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The Business Continuity Institute

BCAW 2015

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One of the things we have so often heard is that business continuity professionals struggle to get enthusiastic participation from their non-BC colleagues when it comes to planning an exercise, sometimes it can be a struggle to get any participation at all, enthusiastic or otherwise. We also hear how it can be a challenge to persuade top management of the benefits of investing in an exercise.

So what are your top tips for combatting these issues? What do you do to persuade colleagues to get involved and top management to fund? That was the question we asked during BCAW and many of you submitted your tips to us for the chance to win a Kindle. The winner of that Kindle was Steve de-Bruin AMBCI, Business Continuity Lead for Bath and North East Somerset Council and North Somerset Council, whose tip was chosen by BSI to be the best. Steve's tip was:

"An exercise is about learning and taking lessons learnt forward. You will never conduct a better exercise to show the importance of management control and understanding during incident response than turning your responsibility chart upside down and asking the admin teams to respond strategically. This is fun and really gets people thinking outside the box. It can make the response much more realistic as well to the point that all staff understand the need for proper structured well exercised plans."

In the near future we will publish a new document highlighting what all these tips were, but in te meantime, a few of the others we received were:

Participants like to feel valued in the process, what they have to say is important. Do not constrain the exercise by inserting BC practitioner views when exploring differing pathways. Out of the box thinking should be encouraged.

Ensure that every participant has a role to play - there is nothing more tedious than to feel you are making up the numbers. Those whose function is not stretched by the specific scenario can be found other ways to be useful - maybe tasked with preparing an honest assessment of the performance of their peers.

Use observers / independent co-facilitators to reinforce the key issues. For example an invited guest from the local fire or police service will carry more weight than the in-house facilitator in communicating how they will take responsibility for the "crime scene" following the event at your office.

An exercise is about learning and taking lessons learnt forward. You will never conduct a better exercise to show the importance of management control and understanding during incident response than turning your responsibility chart upside down and asking the admin teams to respond strategically. This is fun and really gets people thinking outside the box. It can make the response much more realistic as well to the point that all staff understand the need for proper structured well exercised plans.

Provide refreshments throughout the exercise and if possible lunch at the end in between the final phase and the de-brief. This encourages people to stay longer and network with others in the organisation – as well as you and your team to again raise awareness.

It’s not the catering or the excitement of running through an exercise and growing as a team that inspires people. It is when everyone sees the CEO step up and get involved in the BCM project that really drives home the importance and need for everyone else to pay attention and contribute.

Make Business Continuity ‘REAL’ to participants. Talk about a recent real life incident (in Sydney the Lindt café siege) and explain how Emergency, Crisis Management and Business Continuity testing assisted all involved to successfully keep people safe, manage the situation and recover business operations within critical timeframes.

Ensure that business continuity is embedded in staff objectives for the organisation that is supported by a business continuity policy supported by senior management that is openly talked about in various staff engagement discussions.

Hold an online quiz, perhaps create a questionnaire on BCP, Information Security and Physical Security. Employees who get the maximum number of right answers gets a prize.

Introduce a blogging competition, give staff a selection of topics related to business contintuiy and the best blogger gets a gift.

Make exercises interactive. In the cold of January, I walked management to our emergency evacuation site. I showed them the environments they could expect to work in if our building was evacuated; and we were displaced for a lengthy period of time. They appreciated knowing I planned for their basic needs in that the evac site was inside a climate controlled environment; had the basic communication needs: phones and internet access; and had food available.

Make it fun and relevant.

Transport arrangement, Good food and a small token of appreciation goes a long way. I have seen people wanting to participate year after year just because of this option was taken good care of.

Certificate of participation – though we may think this does not hold much value in the corporate world however this inexpensive option, may provide sense of achievement for many.

Top management like to see facts and figures hence they need to see two things: Companies which failed so get expert help or research on companies in the same line of business which went out of business due to not having a proper well tested BC plan in place. Loss to the company so take different kinds of incidents and impact on their business in terms of Brand & Reputation, financial, Regulatory, Legal, Operational impact which will prove the need for testing to gauge their standing.

“Start simple – while you may prefer to do a full simulated exercise, sometimes a desktop exercise is sufficient to wake up top management about their lack of preparedness to respond to an incident.”

“Make exercises specific and realistic. Ask department staff to explain what they think needs testing. If suggestions come from them you will get better buy in. You may even get help to plan and run the exercise.”

“Make participation in exercises part of the appraisal process to demonstrate that it is one of the key achievements to benefit the business.”

“Good transport arrangements, good food and a small token of appreciation goes a long way. I have seen people wanting to participate year after year just because of this.”