in my position (and speak my language)
Buffy Rojas wrote an excellent article a couple of months ago about avoiding jargon (see “Buzzwords” in the March/April issue). Taking that one step further, explore the language and measurement processes that your program sponsor uses to describe and measure organizational performance, risks and pitfalls, and objectives. Often times, this language includes mention of markets, products, services, growth targets, and customer feedback.
- Tell me if we’re ready… really ready
Business continuity program sponsors prefer dashboards and metrics that describe the ability of the business to meet recovery targets. Their eyes glaze over when the business continuity manager begins the performance discussion with “Fifty-eight percent of all business departments updated their BIAs”. Yes, updated recovery time objectives are important, but the program sponsor would rather hear and see something like the metrics chart below instead.
And there’s no shame in yellow or red. Reporting performance issues helps keep management engaged and actively involved in problem-solving.
- Help satisfy our customers and address their concerns
Helping to reactively address customer concerns regarding business continuity performance is important, but what else can you do? Proactively help craft key message points for marketing and sales, with the end goal of differentiating the organization from a business continuity perspective. Craft a statement that creates a competitive advantage – offering commentary on program scope, alignment with international standards, and how the organization’s recovery performance will benefit the customer when compared to other organizations. Lastly, be sure to summarize customer inquiries – the number of inquiries and the key questions asked – as a means of demonstrating customer interest and the importance of preparedness.
- Deliver a realistic program
Be aware of the challenges faced by the business – financially, operationally, and also from a resource perspective (to name a few). Don’t deliver recommendations without a solid understanding of constraints and business process understanding.For example, don’t suggest a one-week manufacturing process recovery time objective for Product X when the organization can only currently perform the activity in one location and it takes four months to acquire the equipment necessary to produce the product. Instead, explore topics that build credibility with the business’ leadership team, such as customer down-time tolerance, finished goods safety stock, outside processing capabilities, and resource protection measures.
- Be strategic
The organizational chart is important, but it’s NOT the primary business continuity program scoping vehicle. Instead, prepare to lead the organization in a business continuity program scoping discussion, with the end objective of adding business activities and resources to a prioritized listing of critical products and services. Help the organization focus its efforts on what truly matters over the short to medium-term, and help align preparedness efforts to an organizational risk tolerance.
Said and Done
Consider each of these points as well as how your program is perceived by those sponsoring or guiding the organization’s preparedness efforts. Are you seen as a document generator? A software administrator? A survey collector? A person focused more on methodology than program performance? Become the person that makes it a point to understand:
- Strategic organizational priorities
- Product and service delivery processes/resources (not just technologies)
- The customers’ use of your organization’s products and services
- Organizational risk tolerance
How do you do that? Focus on developing and delivering solutions that align to strategic priorities and that can recover key business activities aligned with core products and services. Measure the performance and make this the cornerstone of your communications with your program sponsor. And, lastly, seek feedback on ways to assist in better positioning the organization in the mind of the customer.
Do you have a great idea to share with Brian Zawada? Are you in search of a great idea to put to use in your organization? Care to comment on this article? Contact Zawada at [email protected].
Brian Zawada, Director of Consulting Services
Avalution Consulting: Business Continuity Consulting