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Monthly Archives: July 2012

In undertaking a Business Impact Analysis (BIA), the analyst is required to estimate the impact on the organisation of a disruption to a product, services, process, or activity. If you read the literature about undertaking a BIA, you will often find lists of types of impact that can be considered, such as financial or reputational, and in many instances you will see something such as “Damage to the Environment” listed as an impact. This is incorrect, and in a common misconception.

It is incorrect because something such as “Damage to the Environment” is not an impact on the organisation. It is an impact that a disruptive event can have, but the impact on the organisation is what happens as a result. Including such things as a direct impact on the organisation confuses cause with effect. A well known example will illustrate what I mean.

The Deep Water Horizon oil spill has a major impact on the environment of the Gulf of Mexico, but the impact on BP was not environmental. The impact on BP was the reputational damage, the cost of cleaning up the oil spill, the compensation claims, and the fall in share price. Yes, “Damage to the Environment” is an impact, but only in so much as it is the cause of real impacts on the organisation.

Confusing cause and effect is, in my opinion, one of the common causes of poor BIA’s in the public sector. This is because analysts naturally look at the wider effects on society of a disruption to services, rather than the impact on the public sector organisation itself.


Having good communications in a crisis is absolutely vital for any organisation, not only in terms of the contact of the messages, but their speed, relevance, format, and effect in stifling criticism and calming everyone down. To achieve this you need skilled people. You need people who are able to decide what messages need to go out to which audiences, people who are skilled in crafting the messages, and people who can deliver the messages through the most appropriate medium. But how many do you need?

This question came up yesterday during a Business Impact Analysis (BIA) that I was undertaking for a client. I was interviewing their Communications Manager, who told me that in the event of an incident that caused serious disruption they would need 6 trained communications people to handle all the communications that they would need to prepare and send out. By now you must be thinking that I’m working for a very large client, but I’m not. This client operates from one site in the centre of London and employs less than 200 staff.

You can only go so far in advising a client of what they need in the event of an incident that disrupts their operations, after which you start to appear rude and arrogant. I managed to barter the number required down to 5, but I just don’t believe it.