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  • 18 March 2013

Protecting your business

We’re barely into 2013 and not a week goes by when I don’t see a news story that has a business continuity angle to it. Some are obvious at first sight like the helicopter crash in London, the horse meat scandal or the IT problems at RBS. The others you have to look a bit deeper to spot the BC implications, but they are there.  Yahoo’s decision to end working from home, for example, is one of those stories. To most BC professionals this sounds like a strange decision as having remote working capabilities has always been viewed as a way of reducing the reliance on fixed office space.  

As we enter Business Continuity Awareness Week it’s a good time to reflect on these things and other similar stories to see what we can learn from them and consider what can be done to improve our organisation's own capabilities, hopefully, without getting bogged down by any of the jargon or technicalities usually associated with business continuity. 

The stories mentioned above are all quite different but all could have major disruptive impact on a business. Regardless of whether the cause of the disruption is supply chain failure, loss of IT or denial of access to property, the thing that remains constant for a business is the most important and time sensitive products or services that they deliver. If a business can accurately record the resources it requires to deliver these products or services, it doesn’t matter what causes the disruption, they‘ll have the information they need to resume your service quickly and – more importantly – effectively. 

A few weeks ago there were some horrific images in the news of the hot air balloon crash in Egypt. In my role I’ve had to develop mass casualty and fatality scenarios for exercises to test emergency arrangements. Although there is always some good decision making at the exercises, I always notice how many people don’t bring a copy of the plan, let alone refer to it. They respond to the scenario and inject off the hoof and at the end of it all they feel reassured that they and the business is adequately equipped to deal with anything. This is a false sense of security and highlights the need to train and not just exercise. By delivering the training and making crisis management teams familiar with the plan and the response arrangements it becomes second nature for them to use them when a disruption occurs. 

Finally, I want to touch on the importance of capturing impact on reputation when a disruption occurs when deciding how long a service or product can be down for. Too often businesses underestimate the reputational damage from failing to recover from a business disruption in a timely manner. The damage to reputation is usually overridden by financial impacts or breach of statutory or regulatory requirements when setting recovery targets, yet the lasting reputational damage can outweigh all of these. Since the horse meat scandal broke Tesco have changed suppliers, introduced new QA regimes, and made a massive effort to reassure customers that they have learned from their mistakes. One of their major competitors in the meantime has been quick to capitalise and promote the fact they’re horse meat free. Once reputation is damaged it’s very difficult to repair. Just ask Gerald Ratner.