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Testing your BCP – The Challenges – The Solutions

14 September 2009 2,034 views No Comment

–By Robert Burton–

Is your organization prepared?

Whether it’s the risk of being affected by the H1N1 swine flu pandemic at corporate headquarters in Chicago or the distribution facility in Florida being flattened by a hurricane or the loss of private data from the theft of a laptop with important strategic information on it, having Business Continuity Plan (BCP) has never been as important. Having a plan is only the first step to ensuring your organization is prepared for “that moment.” Testing the plan on a regular basis should be a top priority for all organizations that are serious about being prepared for any type of disaster. The better prepared you are the easier it will be to manage the situation and recover from it quickly. The less damage to the organization’s image and reputation the better.

Are your suppliers ready?

Whether you’re a small, medium or large organization, the chances are you have a supply chain. How many of your vendors or suppliers have a contingency plan? Are they ready for “that moment”? I’m sure these are questions you may want to pose to them before it’s too late. Relying on any one entity could turn out to be a bad strategy.

The challenges of testing your BCP

Size Does Not Matter
Your organization may have multiple facilities or offices in multiple countries around the world. It may be a regional distribution operation that has a number of warehouses and offices. It may be that you have a corporate office and two other local locations that are key to the success of the company. Whatever it is, being able to test the effectiveness of your BCP is a challenge. The key is to determine the investment of time and resources that is appropriate for your organization’s size, structure, and risk.

Budget Accordingly
What’s in the budget for flights and accommodations for your next exercise? Not only may the distance be a problem but time zones and other operational interruptions may slow down productivity and cost a fortune. Cost is always a factor especially in this current financial climate.

Use Technology Innovatively
Turning to technology to support the testing of plans should always be considered. Web and voice conferencing, notification systems, and web based project management and document sharing tools can all be utilized to support remote testing. You can’t test the plan effectively across a region or internationally without it! There shouldn’t be any excuses.  Innovation and easy to use technology allows for affordable exercises.

Why collaborate during exercise design?

Having your design team and other exercise stakeholders on the same page while preparing for an exercise is imperative. Conference calls, email chains and dreaded attachments that go missing are all lines of communication that are important in the preparation of an exercise. Many collaborative tools are now available to help organizations manage projects easier without lost attachments or “i didn’t get that email” issues. Having your team on the same page from start to finish will ensure that your exercise is as best prepared as possible.

How to execute

Delivering a scenario to participants that are in different locations is tricky. You may want to have some of the key decision makers in the same room but still have a need to have regional managers or other company personnel respond to the scenario as it unfolds. It may also require other stakeholders (such as that supplier that doesn’t have a plan) and even the government regulator to monitor the exercise as it progresses. Only with a very large budget or by the use of technology can you achieve this.

Robert Burton is the Director of Security Services at Blue Water Partners Global, LLC (www. bwpglobal.com) Blue Water provides security and emergency management services and solutions to both the public and private sectors