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The dangers of using a content management system as a BCM solution

Factonomy’s Robin Craib gives his view on why business continuity management tools need to be built around a genuine relational database.

Across the business continuity management marketplace we see a variety of competing solutions that stakeout various concepts from across the BCM landscape. Many of these tools help to contribute to the progression of the industry through developing concepts from best practice and helping to reduce the administrative burden.

Most business continuity management tools use a genuine relational database (RDBMS) and, whilst all companies will be eager to compete on the specifics of their features, all are aspiring to provide extensive reporting features that unlock the carefully collected data for the business continuity management system that the solution is being used to manage. In many cases, these solutions represent a process of application development that has involved significant investment in time, money and expertise; whether as newly released solutions on the market or solutions that have iterated over time using market feedback. It’s fair to characterize most solutions as looking to capture and maintain real BCM data, competitors can argue over the extent to which this occurs, but most solutions are moving towards this approach with the solution representing the data warehouse for BCM inside the organization.

There is, however, a minority of business continuity management tools that have in recent years sprung up that have circumvented this process for application development and the related investments in time money and expertise. These solutions have piggy-backed on existing content management solutions (CMS) or document management solutions in the market. Typically the approach is to re-badge the tool to identify it as a business continuity management tool and to quickly take existing menus, options and interfaces and modify them to align to aspects of the BCM lifecycle.

Content management systems do offer some advantages when compared to storing business continuity plans and BIA data in traditional folder structures on shared drives. Danger typically comes when CMS based tools start to be introduced as equivalent to relational database tools. Once these solutions get over-sold the limits they present can cause real problems, causing damage not only to the software organization and its clients but also to the whole business continuity software sector.

Typically issues all arise from the fundamental lack of a RDBMS. Once enterprises have begun using an over-sold CMS they will at some point look to report back on the information being collected. CMS tools are hampered by issues of separate and incompatible reporting ‘silos’. Any data-driven BCM software provider today should be looking to offer a ‘no-silo’ approach. Which generally means that regardless of the method of capture all the information inside the tool can be reported against without any software-imposed ‘boundaries’. Features include concepts like rolled-up reporting and filtering across datasets. Without a proper RDBMS these features are impossible as, in order to provide useful reporting, you need to convert any documentation into ‘data’. Plenty of users of CMS based tools have been fooled into thinking that loading their documents into the tool is equivalent to this process. We have yet to see a CMS based tool that offers an adequate and scalable approach to doing this. Frequently what you see in the market are documents being stored inside the solution in their original MS Office format. These are the original files that can never be thoroughly read by the CMS and cannot therefore be used to roll-up, drill down or re-assemble based on a filter or criteria. Some half-way solutions exist using the application of ‘tags’ to identify general trends in the document. The tagging process is often highly inefficient and time consuming which frequently removes any time saved by using the CMS.

What does ‘good’ look like? In our view the more metadata the solution can capture the more you can report on. Next generation capabilities include using multiple datapoints to build a ‘resilience model’ of your organization. This model can be used for scenario planning to test against the impact of a range of scenarios. Scenarios might include losing buildings or whole organizational units, to modelling the loss of individual applications or groups of applications. Using data doesn’t need to be a time-consuming process, data points can be collected from integrations with other enterprise tools and doing this simplifies the approach to performing the BIA, RA and creating and maintaining plans.

Prospective BCM software customers should think very carefully about what their needs are and ask the right questions about the fundamental technology any potential solution is built on. Software tools using CMS have their place for smaller and less complex organizations but those larger organizations looking to use data to drive their BCM programme forward should ensure that the ‘back end’ includes a recognized RDBMS, such as SQL or Oracle.

The author
Robin Craib is a consultant with Factonomy, a provider of business continuity management solutions.

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•Date: 17th July 2014 • World •Type: Article • Topic: Business continuity software

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