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Branding for value in business continuity program development

What is your approach when you are hired by a company and given a blank piece of paper to develop a business continuity program?

By Lawrence Robert, CBCP, CBRM, CBCLA.

“Help make us recoverable.” “We need to be compliant to standards.” “Develop a program.” These are just a few of the familiar requests when starting to build a program. Although some mandates for program development are reactionary, your real job is to develop a more holistic business continuity program. It should include the necessary strategic and technical components for implementation to ensure risks are fully identified and mitigated based on company tolerance.

There is a great deal of information available about the technical aspects of building business continuity plans, crisis plans, risk assessment details, business impact analysis’ or any of the other foundational ‘nuts and bolts’ of a program. However, there is little information available about how we sell, market, and even ‘brand’ the overall internal program being built. The tedious job of integrating recoverability into every aspect of the business deemed critical creates the need for a tangible entity in the organization and is a component often overlooked.

Aside from being compliant to a regulation or conforming to a standard, the program’s perception is formed throughout the organization at various points of implementation. Promoting and nurturing that perception towards a mature model clearly understood by all participants in the program is a key activity. Everyone must understand the immense value a program provides to the company and to the sustainability of providing products and/or services to its customers.

This is no easy task. Many of you have already implemented components of a program, such as business continuity plans or disaster recovery plans. The current perception may be that the program is a complete, ‘end-to-end,’ recovery solution. However, it is never to late to introduce other aspects of a program to existing environments.

The first task is to identify gaps that need to be filled and all the components that should be implemented. Include C-level management in these discussions.

They are the key promoters of the downstream success or failure of a program. Considerations involve governance and oversight activities, embedding the program components into business lines, and annual testing schedules. By doing this ‘end-to-end’ development you will be building a ‘product’. Costs are not important at this point. This product can have varying levels of implementation timeframes. These timeframes can span years, so costs can be spread out to meet budgetary constraints.

Once you have the product built on paper, analyze what components you have in place and what needs to be developed. Develop a baseline of where the program is today. This is something that needs to be clearly communicated to C-level from a strategic vantage point. It should be business-focused around risk identification and mitigation. Conversations should be about what needs to be done if you are starting from the ground level. If it is an existing program, show how current investments have contributed to the overall product development.

Protecting the business and continuing to provide services to customers is a necessity for the vitality of the business. Take every opportunity to promote the value the continuity program realizes for the business. Formulate key talking points of strategic importance from a ‘tree top’ perspective. Create an ‘elevator speech’ about the program that describes the program’s value as it relates to core business activities.

Continue to promote the program when meeting with executive management, as well as site and team leaders within your organization. Regularly scheduled meetings with steering committee members to demonstrate the program’s progress is another powerful way to build advocacy for the program and the brand. A company who not only sees the program’s value, but views it as an integral, strategic part of the organization’s success, is well positioned to thrive in all possible scenarios.

Once you have developed the product (all program components and linkages) and are starting to formulate the vision for the capabilities of the program, you can add great value by further developing a brand for the program.

Branding is one of the least understood and most oversold aspects of program development. Done correctly, it can be the catalyst for creating understanding of the value a robust business continuity program brings to the business. Branding the program around one message greatly simplifies the task of conveying all aspects and benefits of business continuity and its importance to the lifeline of the business. In addition, it leverages time and resources that might otherwise detract from the necessary program building activities.

Once the message is simplified, marketing initiatives will build brand awareness throughout the company and remind the company of the program’s importance. There are many ways to market your program. The key is to identify the activities to best reach the audience. For example, Business Continuity Awareness Week is a great opportunity to communicate the program, what it means to the business and build brand awareness.

Internal adoption is the term for getting ‘buy in’ of the branded program from executive management to administration to the workforce. Internal adoption must stem from the top levels of the company and permeate throughout the entire organization. The goal of internal adoption is for the entire organization to believe in the importance of the program. They understand the value it adds to the company and, more importantly, they understand their role in the success of the program. Internal adoption brings the branded program to life within the organization.

Although branding, marketing, and internal adoption are key activities for the success of your program, they are not to overshadow the other components of the program that lead to a recoverable business. Rather, they are more “behind the scenes” activities and should be part of the program roadmap.

Building a program inclusive of branding, marketing, and internal adoption will bring a higher level of credibility to your program, while allowing your team to focus on the details of building recoverability into your organization. A truly successful program development initiative combines business wide integration that not only makes your company survive an event, but is understood and adopted by all staff in the organization.

The author
Lawrence Robert is a business continuity professional in the Aerospace & Defense field focusing on strategic program development. Lawrence has developed business continuity, risk management, crisis management and disaster recovery programs, both nationally and internationally, for over twenty years.

Lawrence holds certifications as a (CBCP) Certified Business Continuity Professional, (CBCLA) Certified Business Continuity Lead Auditor, and (CBRP) Certified Business Resilience Professional. Lawrence also serves as a board member for the Association of Contingency Planners, Boston Chapter.

lawrence.robert@gdc4s.com

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•Date: 13th July 2011 • Region: US / World •Type: Article • Topic: BC plan development

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