The Magnificent Seven: 7 Key BC Areas to Focus on in 2021

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The vaccine is coming, COVID-19 is spiking, and 2021 is picking up steam. At this tumultuous time, here are the “magnificent seven”: seven key areas that business continuity professionals should be focusing on in the new year. By coming up to the mark in these key areas, you can ensure that your organization is crisis-ready and disaster-resilient.

 

 

When a BC Consultant Falls Ill

Previously when I talked about people who had been stricken by COVID-19, I referred to those unlucky individuals as “them.” As of a few days ago, I have had to make a small change in my language. From now on I will be referring to COVID sufferers as “us.”

I’m doing all right, although for the time being, I’ve lost about fifty percent of my normal operating power.

I’ve also gained something: a new awareness of the threat this illness presents—and of how critically important it is for organizations of all types to comprehend the reality that serious trouble can strike at any time, and to take steps to prepare for it.

The Magnificent Seven

There’s an old movie called The Magnificent Seven about a group of cowboys who band together to protect the residents of a Mexican village from a gang of outlaws. In this post, we’re going to look at my magnificent seven: the seven areas that BC professionals, in my judgment, should be focusing on to ensure that their organizations are ready for anything that 2021 might throw at them.

Competence in these seven areas is not a nice-to-have. It is a must-have. Take it from me, as I sit here weak as a baby, dusting off my plan that sets out who on my staff can cover which of my various duties if I become unable to handle them myself.

The Seven Key Areas

Here are the seven key areas that you as a BC professional should make sure your organization has under control in 2021:

1. Threat and Risk Assessment

Most BC people give the TRA lip service at best. This is a mistake. Companies who don’t perform one don’t have a clear understanding of the threats facing their critical facilities, operations, people, and suppliers. Nor do they know what level of mitigation they have in place. This leaves them in the dark regarding their organization’s exposure and ignorant about what they should do to reduce it. To learn more about the TRA, see this post by Richard Long from the MHA blog.

2. Resilience of People, Processes, and Technology

Are your people, processes, and technology resilient? Ideally, if something goes down, your backup kicks in and outsiders are never even aware you had a problem. That’s what you should be aiming for. It’s so important to know which roles are critical and to have people designated and trained to take up those roles, if necessary. The same thing for processes and technology. What if you lose your systems or power? Most people, if they have an outage, they’re done. Is your organization like that? It doesn’t have to be. Make 2021 the year when you increase the resilience of your people, processes, and technology.

3. Critical Supplier Continuity

The new mantra for BC professionals when it comes to third-party suppliers has to be “Trust but verify.” COVID really showed how vulnerable our supply chains are. It also showed how little most organizations know about the preparedness of their critical vendors. This is going to change. The stakes are too high, and the transparency is too low. Companies have to become engaged in the issue of making sure their critical suppliers are resilient. Suppliers need to be required to validate what they can do. And as soon as you get done nailing things down with your third-party suppliers, you need to start looking at their suppliers—your fourth-party vendors—because a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. For more see, “Chain Pain: Supply Chain Problems in the Age of Coronavirus.”

4. Preparation for Simultaneous Disruptions

COVID sure brought this one to the forefront. When I started working in business continuity at Bank of America a hundred years ago, we operated on the assumption there would only be one event at a time. That idea looks quaint after a year in which some companies found themselves grappling simultaneously with a pandemic, forest fires, and civil unrest. These days every organization has to be prepared to fight a war on two fronts. For tips on how to do this, see “Double Trouble: How to Handle Multiple Business Disruptions.”

5. Working Recovery Strategies

Many organizations have some version of a recovery strategy. Relatively few have a recovery strategy that is fully documented, budgeted, tested, and vetted. Only the second sort of recovery strategy is a real recovery strategy. This is what you want and need.

6. Training and Awareness

COVID made it clear: every organization needs to make sure its people can take up the slack for critical employees who become unable to work. This means key roles need to be identified. And alternate people who can carry out those roles have to be designated, informed about their pinch-hitting responsibilities, and trained to carry them out.

7. Functional Recovery Exercises

The only way to make sure your recovery plans work is to put them to the test. This is also the only way to make sure your people are capable of carrying them out. Tabletop exercises are fine as far as they go, but they don’t go far enough. Most companies are afraid to conduct real recovery exercises out of fear of what they’ll find. It’s better to learn something’s wrong during an exercise when the stakes are low than during an event when they might be sky-high. Don’t be an ostrich. Don’t worry about keeping up a false front. Focus on testing, finding gaps, and making improvements. For more, see, “Let’s Get Real: The Limitations of Tabletop Recovery Exercises.”

By making sure your organization is doing a good job across these seven areas, you’ll ensure it will be able to carry out its critical operations and serve its stakeholders no matter what the new year dishes up.

Staying Magnificent

I can now tell you from personal experience, if you don’t already know: COVID-19 is no joke. But having it has made me realize more than ever how important it is for companies to be ready for anything. To make sure your company will be in magnificent shape no matter what happens across the coming year, strengthen its competence across the seven areas described above.

Further Reading

For more information on BC in 2021, managing the pandemic, and other hot topics in BCM and IT/disaster recovery, check out these recent posts from BCMMETRICS and MHA Consulting:

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