Okay, so you’re the internal Business Continuity subject matter expert (SME) for your company. That means you’re supposed to write all the plans: disaster recovery plans for the data center, network recovery plans, voice and data plans, etc., plus all the business continuity plans for each of the business functions, right? Wrong, in my humble opinion. While I agree you are probably the most qualified, if you write all these plans by yourself they become, ipso facto, your plans. You wrote them, you own them. You’ll get very little buy in by those who have to execute them at time of disaster. So I encourage BC planners to think more as facilitators and project managers that draw heavily on the involvement of others to accomplish a group goal rather than operate as a sole contributor. As the BCP SME, you are in an excellent position to design the format of the plans and then facilitate the cooperation of the other area SME’s to provide the content from both the technical and business sides of the house. Let me explain what I mean.
Disaster Recovery Plans. The technical side of the house should provide documentation, procedures, priorities, and the recovery timeline. They have a vested interest in the recovery process and often have to respond to various minor outages on a short time schedule, so their awareness of the need of written recovery plans is usually high because of past experience. Even if you have deep technical knowledge, involve others to provide the content of the plans. If you design a good format, they can easily fill in the blanks. And remember, a lot of the procedures only reside in their collective grey matter and have never been written down. Put on your consultant hat and guide them through the process of creating a plan that can be accomplished with or without them being available. That way they’ll own their section of the recovery and will tend to keep things up to date without your continued haranguing.
Business Continuity Plans. Business function staff are usually not predisposed to thinking about unexpected outages. You’ve seen their deer in the headlights look when there’s no dial tone, or the systems freeze up, or they have to leave the building. They need your help in designing and implementing their outage and recovery responses, but resist the temptation to do it all for them. I encourage BC SME’s to use the BIA process to get them to begin thinking about how they can continue mission critical functions without the support they’ve come to depend upon. (I refer to this as “evangelizing among the heathen” as you open their eyes to the fact they are expected to function as best they can during an outage to continue the mission.) As the SME’s for their area they are intimately familiar with the processes that must be accomplished, the priorities that will change during an outage, workflow changes, critical staff, etc. I suggest you hold a planning workshop for them and explain the format and content they will have to supply. (If you leave it up to them, you’ll get anything from a three ring binder to notes on a cocktail napkin.) But with your guidance, they will be able to write a plan that is truly theirs and will address all their requirements during the outage. I also encourage you to hold a tabletop exercise so they can educate their staff on what will be expected of them, work through any missing elements, and will they’ll feel the importance of what they are doing. This will happen much more so than if you wrote the plan and dropped it off like the Sunday newspaper delivery.
Conclusion. For some BCP SME’s it is a new thought to see themselves as facilitators rather than chief scribes. But I firmly believe that a feeling of ownership of the plans is a very important element of successful implementation during recovery efforts. With you acting as a consultant, the end product is more thorough, precise, complete, and stands a good chance of surviving the initial shock of an unexpected outage, especially if those called upon to execute the plan were the chief authors. As usual, I welcome your comments and feel free to contact me directly either here. Happy planning!
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