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Successful business continuity programs: be strategic from the start

Get free weekly news by e-mailA business continuity program should start with a well presented business case and a clear roadmap. Mark Carey explains.

Do you want the budget, resources, and management support for your business continuity program to be a success?

Then, be strategic.

In my more than 10 years in the field of risk, I have observed that strategic planning does not seem to be an area where many risk professionals excel. However, in a recent conversation I had with a Fortune 50 CFO, the key question on the table was, “How should my company align and integrate our risk management activities into the strategic planning processes used by our businesses?”

I have conducted many interviews with risk professionals to ask them what challenges they face, and I consistently hear the following two answers:

1. “I am always struggling to get adequate budget, people, and tools necessary to do my job.”

2. “It is difficult to get the attention of our executive management team until something bad happens.”

Sound familiar? If so, rest assured, you are not alone.

Effective strategic planning, especially the process that you have to go through to develop a strategic plan, will go a long way toward helping you address these challenges. The plan itself is not as important as the process, the thinking, and the garnering of management support.

Your strategic planning should accomplish the following:

* FOCUS: Which risks specifically will your business continuity program focus critical resources on managing? What business continuity management capabilities (processes, investments, resources, and related activities) will be required? How will they be coordinated across the enterprise?

* VALUE: How should you measure the results and demonstrate the value of business continuity management, investments, resources, and related activities?

* OBJECTIVES: What are the goals of your business continuity program? How will it benefit your organisation and its key stakeholders?

The benefits to your business continuity program when going through a strategic planning process and developing a well thought out development plan are many, but here are several that my clients have benefited from:

* The information gathering portion of strategic planning provides an excellent opportunity to interview and receive input from executives that you may not often interact with. This will give you exposure with those executives while allowing these executives to participate in the development of your program and ‘buy in’ to the ultimate outputs of your strategic plan because they've had a stake in it.

* It forces you to rationalise your current and future activities, investments, hiring plans, etc.

* Strategic planning enforces professionalism, rigor, and discipline around the budgeting process.

* Strategic planning provides a vehicle for you to communicate your vision for the program to your staff, team, partners, management, and other key stakeholders.

In my experience, risk professionals that have taken the time to go through the process have had much more success getting their budgets approved and head count requests supported; and they are better able to articulate the need, value, and return on investment of their business continuity program to their executive team.

So what are you waiting for? A strategic plan can help your business continuity program in so many ways - you'll be glad you did it!

Strategies that work
Developing a strategic plan for your business continuity program can be formal or informal. Just make sure you consider all of the following areas. You want your strategic plan to create a business case and a roadmap for your program.

* Establish context and scope. You need to set parameters for your program and for the planning process. What risks will be covered? What parts of the risk management process? Which business units? Which geographies?

* Assess the current state. You must be able to clearly describe where your business continuity program currently stands. Where are you today? What is working now and what isn't with the way you currently manage risk? What has changed in your risk and business environment that warrants a change in your business continuity program? What are peer organisations doing?

* Envision the future. You will need to articulate where you believe the business continuity program needs to be and why. Where do you need to be? What are your stakeholders' needs and expectations? What will your program look like and what will it be able to do? How will this benefit your organisation? What are the consequences to your organisation if you don't do these things?

* State goals and initiatives. You will need to declare what your business continuity program is there to achieve and how it will get there. What are the objectives for your program? What are you trying to accomplish, change, or affect? What initiatives or projects will get you to those objectives? How much will they cost? What are the ongoing costs? What are the benefits?

* Frame the implementation. Lay out a roadmap for implementation of your program. It doesn't need to be a detailed project plan (that can come later) but it has to demonstrate that you have thought things through. What sequence will the projects occur in? Which need to happen first? When will they begin and end? How will they rollout across your organisation? Who will do them? What are the ‘quick wins’?

* Measure performance. This is an area often missed by many business continuity programs. Demonstrate the value of your program. How will you and your stakeholders measure success? Where do you currently stand? Where do you need to be in six months, one year, or even five years in order to achieve your stated goals? How often and in what manner will you report results to your program's stakeholders?

Mark Carey is CEO, DelCreo, Inc.

DelCreo has a free ‘Strategic Plan Workbook for Risk Programs’ available. This 25-page workbook serves as a step by step guide for a complete strategic plan for risk professionals and risk programs. To get your workbook, please visit www.delcreo.com/free.html

Mark Carey
Mark is the CEO and founder of DelCreo, Inc., an enterprise risk management company. He specialises in the areas of enterprise risk management, strategic planning for risk managers, risk appetite, and critical infrastructure protection. He has worked with a diverse range of global companies as well as the federal government. He has also been active developing the infrastructure protection approaches and strategies at a national level, using an ERM context.

Previous to DelCreo, Mark was the founding member of the Ernst & Young US Enterprise Risk Management practice, and was the Global Product Development Leader.

mark@delcreo.com

Date: 17th Dec 2004 •Region: US/World •Type: Article •Topic: BC plan development
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