BCP function: staff from within or hire from outside?

As usual, my answer is: it depends. Are you looking for a manager to build a new BCP function from the ground up, or are you looking for someone to take an existing function to the next level? If it is a new function, prior BCP experience can be very important. A good outside candidate will have a proven track record you can verify. He should have professional credentials, like a CBCP (Certified Business Continuity Planner), and solid references from their experience at building and managing a successful program. If, however, you are looking for someone to raise the existing function’s game to a higher effectiveness, I would first want to know what management thinks are the shortcomings they want to improve. So let’s noodle this thing through and see what we can come up with.

The benefits of hiring from within. First on the list of pros is the fact that the candidate is a known quantity with a proven track record. Check out my previous blog on where and to whom BCP should report for guidance, but a good start is finding a good manager. Frederick Drucker, my all time favorite management consulting expert, once opined, “A manager is a manager is a manager”. His point was an excellent manager can manage brain surgeons or engineers or human resources. They may be different fields, but the mechanics of good management are transferrable. A good manager will figure out the skill sets and knowledge required and create an atmosphere where his staff can shine. His job is to always keep in mind the big picture and understand the underlying requirements for a successful implementation. Second on my list of pros is someone who possesses deep company tribal knowledge. As outlined in my previous blog, every company operates differently and has their own tribal language. An experienced manager will understand how decisions are made and by whom, how things really get done, and can make sure the BCP vision is properly communicated at all levels of the organization. All this can be hard to discern for an outsider, valuable time can be lost, and mistakes that hinder success will be made. Lastly, I would look for someone who is a quick study. BCP is not rocket science, but there are many things to learn concerning methodology, priorities, tools, and raising awareness of the importance of BCP to the company’s overall risk management activities. Finding the right candidate internally can go a long way toward starting on the right foot and propelling the BCP function toward success. These points are especially true when taking over an existing, underperforming function. However, if BCP is a new effort, hiring inside has some downsides.

The cons of hiring from within. For a new function, a major hindrance would be if the candidate lacks any BCP background. At the risk of negating what I said above, being thrown into the BCP pool without prior experience can be daunting, however quick a study the candidate is. Creating a new BCP function from the ground up requires vision and a deep understanding of how to address the recovery requirements of the organization in the right priority and with the right solution set. Navigating the mine fields without significant BCP knowledge can be difficult, at best. In this situation, I would suggest buying a block of hours from an experienced consultant to help develop the Program. (Big surprise, coming from someone who makes a living doing just that, huh?) For existing functions, the cons are a little different. If the internal candidate continues to maintain significant responsibilities for other functions, as is too often the case, his efforts will be diluted and success will be harder to achieve. BCP is a big hat to wear and unless he is given the freedom to focus on the issues, the improvements of the Program’s effectiveness that management is looking for may be long in coming, if they show up at all.   Also, if the candidate has spent all his time in only one silo at the company, such as the data center, he may have trouble expanding the BCP function corporate-wide, taking it from mere disaster recovery to true business continuity.

The benefits of hiring from outside. If there are no suitable internal candidates readily available, then going to the marketplace to obtain outside talent can be the right move. Obviously, the first benefit is you are able to buy experience that someone else has paid for. You have resumes and references to check out and thorough interviews to conduct, but if you do your vetting correctly, you can hire someone who has exactly the right background and ability to be successful, whether it is a new function or for a BCP Program that is in trouble. It’s important to set up mentoring to teach the new employee the lay of the land, but the right candidate will find his way. A second important benefit with an outside hire is the new set of eyes he brings to the situation. The outsider is exactly that, someone who should not be limited to “We’ve always done it that way.” A fresh approach may be just what the doctor ordered. Lastly, a new hire starts with a clean slate. Having no prior history with the company, he will benefit from being given a chance to prove himself without the limitations of past performance. Most employees will give the new guy or gal the chance to be successful and some will actually be rooting for them.

The cons of hiring from the outside. All the benefits of hiring from within, as discussed above, are flipped with an outside hire. The new hire has no tribal knowledge, no proven in house connections, and no broad understanding of corporate functions and priorities. It’s all new to them and they may have problems navigating toward success. Also, despite all your efforts to properly vet the candidate, some surprises may be in store. Unfortunately, you may soon figure out why he was looking for a new job in the first place, and for reasons that didn’t come up in the interview process. However, if you’ve done your job vetting the candidate, any problems should be easy to correct and the new hire can be a great boon to the organization. Access to a good mentor should make for a smooth transition and produce the right environment for success, but it doesn’t always work out the way it was intended. You pay your money and you take your chances.

Hiring the right candidate for any position is always an involved and sometimes difficult process. Finding the right person to be responsible for creating or improving the corporate BCP Program is definitely worth the effort. Hopefully, this blog has been helpful. As always, feel free to leave comments or contact me directly. Happy hiring.



© Copyright and All Rights Reserved Howard M. Peace


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