Wednesday, June 4, 2008

ERM-BC-COOP: Critical documentation

I wrote an article, "Thinking Outside the Box: Ignored BIA can be costly," that appeared in the Spring '05 issue of the Disaster Recovery Journal.

The article, based on articles I read elsewhere, looked at the need for a skilled business continuity planner; the leed (cq) read:

A computer magazine article I recently read makes it clear that ...

(a) failing to employ the services of a business continuity planner who “thinks outside the box” and

(b) failing to implement the planner’s recommendations can be expensive for the organization.

The article made reference to court actions and a Maine PUC decision.

What the article lacked were citations, footnotes.

When the article was published back in "oh-five," I got a few emails asking "what court cases" and I had to go back to my copy, which included footnote links, to provide the answer.

Unfortunately for me, the hed (cq) on my version ( is different than the one on the DRJ version ( That's OK, except it was a job finding my version on my URL.

The other day, the article was pulled from the archives and advertised on the Disaster Recovery Journal eXpress, an email that goes to all DRJ subscribers.

The emails began again.

Now I'm flattered that people read what I write and maybe leaving "holes" in an article is a good way to find out if it is being read or not, but I feel obliged to put it all on the table.

OK. What's the Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) link to all this? Besides the obvious article connection.

The link is "documentation."

Documentation is a critical element in ERM/business continuity/COOP programs.

It must be concise.

It must be written with the audience's level of comprehension in mind.

It must be complete.

The article that appeared in DRJ lacked the references; it was not complete.

No harm was done; people who wanted to know which courts could - and did - contact me.

However, if this had been "What to do when the siren wails," and it was incomplete, someone could be injured or even killed. Even the absence of something simple such as "You will need an XZY widget to install the thing-a-ma-bob" can delay recovery and prove dangerous to the bottom line.

I should know better. I used to be a reporter, and then I was a technical writer. I know documents need to be complete.

But either I was in a hurry or I was lazy, and my story in DRJ was lacking.

Fortunately, no harm was done and I got to exchange emails with some interesting people.

But I am reminded - again - that documentation must be complete to be fully useful.

John Glenn, MBCI, SRP
Enterprise Risk Management/Business Continuity
Planner @

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