The volcanic dust cloud: some business continuity lessons

Get free weekly news by e-mailSome general observations and a look at the specific response of one airline, Qantas. By Keith Sherringham.

The recent events surrounding the Icelandic volcanic dust cloud provide some insights for business continuity managers in general including:

* Business redundancy - businesses that have a natural redundancy and resilience capability built in as part of everyday operations were well placed before, during and after these events.
* Crises are part of the business landscape – crises are a routine part of business of as usual and not a special event.

* Focusing the effort - efforts around business continuity, disaster recovery and crisis management are best spent in:

- Having effective structures and business contingencies that can be invoked as required, i.e. generic capacities and capabilities (building blocks) that can be applied as needed.
- Implementation of measures beforehand including management of risk by reducing the likelihood of occurrence and minimising the impacts of these events.
- Leveraging these generic capabilities and capacities as required to manage both the crisis and business through the crisis, as well as to take advantage of opportunities arising from the crisis.

* Building a better business - priority on building a better business using business continuity and disaster recovery as ways to driver out issues and in the process, build natural redundancy and resilience and have the appropriate crisis management, business continuity and disaster recovery capabilities as a bonus from these activities.

* Supply chain logistics – the incident highlighted the criticality of managing supply chain logistics and the need for sustainable contingencies.

In these recent events, Qantas, amongst others, has shown its capability and capacity to manage the events, its business through the crisis and the resulting media cycle. Some general lessons include:

* Use of the regulator – the Qantas approach of use of the regulator / statutory authority to manage the public relations cycle. By avoiding the blame game and using the “taking guidance from the regulator” as the driver for decisions made, Qantas is seen as credible and trustworthy.

* Manage the crisis not the media – the approach by Qantas has been to manage the crisis and through this, to effectively and efficiently manage the media cycle, e.g. by looking after its customers Qantas has avoided many negative headlines about poor customer service.

* Brand preservation – by taking a more conservative approach, e.g. not being seen to be pushing to have planes fly, Qantas has managed its brand for service and safety.

Whilst recent events may well be an opportunity for business continuity, disaster recovery and crisis management consultants to peddle their wares, businesses that focus on implementing redundancy and resiliency into business because it is good for business anyway and achieve business continuity, disaster recovery and crisis management capabilities as a bonus, are likely to get more from these activities than those that just use consultant to develop business continuity, disaster recovery and crisis management capabilities in isolation.

Further reading:

- Resilience Capability – Developing Enterprise Capability. Business Continuity Journal Vol 3 Issue 4 35-43.

- Business in Tough Times: http://www.alinement.net/component/content/article/8-styles/40-seven-fundamentals-for-tough-times

AUTHOR: Keith Sherringham has over 15 years experience in business consulting to corporations and government on business strategy, operation and management. He is a noted author and speaker on the business application of ICT, including the standardisation of knowledge workers. Keith is a director of several companies and is a mentor to executives and boards within not-for-profits.

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•Date: 23rd April 2010 • Region: World •Type: Article •Topic: BC general
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