Is Your Business For The (Olympic) High Jump?

cat athelete

Terrible pun, I know. But if you saw something called ‘Business continuity planning for the Olympics’ you might stop reading.  But please don’t!  I am going to try something that no-one else has ever done before; make business continuity FUN!  I did think about trying to something else that no one had ever done before and beat the Cuban Javier Sotomayor’s 1993 high jump world record of 2.45 metres (8 foot and half an inch in old money) but I have a gammy knee.  You can watch the amazing Senor Sotomayor strut his stuff here in a 10 second video (no sound):

It is fair to say that good, earnest BC professionals like myself have, to date, largely failed to capture the imagination of the man in the street, the man on the Clapham omnibus, or in fact any man, woman, child, dog, cat (apart from the one pictured) or mammal of any description.  And it is unlikely that any career’s advisor has ever had their door beaten down by eager Year 11s desperate to know the best career path in to BC management.  Which is a shame really, because a Dara O’Briain (think ‘Mock The Week’) observed, “Business continuity is brilliant.” (Google it.  I can’t link you to it.  Too many naughty words I am afraid).  But as Mr O’Briain no doubt appreciates, BC is more than worrying about killer bees in the pick and mix and teaching HR how to dig latrines in the car park.

By the middle of April it will be less than 100 days until the Olympics start.  Think you don’t need a business continuity plan?  Think it is too late to get one in place before the Summer?  Think again!  This is your free, FUN 100 day Olympics Business Continuity Project Plan.

Day 1:                    Get management buy-in

Like our friend Javier, you’ll need some support.  He had Fidel Castro and you need your management.

As we know management have lots of people and projects vying for their attention so make your ‘pitch’ stand out to ensure it is successful:

– identify the right management sponsor(s).  They should have an interest in the continuity of the company from a reputational, financial, or just practical point of view

– Sell, sell, sell!  What are your business’s BC ‘drivers’?  Is it financial?  BC planning can cost almost nothing, but can save you a lot of money in the event of disruption to your income.  Is it cultural?  If you have a strong welfare culture the first tenet of BC planning is always the preservation of life.  Is it practical?  Do your customers expect you to have BC plans in place and are you sure that your key suppliers will continue to be there for you during a disruption?  In a recent exercise one of our clients asked over 30 of their major suppliers to provide them with copies of their BC plans.  Only two could!

– Publicise the fact that you are doing this and why you are doing it to the rest of the organisation (or that part of the organisation your BC project covers)

FACT: In a 2011 survey 85% of respondent organisations had experienced supply chain disruption in the past year and you might not be in the South East, but your suppliers, or even their suppliers, might be (

Day 20:                 The groundwork

Javier had a team.  Dietitians, trainers, conditioning coaches and doctors.  And you’ll need a team as well.

This is where your BC project really starts getting ‘out there’ (scary).  Before day 20 you should identify representatives from key business functions (IT, HR, Finance, Facilities Management, Operations and so on) to talk to.  Ideally you will get them together all at the same time, but you could speak to them individually (or as a hybrid of the two).  You may choose to prepare a pro-forma for them to complete and this information will form the bedrock of your BC plans.  Generally the sorts of things you would ask for are:

– their key business activities (e.g. for HR this might be Recruitment, reward and employee engagement)

– the resources (people, technology, information, premises and so on) these activities are dependent on)

– the impact on the business of not doing these activities

– how soon we would want these activities restored in a period of disruption; and

– how much electronic information they can tolerate losing in a disruption

Day 40:                 Bringing it all together

Most sportsmen and women have a strategy.  For Javier it would have been which heights to Pass or Attempt.  And you will need a strategy as well.

Obviously you can’t just stick all the information gathered in to a folder, photocopy it umpteen times, and present it to the business as their BC Plan.  They would rightly think this a bit crummy.  The information gathered needs some kind of rationalisation and this is where you start to develop your embryonic Plan.  You should be able to categorise the information from your representatives in to thematic areas.  E.g. Systems, People, Premises and Accommodation [some extra info for Hotels coming very soon] Suppliers and so on.  This can be rough bullet points or something more substantial.  You then need to find people to turn these thematic areas in to chapters for your Plan.  This could be the same or different people who provided you with the information in the first place.  You shouldn’t write the Plan.  This is a BUSINESS Continuity Plan and the Business needs to take ownership for it.

Day 60:                 The Plan

Javier had plans for training, meals and competitions and all sorts of other things and now you have yours as well.

There is no set format for a BC Plan.  It could be electronic, hardcopy, or a combination of both.  Your business representatives can help decide this.  After all, it is their Plan!

Day 80:                 Practice makes perfect

Javier was the best at what he did (recording 17 of the highest 24 jumps ever recorded) because he practised, and so should you.

There are lots of ways to practice business continuity and ‘test’ your Plan.  Communication cascades, systems recoveries, desktop exercises and full simulation tests amongst them.  You will need to decide what is right for your organisation.  The important thing is that you capture feedback and lessons learned from your tests and incorporate this in to revised Plans.

Day 100:               The end of the road?

Unlike Javier, who retired in 2001, your business continuity plans are never ‘over’.

You will need to regularly remind people about the business continuity plan, make sure people are trained to operate it, and ensure it is regularly tested and updated.  But well done; you got there.  And you may not get lots of gold medals and acclaim like our high-jumping marvel but you will have the satisfaction of doing a good job well and after all, as Dara observed, “Business continuity is brilliant.”

Mark Goddard – Advent IM Security Consultant and Business Continuity Professional


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