Thursday, May 13, 2010

ERM-BC-COOP: BC in down economy


The economy goes down the tubes and, for foolish organizations, takes business continuity with it ... assuming, of course that the foolish organization even HAS business continuity.

Why not. Business continuity is overhead, no Return On Investment (ROI).


And wrong again.

First, organizations - and business continuity practitioners - need to understand that business continuity is a PROCESS-BASED FUNCTION.

Business continuity practitioners, if they are any good, identify critical processes for the enterprise and follow those processes from origination to completion.

Take, for example, an organization that sells widgets.

    The sales person visits prospects.

    The prospect agrees to buy "n" widgets.

    The sales person calls in the order.

    Order entry personnel enter the order and check with the warehouse to see if there is sufficient product to meet the order.

And on and on until the client receives the product and the client's payment is in the bank - the sales person's commission is paid, the vendors are satisfied, and the warehouse restocked.

There are perhaps 50 to 100 steps in the process that cross multiple "silos."

Granted, the multi-step process can be broken up (down?) into multiple mini-processes.

Who in the organization, beside the business continuity practitioner, can follow a process from beginning to end? The C-levels are not going to that level of granularity, and the folks in the silos are not really interested in the parts of the process that occur before and after the part of the process they perform.

In the process of following the process, a good business continuity practitioner can, if management is smart and permits it, do double duty as a business analyst.

In one of my first business continuity consulting jobs my boss told me what I "really" was doing is "process re-engineering." The consulting job I did immediately after this "process re-engineering" job listed me as a "process analyst."

What does an analyst do? He or she looks at processes and typically tries to identify ways to

    a) enhance the process

    b) eliminate the process

    c) reduce the process cost

Business continuity practitioners look at the same processes; why can't they also be allowed - encouraged - to consider ways to enhance, eliminate, or reduce process costs?

In other words, rather than kill or diminish the business continuity effort, expand it to take full advantage of a good practitioner's capabilities; let the practitioner also recommend process improvements.

Unfortunately for the business/process analyst, the reverse - asking them to be business continuity practitioners - often is less than satisfactory. The business continuity practitioner thinks not only in terms of process improvement, but risks and elimination or mitigation of risks to the process, recovery if the risk occurs, personnel safety and awareness, and all the other business continuity necessities (e.g., plan maintenance, training and exercises).

When times are flush and money flows freely, then the business continuity and process analysis functions can again be separated.

But until that time, it seems to be economically sound to maintain the business continuity function and to expand it to include process analysis.

John Glenn, MBCI
Enterprise Risk Management practitioner
JohnGlennMBCI at gmail dot com
Hollywood/Fort Lauderdale Florida

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