Wednesday, November 26, 2008

ERM-BC-COOP: Holiday hiccups

Here's a timely topic: holidays.

Today is the day before Thanksgiving in the US.

The cube farm in which I reside for 9 or so hours each day is practically empty.

Dotted line bosses are "away."

Solid line bosses are "away."

While we are largely "virtual office" people, and while managers are expected to check email and answer phones even when they are "away," things do slow down.

From now until at least the second week in January, it will be difficult to gather the troops (except maybe for the mid-winter holiday bash).

Progress won't exactly come to a complete halt, but any movement will be at a stagger.

If something happened we would be hard pressed to round up the responders necessary to respond.

Which means we have a risk.

If we have a risk, we need also to have a way to manage the risk.

In this case, we - collectively - need to know who is available; a designated responder.

For the run-of-the-mill daily operations - getting a Business Impact Analysis (BIA) reviewed and approved by Upper Management for example - we need to seriously plan ahead and "sandbag" (a term dear to bowlers) the schedule to allow for Missing Managers.

What normally requires a 24-hour turn-around now takes closer to 5 or 6 days (Wednesday before Thanksgiving, Thanksgiving, Friday after Thanksgiving, the "regular" weekend, and maybe the Monday following Thanksgiving).

Some folks have vacation time the have to use (or lose) before year's end.

Add to that a mentality in many organizations that "business continuity is a low priority" and the prospects of clearing up any outstanding issues is about as bright as a rainy day.

As I look at my calendar, I see the holiday risk pop up again and again.

Some are linked to religion - the Jewish "Big Three" plus New Year's and Yom Kippur, Easter and Christmas; national holidays such as July 4th, Memorial and Veteran's days, and more. (Even when I'm at work, a federal holiday can slow things down due to a lack of snail mail.)

Granted, the holiday risk usually isn't a big deal, but when it is combined with another risk, e.g. fire, it suddenly starts to get attention.

The reality is that for most planners, holidays - and vacations and sick time and other absences - usually are treated too casually.

We need to give a little more thought to the holidays as we develop, or review, our plans.

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

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