It’s no April Fool’s Joke

Hear no Evil, See no Evil, Speak no Evil, Post no Evil

 

Imagine for a moment that you receive an urgent message that your building is on fire… or that one of your key employees has been arrested during a drunken brawl… or that your shipment of critical parts has been delayed indefinitely due to a dock strike at the port… or that someone has hacked into your IT network and exploited a flaw allowing them access to your customers’ billing records… or that a hazardous materials spill in your office park will lock down access to your building for several days… or that a gunman is loose in the neighborhood…

Think that this couldn’t happen to you? Think that this is just some kind of sick April Fool’s Day Joke? Well, turn on the TV or pick up the newspaper — and then think again.

Fortunately there are people who specialize in planning for contingencies, and also practicing the skills of emergency management, enterprise recovery and restoration. It is their job to think about the “What If’s”, and then build strategies to offset those risks and lessen the impact of any potential incidents.

I had the pleasure of spending this past week in Orlando with several thousand of my fellow contingency planners at the Disaster Recovery Journal’s Spring World 2012 conference. The DRJ conference is the largest dedicated to business continuity, attracting several thousand experts from around the world.

This year’s conference theme was “Balancing the Demands of Global Business Continuity.” The focus was on all aspects of business continuity, including global resiliency, cloud computing, cyber security, IT, risk analysis, reputational resiliency, communications, crisis planning, awareness training, certification, industry regulations and much more. We came together as practioners, consultants, subject matter experts, and resource suppliers to share our thoughts and to ask questions of each other.

We discussed the threats facing our world, and pondered solutions that would mitigate the problems while allowing our businesses to operate continuously and seemlessly. The phrase “resiliency” was used by many as a mantra to keep the business running no matter what the incident, and we talked at length about the concept of Anything, Anywhere, Anytime.

Anything, meaning any type of disruption from the mundane power outage, water main rupture, or flu outbreak in the finance department to the more serious server crash, structural fire, or workplace violence situation. Is your plan prepared to deal with a wide variety of incidents, or do you only plan for winter storms or hurricanes? Does your plan take into account those incidents which happen without advance warning, or do you only pre-plan for seasonal events?

Anywhere, meaning any facility in any part of the world, including your headquarters location, your data centers, the locations of your key suppliers, your workplace recovery site, your neighboring businesses, or your local community. Is your plan built in such a way that you have considered the possibility that you might lose access to one or more of your facilities? Where should your staff report to work in the morning, and how will you communicate with them to let them know about the change? Do you have a backup to that critical supplier who was just impacted by a tornado in their local community?

Anytime, meaning the incident could happen late at night, or on the weekend, or during the middle of a critical billing cycle, or when you’re busy trying to stock the shelves in time for Back-To-School. There is never a good time for an incident to happen and Murphy’s Law suggests that these disruptions will happen at the least-convenient time for your business. Have you defined who is in charge during a time of emergency? Who will liaise with the first responders? Who will speak with the press? Who will respond to a social media attack of your company’s reputation? Who is in charge of recovery and long-term restoration of your business operations?

Lots of questions and no easy answers. However the process of planning for contingencies and establishing a resilient framework is critical for every business, not-for-profit association, government agency, and higher education facility. Take the time to ask the tough questions and begin building an effective strategy. Contingency planners are nice people who have to deal with some really ugly situations. We’re here to help if you ask us your questions.

A tip of my hat to my fellow contingency planners. It was a pleasure learning from all of you this past week.

Best regards,

Steve

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