The COVID crisis, as with the September 11 terror tacks before it, cast a long shadow over the business continuity management industry. One of its keener effects, as measured in survey datai , has been to keep business continuity management at the top of business leaders’ minds.
Besides that, the pandemic also spurred a shift toward a more strategic understanding and proactive implementations of business continuityii.
The move couldn’t come soon enough; alongside COVID has emerged numerous other critical threats, including supply-chain disruptions, labor shortages, continuing severe weather events, increasingly sophisticated cyberattacks, and a change in the compliance environment.
These concurrent crises have created the need for an integrated approach to business continuity management.
Alas, perennial challenges remain, impeding many organizations from taking this integrated approach. One of the starkest challenges is the lack of stakeholder involvement in business continuity programs and projects.
BCM projects (not to mention programs) have long suffered from a lack of executive sponsorship. Indeed, these projects, even when executive sponsorship is secured, historically don’t garner critical mindshare among the C-suite.
Why’s that? We find that executive sponsors remain disengaged. Rather than taking the bull of BCM by its horns, they’ve chosen to delegate key sponsorship duties to mid-level managers.
Sure, mid-level managers are quite good at running the day to day. However, it’s only executive sponsors that can give BCM projects visibility across the organization.
And a high degree of cross-departmental visibility is crucial for BCM to succeed. After all, BCM projects necessarily touch multiple functions. Touching multiple departments as they do, these projects require a high-level of buyin across the business, to ensure that all the relevant business lines cooperate and collaborate effectively.
However, the manual, fragmented way BCM has traditionally been practiced militates against this, as well as makes senior leadership more reluctant to participate.
Fortunately, the business continuity management software procurement decisions organizations make can make a positive difference.
Responding to the clear business challenge, software providers have sought to innovate. The innovations, as analystsiii have noted, have centered on the following themes:
A key platform capability that’s emerged in the post-COVID era is the ability to replace multiple systems with one comprehensive business resilience workspace.
What does that business resilience workspace do? As the name suggests, the workspace not only manages business continuity management but also inter-related solution areas, which have often been siloed off from BCM; those include work safety, security, emergency and disaster management, incident management, and risk.
Why does it matter? An integrated platform, by eliminating the need for multiple systems, offers customers, irrespective of their size and vertical market, offers a comprehensive approach to business continuity and resilience.
Furthermore, the innovation enables customers to remain resilient to the volatile business environment by expanding into areas of operation seamlessly while still managing a wholly integrated business continuity management program on a common information foundation.
The most recent example of this trend toward a comprehensive approach to business continuity is the inclusion of Governance, Risk, & Compliance (GRC) functionality when customers purchase a business continuity management platform.
How does that work? Integrated GRC Modules work to manage cyber, emergency, and security threats, risks, and treatments based on industry best-practice guidelines and ISO standards.
Such Modules also enable customers to plan objectives, set targets, manage all elements of standards’ compliance, as well as schedule and record audits and inspections.
Customers can also manage non-compliances and corrective actions to drive continual improvement.
In addition to looking for business continuity management software with GRC functionality, customers should also consider a software platform with a full range of integration options.
Having an Integrations Center should signal to buyers that the platform plays well with other resilience-enhancing technologies, through the easy connection and synchronization of data.
Import, export, and API capabilities, in particular, ensure that customers can always get their data when and where they need it, and that they can plug in their own systems (e.g., single-sign on, messaging, and mapping) into the platform.
Of course, building a better mouse trap won’t work if customers can’t get it up and running efficiently. Unfortunately, that’s been a common challenge within the business continuity management software market.
Recently, though, platforms have come equipped with no-code designer tools, to create or modify workspaces without a single line of code.
For increased agility, these platforms offer responsive user interfaces that enable customers to design forms and workspaces once and then to access the same information and features across desktop, tablet, and mobile.
Product innovation in the business continuity management software market has also improved the lives of Business Continuity Managers, decision makers, and other users, militating against a common frustration with BCM implementations.
Well, with certain platforms, customers get access to a powerful workflow engine, which allows their managers to automate business continuity processes and build their own workflows, including notifications, business rules, approvals, and much more.
So, what are the relevant capabilities to look for? We suggest the following:
Business continuity planning remains a staple of the discipline. However, planning in an age of concurrent crises has become more complex, argue expertsiv.
Business continuity management software, as such, must be responsive to the market need for greater planning dynamism.
Platforms that are responsive have been designed so that the solution itself functions as a plan. That means when customers need to develop BCPs, all the data they have previously entered into the system seamlessly comes together. As a result of this, managers don’t have to go sifting through documents to find the data they need. And the risk of someone referencing an out-of-date BCP during a crisis is removed.
What’s more, because the BCP is in the platform, multiple stakeholders can collaborate on the plan, which enables better engagement across the organization. All data associated with building the BCP is managed centrally, in a controlled way.
Finally, data need only be captured once and updated, removing the risk of duplication.
Plans, once created, must be tested, though. Business continuity management software should, therefore, make exercise management as simple and effective as possible.
To that end, platforms with relevant exercise dashboards come in handy. Those dashboards navigate users and their teams through each stage of an exercise, ensuring everyone understands what needs to be completed and when.
From there, the platform’s automation capabilities ensure the correct teams and/or personnel are invited to participate in the exercise and receive regular updates via automated notifications throughout the exercise.
Once the exercise is activated, all users can easily see what type of exercise is being completed. Based upon the affected assets/activities, the recovery strategies required for the affected assets will automatically be populated for the team.
Built-in communication and collaboration tools, e.g., chat, email, SMS, and voice messages, then, make it easy to collaborate in real time, better coordinate responses, and keep everyone informed.
Furthermore, these platforms also provide the capability to record meetings, minutes, and action items.
And most importantly, this exercise functionality is also a mirror of the platform’s incident management functionality. This mirroring ensures a consistent user experiment, which means that practitioners are familiar with how everything works should there be a disruption.
Another innovation to capitalize on the trend towards greater self-management, increased accountability, and agile response is the personalized user workspace.
How does it work?
Within these workspaces, users visualize any outstanding tasks that have been assigned to them, as well as any checklist actions items which still need to be actioned as part of the exercise or incident response.
Users can also visualize relevant BIA activity, such as the owner, which BIAs they are involved in, as well as any outstanding BIA recommendations they need to action, and/or reports that require approval.
In close, beyond boasting a full feature-set, your business continuity management platform should also be as simple to use as possible. That will help decision makers and users get over some of the traditional aversion stakeholders have to performing BC tasks.
Along with ease of use and greater agility, the platform should also bring automation, efficiency, and intelligent data management to the fore. That will help encourage informed decision making for the entire business – not just the business continuity.
Finally, customers should be able to adopt the platform across the entire business, using innovative capabilities not just for business continuity management but crisis and incident management, cyber and operational security, work safety, and emergency management, as well.
That’s the best way to get a high return on your investment, while ensuring the platform can address any incident or business disruption on a common information foundation, wherever it occurs in the business.
i. BCI: BCI Operational Resilience Report 2022. Available at https://www.thebci.org/news/bci-operational-resilience-report-2022.html
ii. German Vargas Pedroza, Disaster Recovery Journal: New Trends in Organizational Resilience and Business Continuity. Available at https://drj.com/journal_main/new-trends-in-organizational-resilience-and-business-continuity/.
iv. Steve Culp, Forbes: Taking A New Look At Business Continuity Planning. Available at https://www.forbes.com/sites/steveculp/2021/10/04/taking-anew-look-at-business-continuity-planning/?sh=5c08614e54aa.
Published May 19, 2021