We live in a continuously changing operating environment: fast-changing technology, an increase in natural disasters, corporate governance failures, and disruptors entering or creating new markets. The only certain thing is change – rapid change. Change often happens without warning and creates uncertainty but also opportunity.
Business continuity management stems from uncertainty regarding what could go wrong. When something has gone wrong, the question arises (or audit findings prompt the question): Are we prepared for the disaster?
The traditional way of looking at BCM was to think of clever strategies and plans, that is, set up a work area recovery space, disaster recovery centers and so on. But to add value and remain relevant, the face of BCM is going to have to change. It is going to have to be seen as a strategic enabler. Operating in very competitive markets, in a time of little loyalty, one wrong step could mean massive loss of market share. The way of work and the demographics of the workforce have changed significantly over the past few years.
As a consultant that has implemented comprehensive BCM programmes for organisations across borders, I think that to remain relevant for businesses, the BCM thought process must be highly innovative. It should be seen as an opportunity to respond to uncertainty.
Consideration should be given to the following areas:
- Embracing technology
Technology has truly changed the way we operate and ensuring BCM is integrated into your digitisation strategy is crucial to ensure alignment and to leverage what is available. A few simple examples would be communication like Skype for Business, Cloud solutions (instead of expensive data centers), mobile app-driven technology and using Software-as-a-Service instead of trying to host and protect everything yourself.
- A new way of working
The new way of working should be built into BCM strategies and plans. This provides great opportunity because the mobility, technology and – in some cases – culture already exist to enable work at alternative locations, be it at home, coffee shops or co-working spaces. When writing strategies, I am often told that our strategy is to “work from anywhere” when the building is not available.
Skills are becoming easier to acquire as the international trends show the increase in the ‘freelance’ way of work. This is a great (and often much cheaper) alternative to having very serious and specialised in-house skills.
- Strategic alignment
BCM strategies and plans that are ultimately implemented should be directly aligned with the organisation’s risk appetite and tolerance levels as well as its strategic objectives. How we respond to any event is a strategic matter and can have massive reputational consequences, including reputational damage. Alignment among strategy, values and risk is therefore an essential component to ensure the survival of the organisation. In the recent past, there have been many examples showing that a lack of alignment had major implications for a business. The general public has certain expectations of how organisations should respond to certain events. If organisations don’t understand or respond in a certain way, people use social media to make their voices heard.
BCM strategies and plans should be integrated into the business. Standalone or bulky plans drawn up in isolation and left on the shelves for years until an auditor walks in will not work.
I always encourage my clients to have a BCM discussion on any major project and for BCM to be built into strategy, whether considering resources, infrastructure, technology or data. This is just one example.
The purpose of BCM is not to eliminate any uncertainty. It is intended to minimise impact. In order for BCM to remain relevant in our rapidly changing times, it is essential that the approach and methodology change and evolve with the changing operating environment.