Bob DiLossi is the Director of the SunGard Availability Crisis Management Center, having managed this area for the past seven years. In that time, Bob has been directly involved in hundreds of disaster exercises and actual declarations. As we recognize September as National Preparedness Month, pass this ninth anniversary of the September 11th tragedy, and anticipating the DRJ Fall World Conference (September 19-22, 2010), I had the chance to speak with Bob and get his perspective on crisis management today.
Q: Can you tell me what has changed in recent years from what you are seeing with customers?
A: Customers today practice additional scenarios, and to a greater depth of detail, than they have in the past. These scenarios reflect more of the everyday events, which lead to more realistic and more robust validation of their continuity programs. I see significantly more blending of the data center recovery process with the business processes, as evidenced by the increased number of mock disasters we have seen in the past few months, tying customers’ internal table top exercises with the SunGard Crisis Management Center.
Q: Bob, you’ve participated in literally hundreds of disasters and exercises; what do people forget most often that would help them become more effective and successful?
A: In the past, I would say that they had neglected the people aspect, the detailed processes that surround the end-user recovery. That trend, fortunately, has changed of late, perhaps driven by a greater awareness of the staff impact that has been seen in the news following events like Hurricane Katrina. The biggest challenge now is change management. There continues to be a disconnect when an organization deploys new technology. Too often, we see technology changes that support daily production workloads not reflected in recovery plans.
Q: Some customers are more effective than others in their test success; what sets them apart?
A: Probably the single most important factor is how thoroughly they exercise their plans. We advise new customers to follow a “crawl-walk-run” approach to improving their plan, but some never progress past the “walking” – testing individual components but not all their applications and procedures as an integrated exercise. We’ve seen some customers back off of testing with the current economy, but the mature process and best practices deliver value only when you have verified that your plan will actually work within all the resource and time constraints you are tracking.