Businesses develop processes to meet business objectives, but processes can be disrupted anytime by unseen disasters ranging from natural disasters like tornadoes or snowstorms to man-made disasters like terrorist attacks, arson, and other criminal activities.
Any business requires the coordination of activities to make it a success. Market analysis, customer targeting, strategies for creating and delivering products and services, development of financial goals and reports, legal compliance, satisfaction of stakeholders, etc., to name a few every day business activities whose loss can hardly be covered by insurance. Insurance can hardly cover the loss if research and records of business gathered over the years are somehow destroyed.
In order to create a disaster recovery team and a disaster recovery plan for business operations, it is important to analyze the situation and chalk out how to minimize damage and hasten recovery. To be able to continue in business in the face of disasters can create an immeasurable difference in business success; compensation for damages from insurance is a last resort, there's nothing better than being able to keep things running in the face of disasters.
Creating a disaster recovery team
Usually in organizations the way things work out while creating a disaster recovery team is that someone, somewhere, makes the first suggestion of having a disaster recovery or business continuance project in place. The person who makes the suggestion, if capable, can be tasked as a sponsor, while another person who has the necessary qualities to plan out and lead a disaster recovery or business continuance project is selected as the business continuity manager.
The business continuity manager is then tasked with analyzing the situation, making suggestions, selecting people, and getting together a cross-departmental team for business continuance. The team analyzes possible disastrous situations in business and offers a plan. It is a smart move to bring in outside consultants who specialize in disaster recovery or business continuance at the stage of development of the project plan, because for any organization, implementation is easier than developing a new plan of work.
Once a disaster recovery or business continuance plan is made, tasks are identified and assigned, activities are sequenced, and project plans are developed. Then the plan is executed under test situations and a team with proper plan and resources created to work and keep business operations running during disasters.
Identifying priorities and extending the scope of the project to encompass all vital departments
First of all vital processes, assets, and facilities must be identified and an overall business continuity plan developed. The scope of the project must be in writing for easier reference, and should incrementally extend to develop specific disaster recovery plans for separate departments. A business continuity plan needs to be submitted and updated on a regular basis for each critical equipment or process. All business continuity plans must strive to be free of dependence upon key individuals and should be created in a manner so that anyone familiar with the equipment or technology can follow it. Each business continuity plan needs to be tested out by people other than the authors of the plan.
To create a viable business continuance or disaster recovery plan all vital functions and processes in business operations need to be identified. It needs to be analyzed what will happen to the business if one or more of the identified functions suddenly start failing. The costs of a function being unavailable need to be found out, and priorities defined likewise. Core functions and processes that are essential for the survival of a company need to be scrupulously identified and recovery and backups created.
Get real, disasters are real, and so are failures and successes
It is surprising that the role of a business continuity manager is rarely counted as significant, though people understand the payment of regular insurance premium to be of unquestionable significance. To make disaster recovery plans and teams work, it is essential that the sponsor be from among the top decision-makers and stakeholders of a company – it is difficult for others to visualize the importance of the project with the same passion and understanding.
It also somehow feels quixotic that when it comes to equipment in industrial activities all of us understand that accidents and breakdowns are bound to happen, and we usually maintain maintenance plans and backups. However, we do not apply the same value sets to business processes.
It is only with the explosion of information technology and computer technology that businesses are becoming aware of the necessity of disaster recovery plans in business processes, but even here, our mindsets fix on tangibles like hard drives, and data records or server systems. We focus more on facilities and assets as subjects of disaster recovery, rather than focusing on ensuring the continuance of business operations and processes.
It happens because many businesses do not know how to go about it. But its time to get real, because the existence of a proper business continuance or disaster recovery project can spell the difference between failure and success.
Michael Wallace and Lawrence Webber, The Disaster Recovery Handbook: A Step-by-Step Plan to Ensure Business Continuity and Protect Vital Operations, Facilities, and Assets, 2nd ed. (New York: American Management Association, 2011)
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