There must be something special about the number nine.
When we talk about looking our best, we speak of dressing to the nines. When we’re happy, we talk about being on cloud nine. And when we talk about doing something thoroughly, we speak of going the whole nine yards.
As it happens, nine was also the number I hit on when I sat down to answer the question: What are the characteristics of a top-flight business continuity management program? (I was obliged to do this when writing the ebook we recently published, “10 Keys to a Peak-Performing BCM Program,” which you can download for free here.)
These are the nine qualities that we at MHA Consulting consistently strive to attain in serving our clients.
They’re also the qualities I think that those of you who are in-house BCM professionals should strive for in serving your clients, which are the other departments at your organization.
These are the characteristics that separate the strong programs from the weak ones, the programs that are at the top of their game from the ones that are behind the eight ball.
The programs that have these qualities have got it together, those that don’t are probably getting shellacked.
Obviously, every program has its challenges. Don’t be discouraged if your program isn’t yet where you want it to be. It’s never too late to improve . . .
Let’s just say, these are the qualities I think you should aim to embody in all of your service offerings, from Business Impact Analyses to Risk Assessment, from Crisis Management to Recovery Planning, from Tabletop Exercises to Training and Awareness activities.
The 9 Hallmarks of Quality BCM Service
- Timeliness. This is all about getting things done A) promptly and B) when you say you will. Respond promptly to questions from your stakeholders. In defining the services you provide your clients (that is, the various business units you work with), you should establish and document how much time it will take you to do each service, for example, within 24 hours or within 48 hours. Then meet or beat those promised response times.
- Accuracy. Get things right. Double-check any calculations. Spell things properly, including people’s names (especially people’s names!). Having typos in official emails and forms is like having spaghetti sauce on your shirtfront. When people get the little things wrong, it creates doubt over their ability to get the big things right.
- Courtesy. Be nice. Too often I see BCM staff treating their stakeholders as a bother or interruption rather than as their reason for being, which is the real truth of the matter. Treat the departments you work with as if they were your clients. Make sure everyone on the BCM team treats your stakeholders with courtesy, whether in an email, on the phone, or in person.
- Responsiveness. Make a habit of responding promptly to emails and calls, ideally within one business day. Make this the policy and practice of your whole team. If a stakeholder comes to you and says something is urgent, respond with urgency.
- Completeness. Finish at the hoop, as they say in basketball. Do the job completely and thoroughly. Dot your i’s, cross your t’s, take out the garbage, and turn out the lights. Make sure you completely fill out any BCM forms and templates you submit. Be able to provide every service listed on your scope of services documentation.
- Availability. Be flexible. Make yourself available as necessary to accommodate your stakeholders’ needs and schedules. Need to get up early or stay a little late to connect with a colleague on the other coast? Sometimes that’s what it takes.
- Adaptability. Go with the flow. If you have stakeholders who don’t want to do things in exactly the traditional way, don’t insist or resist. Adapt. Look for solutions that please them while also meeting the needs of the BCM program. Be prepared to think outside the box.
- Personalized service. Little things mean a lot, and this can definitely be the case with your stakeholders. Look for ways to say yes to their one-off requests. The head of accounting hopes you can take care of some business continuity–related task personally? Do it, if you possibly can. The human resources department wishes you could take care of a certain task a little bit earlier than usual? Grant the wish. Being responsive to personal requests from your stakeholders is part of providing quality service.
- Convenience. As I said in the ebook, “Many managers would rather take a turn in the dentist’s chair than think about business continuity.” Try to make things as easy as possible for them. Ask yourself, How can we make it easier for management to participate in the BCM process? How can we streamline the process of doing BIAs? Surprise people. They think the BIA process is going to be onerous? Make it as painless as possible. The more convenient things are for them, the more they will cooperate and participate, leading to better information, stronger recovery plans, and a safer organization.
So those are what I personally think are the 9 hallmarks of quality BCM service.
If you can go the whole nine yards with these characteristics, embodying them in all of your service offerings, you will strengthen your program, protect your organization, and put your fellow departments and senior leadership on cloud nine.