Alexandre Costa Guindani
Business continuity management (BCM) is still quite a new subject to the people of Brazil. As famous Brazilian singer Jorge Ben Jor said, we live in a country “blessed by God,” where natural disasters, like earthquakes and hurricanes, rarely happen or don’t happen at all.
The lack of these kinds of events makes the people, managers, and companies believe that nothing bad will ever happen, and gives them the feeling of immunity to disasters or other serious interruption. This tends to cause Brazilian enterprises to deny their vulnerabili- ties and to assume they don’t need an effective business continuity management program.
The statement “but this has never happened” or “this will never happen to us” is frequently heard by people who are ultimately responsible for the corporate BCM. And so, since nothing is going to happen, a continuity program looks like a waste of time and money.
What to do? Here are some tips on BCM implementation for those who live in “blessed” countries or companies (or for suppliers and business partners, who may need assistance):
Be a Missionary
Make use of every opportunity to discuss business continuity management, or, if there is one, the corporation’s BCM program. Show everyone the benefits the business continuity can bring to the company, whether they are financial, legal, or related to the company’s reputation or brand. Become a master on the subject. Study, be a certified professional. Base what you know and tell on best practices, and make good use of what BCM organizations have to offer – knowledge sharing.
BCM is not one-size-fits-all. What works out for one company may not work for another, even though they might be in the same field. BCM has an intricate cultural component, and its development will need to suit the managers, employees, and corporation’s traditions. Without doubt, the best BCM model is tailor-made and developed by employees and internal resources.
Although BCM is most certainly a process, implementation starts with a project, and like any other project, tasks have to be delivered within the accorded deadlines. How fast you accomplish these tasks will depend on senior administration support and on the availability of resources available.
Depending on the size of the company and the scope defined, the project may take some time to show results. Going slow and steady with small project components is often the best strategy. This keeps the project alive in the eyes of the top management. Start small, think big, and always evolve.
Persuade and Fascinate
Two things may jeopardize the development of a BCM program: the lack of management support and the lack of commitment from the employees. If you want to have success, you need to prove to the management that the implementation of BCM is necessary and that it will bring real gains to the company.
Management support is fundamental for the BCM program. That is why getting the management team involved is a critical factor for success. Make sure they know what BCM is and what it means for the company. Remember that is not possible to develop continuity strategies without that investment and that it is top management that will sign off on expenditures. It is also important to note that employees are more likely to show interest in and support for BCM if they know that top management supports the idea.
Make sure you keep all employees involved during BCM program implementation. No one will develop good plans and keep them updated if they can’t fully understand why they are doing
it. Most people think it is annoying to write down what their activities are and to describe procedures. Some will rebel because they fear that documenting their work will make them unnecessary. Be aware of these potential pitfalls.
Keep It Simple
BCM is a complex process, even for those who master it. It is necessary to make it simple and easy for everyone. Develop easy to understand models and manuals. Remember that extensive and complex plans will be useless in critical situations, where less can mean more.
Keep IT Close
As IT has become a separate entity, with a department of its own in most companies, it also has become distant from the business activities that it supports. This makes it harder to unite the corporate BCM and disaster recovery. The main issue is cultural; in other words, people are the problem, not the technology. Everyone has to know their roles in the corporate BCM and how they can effectively contribute to its success. Making sure business and IT understand each other is the BCM manager’s job, which is best accomplished with serious management support.
Keep On Keeping On
Finally, remember that disasters rarely happen, but smaller incidents that can interrupt the activities and services of an organization for a long time are much more common.
Business continuity must be treated as an indispensable management tool to keep services up and running. BCM must be known as a strategic element of the company, having its directives clearly defined and known by everyone.
BIO: Alexandre Costa Guindani, CBCP, is head of business continuity at CAIXA, the largest public bank in Brazil. He recently published a book about BCM in Portuguese and can be reached at email@example.com.