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Murphy’s Three Laws of Business Continuity

By Robin Gaddum

When I talk to people about what we do in our profession, rather than bore them with the textbook definition of business continuity instead I often refer to Murphy’s Law. I think you can communicate the concept of risk management in business continuity quite simply by describing what I think of as Murphy’s Three Laws of Business Continuity.

Murphy’s First Law is generally well known and accepted:

“If it can go wrong, it will go wrong.”

Murphy’s First Law reminds us of the importance of risk assessment and the value of investment in risk prevention.

Murphy’s Second Law is not so well known, but is widely appreciated based upon individual experience:

“If it cannot possibly go wrong, it’ll still go wrong!”

However hard we try and however much we invest in risk prevention we never completely identify and eliminate all risks. The rules of mathematics are clear; regardless of how small the probability of risk occurrence, given enough time it is certain to happen. So Murphy’s Second Law reminds us of the need for a business continuity plan, which is our last ditch defence to enable recovery once that most improbable and unforeseen event has taken us out.

So what is Murphy’s Third Law? The Third Law reminds us of the fact that bad stuff happens and when it does there is always an impact that we have to deal with. Murphy’s Third Law is a truism:

“In real life, puppies die… Get over it.”

When disasters occur, in spite of all of our planning and preparation there is always an impact. If there was no impact then it wouldn’t be a disaster and we wouldn’t require business continuity. Our job is to put plans in place to make sure that the impact is contained to a level that our organizations can accept and survive. We should communicate this level of residual risk to top management in our organizations. Doing so might help defend otherwise pressured business continuity budgets and help dispel the myth that business continuity plans somehow guard us against all impact from a disaster.

About the author
Robin Gaddum is a senior managing consultant with IBM’s Business Continuity and Resiliency Services. He can be reached at gaddumr@uk.ibm.com

•Date: 4th March 2011 • Region: UK/World •Type: Article •Topic: BC general

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