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Tag Archives: management

A few days before the recent British Airways (BA) catastrophic IT failure I was in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, giving a talk at the second ASEAN Business Continuity Conference entitled “Building a Robust ITDR Plan”.

The main thrust of this talk was that as IT is at the heart of every organisation, ITDR is at the heart of Business Continuity, and that it is up to the organisation’s top management to ensure that its ITDR plans both meet the needs of the organisation and are known to work.

It appears that BA’s ITDR plans did not work, and although we don’t know whether the plans were appropriate for BA, the possibility is that they weren’t. In any event, the failure certainly came as a nasty surprise to BA’s top management.

I was asked to provide a closing thought to my talk on “Building a Robust ITDR Plan”, and I used a quote from Georges Clemenceau, the Prime Minister of France in the First World War, to sum up my ideas. For those of you who aren’t that aware of the catastrophe suffered by France in that war, it lost a generation of young men. Out of 8 million men conscripted, 4 million were wounded and 1 in 6 killed.

Georges Clemenceau said “War is too serious a matter to entrust to military men.”

I said “ITDR is too serious a matter to entrust to technologists.”

BA will have learnt that lesson, as France did, the hard way.

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There seems to be a growing trend in large organisations towards playing “Pass the Parcel” with responsibility for managing Business Continuity. For those of you not familiar with the children’s party game, a wrapped parcel is passed from child to child with music playing, and when the music stops the child holding the parcel can unwrap the present and keep it.

Business Continuity has always been something that managers put to the bottom of their pile of things to do, but now it appears that those that are being given responsibility for managing Business Continuity are trying to pass that responsibility on as quickly as possible before the music stops. Or in this case, before the incident occurs.

Why is this? Usually, managers are only too keen to extend their areas of responsibility, and are not renowned for handing things on to others. In the case of Business Continuity, it seems that nobody is too keen to add it to their empire.

My take on this is that Business Continuity is a thankless task, and is seen by most managers as a distraction from what they should be doing. Get it right and nobody notices, get it wrong and you’re in serious trouble.

 

How often have you wished that you could undertake a Business Impact Analysis (BIA) quickly, with all the relevant people and decision makers available in one place? For most people, undertaking a BIA is a bit like having a tooth removed very slowly over a period of weeks or months. Very painful.

I’ve been reminded this week of how it doesn’t need to be like this, particularly for a small or medium sized organisation. One of my latest clien’s is a small manufacturing and service company, and I was able to undertake a BIA workshop for the top management in an afternoon. This didn’t just cover the strategic level, but went all the way down to the operational detail of which activities needed to be recovered by when, and what resources were needed to recover each activity. We even spent time on discussing strategy and tactical options for recovery.

What made this possible was not just the size of the company, but that the senior management were willing to put in the time and effort and that they knew the operational detail in their area of responsibility. Such a refreshing change. It would be wonderful if all BIAs were like this, but they’re not. Obviously this is not possible with a large organisation, but the main reasons why it is not possible in most small to medium sized organisations is that the senior team won’t spare the time, and more importantly, they don’t seem to know the operational details! Personally, I call that a failure of management.