Like Lambs to the Slaughter: When BIA Beginners Present to Management

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Many people who are new at conducting a Business Impact Analysis think the hard part is over once they arrive at their list of business processes arranged in order of criticality. It’s more likely that their problems are just beginning, given the high stakes involved in designating a process as critical.

In this post, we’ll detail what often happens when BIA beginners present to management and how to overcome potential pushback when presenting BIAs.

Related on BCMMETRICS: The Human Side of Conducting BIAs

The Story of an Innocent BIA Team

Here’s a situation we’ve been seeing a lot recently:

A team of smart, hardworking business continuity management (BCM) professionals (who are fairly new on the job) conducts a BIA to identify which processes at their company are the most mission-critical (and thus should receive the strongest protection against outages).

In doing this BIA, the team can use any of the available tools (our BIA On-Demand tool, one of our competitors’ tools, an Excel spreadsheet—it doesn’t matter).

The team arrives at a prioritized list of their company’s critical business processes.

Because of how hard they’ve worked, the group regard their list as a thing of beauty. They’re proud of it, confident about it, and pleased that by coming up with it they have created a roadmap that will guide their company to a more resilient future.

The team then proudly and eagerly sits down with management so that they might share their beautiful list, and maybe even get a pat on the back for their hard work.

And then—the group gets blown out of the water by the management team, which looks at their list and sees (in many cases) nothing but a list of lurking vulnerabilities which it will cost a fortune to correct. So they challenge the BIA team’s conclusion, often very aggressively.

Not for Snowflakes

As you can see, conducting BIAs is not for snowflakes.

And for anyone who thought the hard part about doing BIAs was getting the departments to cooperate, think again. I think that getting management to go along with your findings—and sign off on them so you can begin implementing them—is much harder.

The underprepared BCM professional who goes up before management and states that business processes A, B, C, and D are mission-critical and thus require the highest protection is, in many ways, like a lamb going to the slaughter.

The Best Way to Approach Your Management Presentation

So how can you, as a BIA practitioner, reduce the chances of this happening to you, or at least reduce the number and intensity of the challenges you receive?

The answer is, you have to know your stuff, make your BIA bulletproof, and actively defend your findings.

You need a sound understanding of BIA methodology (e.g., selecting impact categories, assigning weightings, etc.) and you need a strong, smart, cross-functional team: a group that can be your sounding board, catching dependencies that might have been missed, applying the smell test, and making sure everything is aligned and makes sense.

The advice of a BCM consultant with solid experience in conducting BIAs and presenting BIAs to management can also be a help.

When we do BIAs, we make it a habit to constantly review our results as we go along, and I strongly recommend this approach.

If you know your BIA is well-built from the ground up, you can have confidence in what it tells you. And if you have confidence in your findings—and possess the evidence and explanations to back them up—you will not be a helpless lamb at your management presentation, no matter how much pushback you get.

A Few Final Points on Presenting BIAs

Here are a few final points on this topic:

  • The goal is not to be seen to be right no matter what; the goal is to get it right. This is a collaborative process from beginning to end. Collaboration can be bumpy, but it can lead to better results. Be open to the possibility that other people can catch things you missed. Sometimes management makes valuable observations.
  • It’s very easy to look stupid when presenting BIA results to management. Forewarned is forearmed. Plan for this meeting like you’re a lawyer preparing to argue a case before the Supreme Court.
  • Sometimes management pulls rank. It doesn’t matter how good your findings and supporting evidence are, they might just say, “No,” or “Wrong,” or “We’re going to do it this way.” When this happens, bow out gracefully. You win some, you lose some. Pick your battles and don’t lose perspective when presenting your BIA.
  • When I present BIA findings to management, I always try to learn ahead of time who’s coming and how they’re likely to respond. Executives generally respond in one of three ways: they have read every word and look for opportunities to object, they’re pragmatic and focus on solving problems and getting the job done, or they are indifferent to the whole process.

Surviving Your Management Presentation

In talking about doing BIAs, it’s common to focus on the technical aspects of the task and the issue of collaborating effectively with the department heads. Frequently overlooked is the challenge of presenting your BIA findings to management and getting that all-important signature that allows you to proceed with implementation.

Management has a very natural reason for resisting what you tell them: what you see as a list of critical processes they see as an expensive wish list. Be prepared by making sure your BIA is rock solid from the ground up. Know your stuff, have a good team, check and cross-check your results, and consider bringing in an outside advisor before presenting BIAs. By doing these things, you may not be able to turn your management into lambs—but at least you’ll reduce the chances that you and your team get slaughtered.

Further Reading

For more information for BIA beginners on conducting and presenting BIAs and other hot topics in BCM and IT/disaster recovery, check out these recent posts from BCMMETRICS and MHA Consulting:

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