I recently saw an article that said the most commonly searched questions on Google in 2017 included “What is a solar eclipse?,” “What is bitcoin?,” and “What is a fidget spinner?”
At BCMMETRICSTM we don’t get quite as many inquiries as Google, but we get enough to detect some patterns in terms of what our web visitors are most interested in.
You won’t be surprised to learn that we aren’t asked a lot of questions about fidget spinners. What do people ask us?
Hands-down, the topic our web visitors show interest in above all others is the Business Impact Analysis (BIA). This is the most frequently searched-for topic on our website and the one we are most commonly asked about at business continuity events.
It makes sense that this is the case since, as you know, the BIA is the foundation for everything else we do in business continuity management. If you get the BIA wrong, you’re going to get everything that you build on it wrong too. What’s more, conducting the BIA is a highly public activity. If you don’t know what you’re doing, the people you’re interviewing will almost certainly find out. (Check out our blog post on the Human Side of Conducting BIAs.)
Therefore, it’s natural that people involved in conducting BIAs study up before they begin.
Today’s post is in response to the strong, persistent interest we see in advice on how to conduct a business impact analysis. In it, I’m going to share my 7 BIA Tips and Traps. These are some of the things I’ve learned to do and to avoid doing over the course of my 19 years in the field—19 years during which I’ve conducted thousands of BIAs.
So here they are, seven items total, alternating between tips for you to follow and traps for you to avoid:
- Tip: Get management support and buy-in. Gain management support from the beginning to help set the BIA operating framework and obtain the criteria that will help you determine what is critical and what is not.
- Trap: Limiting your information-gathering to sending out questionnaires. Simply sending out questionnaires to your sources is certainly the easy way to try to get the information you need. There’s only one problem with it: it doesn’t work. Typically, the person you sent the questionnaire to will do it right before the deadline, if at all. In addition, the data provided will most likely not be the information you need. The fact is, sending out questionnaires makes your program impersonal, places unnecessary burdens on employees that you need as allies, and adds to the perception that your continuity initiatives are not important. What you must do instead to collect the information you need is conduct one-on-one BIA interviews.
- Tip: Gain Information Technology involvement from the beginning. A BIA done right will drive spending in IT for years to come. Involve IT in the process of conducting your BIAs, allowing them to help you understand realistic Recovery Time and Recovery Point Objectives. This will help ensure that they will support you when you need it most.
- Trap: Being inconsistent in the questioning of your participants. This is a trap that is easy to fall into but pernicious in its consequences. If you are haphazard in how you collect information—asking different questions of different groups and documenting the results in varying ways—you are going to end with a mass of data that is lacking in common terms and denominators, making logical comparison and evaluation impossible. Instead you should develop a consistent collection methodology. Devise a common set of questions before you begin doing your interviews, have the interviews last around the same amount of time (usually a couple of hours), and document the results in a consistent way.
- Tip: Involve the right people. As you conduct your BIA, think carefully about who you should talk to. Make sure the interviewees you select can speak knowledgeably about the various business processes and what the impacts to the organization would be if they were interrupted.
- Trap: Not validating your results with senior management. It might be that, after conducting your BIA interviews, you would like nothing more than to return to your office, close the door, and go your own way. This is a trap which you want to avoid. The fact is, you have one more important piece of outreach to do. You need to show your results to the designated individuals in senior management and get them to validate your findings.
- Tip: Align your BIA results with your organization’s IT capabilities. After you complete the BIA, take the results and compare them with your current IT recovery capabilities. Your goal is to align the BIA-derived RTOs and RPOs with IT disaster recovery capabilities. Identify the gaps in and devise solutions to cover them and meet your business needs.
One last point: Conducting BIAs is as much art as science. In fact, it might be more art than science given how much of it involves collaborating successfully with a wide range of people having highly varying degrees of knowledge and motivation.
Do a Business Impact Analysis the easy way
Completing a BIA successfully requires more than a few BIA tips, it requires comprehensive preparation, skillful facilitation, and thoughtful analysis, followed by the careful validation of your results. You work hard to make your business a success—shouldn’t that include protecting your most critical assets? A BIA is the first step to ensuring that your business will continue to thrive in the event of disruptive external factors beyond your control.
We’d like to help you take this first step. The BIA On-Demand (BIAOD) tool makes it easy for you to pinpoint the most critical units of your business. Running in a secure portal, the tool walks you through a full evaluation of your business processes, including dollar and non-dollar impact as well as recovery time objectives. In the end, it automatically calculates the level of criticality of each unit you’ve chosen to evaluate and produces a detailed report of the results.
Visit our website to schedule a demo of how the BIA On-Demand tool works or to get in touch with questions. If you’re struggling with a BIA currently or want guidance through the process, we’re here to help.