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[ Spotlight: Continuity planning ]

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Planning for the

Continuity planning can be essential in ensuring your business can deal with a crisis. Steven Hall, ECA group head of Information Systems, outlines the key elements involved

ow well is your company prepared to handle any major interruption in business? With recent natural disasters still fresh in our minds and regional political unrest dominating the

news, it may be an appropriate time to refl ect on whether your operation is resilient enough to deal with a crisis – even if on a much more limited scale. Given the current economic climate, if you are unable to

trade for a period of time, it is likely you will lose business to your competitors. Added to the fact that work is not so abundant, now more than ever is a time to ensure you are able to continue to work on existing projects and secure new ones. The aim of this article is to make you think about where you are placed and how you could react should a major incident affect your business.

Planning Thankfully, the UK does not sit on any major fault lines, but there are many other potential risks that could cause you serious problems, such as fi re, fl ooding, equipment theft and terrorism. Risks can range from anything from a single component in your infrastructure – such as the localised failure of your communication lines – through to the potentially devastating effects of a building fi re. So what can you do to help mitigate the risks? ‘Planning’ is the key word. The good news is that most of what you need to do should

not cost you large sums of money – although if you want to, you could spend a very large pile of cash very easily, by setting up a turnkey solution that mirrors all your systems and processes. A lot also depends on your view of risk. Some people are very risk averse, whilst others are happy to put everything on black and let nature take its course. Before we talk about the process itself, let’s just

address the ‘Why should I bother?’ question. Here are some key reasons why you should:

About the author

Steven Hall Steven Hall is the ECA’s group head of Information Systems. He is responsible for the IT strategy and runs the teams responsible for system development, infrastructure support, IT security and business continuity planning.

■ If you go and talk to any of the continuity planning providers, they may well quote some very scary fi gures about the number of companies who have gone out of business after a major incident, mainly because they did not have a plan. In some cases, we have seen fi gures of 70-80 per cent quoted – but like all statistics, this needs to be taken with a pinch a salt, as there are many factors that affect businesses and some may have gone out of business regardless. What is undeniable is that a major incident will put a huge strain on a company, and if it is not prepared and hasn’t got the resources to deal with it, there is a good chance it will add to the statistics. So even if you go with half of the claims – say, 35 per cent – that is still a lot of companies that are no longer trading.

■ If your company is regulated by an industry body that has teeth, then you could be looking at heavy fi nes if you cannot prove you have a policy in place. The ECA is a good example, as parts of it fall under the Financial Services Authority, so it has to have a tested plan.

■ It is good corporate governance and may give you the edge over your competitors in periods of austerity, such as in the current economic climate. Also, through the planning process, it may help you understand the weaknesses in your business and allow you to respond to them – so it is a good management exercise.

■ It may be a contractual requirement for larger projects. We have come across companies that have asked for proof that a plan exists, and we have also asked this question of companies that we will have a high reliance on.

Let’s look at the stages that you need to consider in creating your plan:

1. Buy-in and communication This may sound obvious, but you must gain buy-in from the management team or board at the beginning. So making the managing director or chief operating offi cer the sponsor for any business continuity planning (BCP) project is a good place to start. You then need to communicate about what you plan to do with all staff and explain why you are doing it. The key part is explaining the consequences, as once your staff understand that creating a plan is not only in the

May 2011 ECA Today 57


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