Ever find yourself in the middle of a total catastrophe? Despite all your best laid plans, the most advanced technology, all your past experience … everything that could go wrong, has gone wrong? This, my friends, is chaos. And if you are engaged in business continuity (BC) planning, it is not to be feared, but embraced.
Come again? Chaos can be defined in two ways:
- Complete confusion and disorder, a state in which behavior and events are not controlled by anything, or…
- The state of the universe before there was any order and before the stars and planets were formed.
Two very different perspectives for the same word. So before you hit the panic button or reach for the bat phone during your next crisis, reverse your thinking and look at the bright side of chaos by creating business continuity so your business will truly thrive.
The first definition of chaos brings lots of images to mind: explosions, disasters, confusion, disorder, panic…you get the picture. Or they could be situations that were intended to be positive, but turned on a dime: think about Apple stores on the day of a new product launch, or the recent Lilly Pulitzer launch at Target stores.
Often we’re fooled into thinking that today’s technology provides all the business continuity planning and management we need to survive chaos. The concepts of cloud, big data and mobility have moved beyond buzzwords into real deployment providing real ROI, so we’re covered, right?
Not so fast. We’ve become complacent, or perhaps we’re struggling to keep up with technology changes and are looking for better ways to manage all these threats. While new pressures from cyber breaches, supply chain disruptions, public infrastructure concerns, and the ease of access of wireless devices can wreak havoc on our technology-dependent society, there is still hope.
Still, it can be overwhelming. Do you curl up in the server room and admit defeat? Never. Borrow a page from our own Resilient4 character, Business Continuity, a superhero with an extensive knowledge bank and a strategic mindset who can appear at a moment’s notice:
“Agile and always prepared, BC helps organizations manage their complex business environments today and train for encountering the IT obstacles and villains of tomorrow.” Her traits? She is savvy and always ready with a backup plan; she is diligent, and pays scrupulous attention to details; and she is focused, quickly assessing the risk involved in all situations.
I believe organizations need to convert their thinking and actions to embrace chaos without reserve so they can instead focus on growth. In other words, we can transform traditional BC strategies into something way more powerful – a resiliency strategy.
I frequently speak at industry conferences, and I often quote Henry Adams, a journalist, diplomat and descendant of the family that produced two American presidents. Adams once said ‘Chaos often breeds life, when order breeds habit.’ Maybe chaos isn’t a bad thing at all – maybe it’s a wake-up call, and something that keeps us on our feet.
The classic Business Continuity Management (BCM) model calls for a six-step program:
- Analyze risk and business impact
- Assess readiness and continuity strategies
- Plan and execute
- Test and model
- Manage incidents and resume business
- Report and learn
These steps are proven and effective – but they are often cyclical and time-consuming. Every domain in IT and business is going through transformation – from marketing to human resources to finance – and the velocity of change needs to kickstart our BCM world, too. True experts can develop programs that are more agile, flexibly incorporating changes to the business and technical environments. In essence, we have the opportunity to create an ordered universe out of the chaos. So how do we seize that opportunity?
By 2018, Gartner* predicts that digital businesses will require 50 percent fewer business process workers and 500 percent more key digital business jobs. Out of the top digital jobs in the next seven years, number four is the Risk Professional. Talk about opportunity!
What can you do to challenge and improve your BCM methodology? Here are three practical steps:
- Reconsider your business impact analysis (BIA) process. Chances are, you are bringing new business processes and applications into the fold all the time. Can you really afford to wait until your next annual BIA to study the risks associated with these new items and carefully work them into your business continuity plan? No. You need a new way to safely onboard new processes, new products, and new applications – before these things even make their way into the production environment.
- Consider the convergence of planning and incident management. We all need accurate, automated feeds of data in our plans, and we need the data to work for us at time of disaster (ATOD). So build in situational awareness and intelligent data, and communicate effectively with your teams both now and during incidents.
- Innovate – both in your program and in other lines of business, and for your customers. Consumers and technology continue to drive the future of all of our companies; as CIO or a member of the IT team, you offer unique insights into your company’s vision and innovation.
If you can identify with BC, you’re already a superhero who is ready to protect your complex IT universe through the power of resilience.
*Gartner Research, Gartner Symposium/ITxpo, Orlando, July 2014.
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