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Jim Owens PMP: Business Continuity Management

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Introduction

Business Continuity Management (BCM) comes into  play only when a disaster occurs. Unlike the usual  meaning of “disaster” in English, in the context  of BCM it simply means, “any event that causes an  essential service to be interrupted”.

Business Continuity Management is process based  and takes an holistic view, rather than just a
technological view, and includes personnel,  alternative sites, manual workarounds, and anything else
that can be used to ensure that essential  services continue to be provided at agreed minimum  levels within specified time periods, and then  restored to full operation in a swift and cost-effective
manner, as defined in the SLA (Service Level  Agreement)

Why you need a plan
Organizations increasingly depend upon  information processing and telecommunications support and  so the criticality of maintaining a high level of  reliability, through continuity planning, will  continue to increase.

Today an organization often faces considerable  financial risk and damage to its name and reputation should normal business operations be  unavailable in critical areas for even relatively short  periods of time. Likewise it faces loss should it be  seen to be without a suitable plan and framework  in place to deal with possible outages.

Frequent news items concerning incidents such as  a prolonged loss of network, Internet and email  services and power outages, clearly demonstrate  that relatively simple (and possibly predictable)  risk events can take a significant period to recover.

What have the organisations learned from these incidents?

Where is it documented?

And most importantly – if these events were to  reoccur today would they recover more quickly?

To address these and other issues the  organization needs to develop a business-focused Business  Continuity Plan (BCP) to enable business operations  to continue during emergencies when an outage  would normally result. What is Business Continuity Management?

In the years leading up to the turn of the last century the focus of most businesses managers was  turned to the looming “Y2K bug”. This had an  unfortunate side effect that business managers were  viewing ICT as the enemy, a black hole that  threatened to swallow-up extensive resources correcting  a seemly self-created problem. The less-negative  aspect of Y2K and disasters such as the “Twin  Towers” catastrophe was that Business managers began  to think seriously about how they could continue  their core business activities during a  significant crisis. Even short periods of outage can have  dramatic effects on reputation and profitability,  so a means of continuing “no matter what” must be devised.

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Business Continuity Management (BCM) is not just  Risk Management or Disaster Recovery.
Risk Management attempts to predict, quantify and qualify the various risks that an organisation  might experience, as well as attempting to prevent or at least reduce the likelihood (or severity) of a risk event occurring, while suggesting  methods for dealing with the risk events.

Disaster Recovery is usually very limited in scope being chiefly concerned with fixing ICT  equipment, infrastructure or software.

BCM on the other hand is not concerned with the causes of problems or the likelihood of them  occurring, for BCM comes into play only when a risk  event has occurred, also BCM is process based and  takes a holistic view, rather than just a technology view, and includes personnel, alternative  sites, manual workarounds, and anything else that can be used to ensure business continuity.

The Business Continuity Planning process encompasses many disciplines such as: Risk Management,  Disaster Recovery, Facilities Management, Supply  Chain Management, Quality Management, Health &  Safety, Knowledge Management, Emergency Management,  Security, and Crises Management.

The planning process employs tools such as: Business Impact Analysis, Business Impact Resource Recovery Analysis,Gap Analysis.  And must be cognisant of both the current budgetary constraints and recognised best practices. The plan must be reinforced with positive staff communication (advertising). Development and Maintenance.

The “Business Continuity Team” within the organisation, with assistance from key support areas, is responsible for developing and maintaining the  Business Continuity Plan. Maintenance

It is crucial to ensure that the plan accurately reflects the environment (buildings and  resources) and infrastructure within the organisation. To ensure this, the Plan must be reviewed, updated  and tested regularly, and personnel retrained  accordingly.

The Plan will also be changed through interaction with the Change Advisory Board (or equivalent).  This task is the responsibility of the organization in conjunction with the Data Security Manager,  the Operations Manager and the line managers.

Keep it Simple, Complexity comes at a cost
It is important to resist the temptation to build  more and more technological redundancy into the overall risk. Many problems have simple answers; the goal of  the Business Continuity Team must be to find simple  and cheap answers wherever possible, whilst  staying within the organization risk-appetite profile.

As Required
Any changes that may affect the Plan should be  registered with the Change Advisory Board, the  board will then notify the Business Continuity Team  of the need for changes.

Quarterly
The Business Continuity Team and the Change  Advisory Board will meet to formally review the Plan  in light of all changes registered within the  previous quarter. This may also result in retraining  for staff and testing of plan modifications.

Annually
The Business Continuity Team the Change Advisory  Board initiates a complete review of the Plan,  which may result in major revisions to this  document. These revisions will be distributed to all  personnel on the distribution list, in exchange for  the superseded Plan. At that time the Business Continuity Team will  table an annual status report on continuity  planning to the CEO, or other nominated office or person  in the absence of a CEO.

The areas that need to considered are:

Stakeholders and clients
Suppliers
Locations
Processes
Stores and spares
ICT equipment (including mobile equipment), infrastructure and software.
Telecommunications, including mobile phones
Data stores in any form, including offsite backup, and offsite mobile computers and personal
backups.

Testing
The plan must be subjected to routine testing to  prove that it works and to have managers  “Business Continuity Plan”-ready. Alternative sites (such  as a disaster recovery site) and facilities must  be proven in service. A Business Continuity Plan is NOT an insurance  policy – and so should not lead to complacency – it  is an urgent response to significant disruptions  (outages) to critical business processes with the  potential for serious damage to the organization  and its reputation.

Testing the Business Continuity Plan is an  essential element of preparedness. Partial tests of  individual components and recovery plans will be  carried out on a regular basis. A comprehensive test  of the plan and our recovery sites will be  performed on an annual basis. Recovery testing of  Category I (Critical) systems will be done annually.  Simulation exercises that will include the  organization’s business partners will be carried out  annually under the direction of the Business  Continuity Team. Recovery Procedures

Pragmatics
In a crisis no-one has the time to read huge  manuals (assuming that the manuals can actually be  found and are up to date), and the more complexity  that has been designed into a recovery system the  more likely it is to fail. So the plan must be concise and it must be  managed, also the staff need to be trained to responded  appropriately.

The temptation to include too much detail or be  too prescriptive can have an adverse affect, and  so the level of detail has to allow for  manoeuvring.

It can help to bear in mind that not every detail  can be foreseen and many operations will be  obvious at the time. Likewise applying planning and  resources to areas that are non-critical, or whose  failure would have little cost to the  organization and its reputation, is a waste of time and  should not be considered for this process.

Objective
To produce a Business Continuity Plan (ISCP) that  will ensure that organization will, under a wide  range of adverse conditions:

1 minimise loss/degradation of agreed Mission  Critical Activities (MCA’s) to organization clients;

2 minimise the impact from loss/degradation of  MCA’s to organization clients;

3 expedite the structured and timely recovery to  normal operation; and

4 consider personnel, equipment, software,  third-party services, work areas, and data.

The project will include recommendations for the  ongoing management of the plan.

Scope
Establish guidelines, policies, procedures and  documents to enable the continuity of critical  services to be assured under adverse circumstances  that would ordinarily lead to outages. This plan is  intended to cover the organization only, and not  the Agencies, which must have their own Business  Continuity Plans.

The Owner of this strategy:  should be the CEO, CIO or other senior member.


Business Continuity Management, Typical
All users should comply with the following  principles:

– In the event of a disruption to service,  reference must first be made to the Business Continuity  Plan for the area, before action is taken.

– A record of the nature of the problem, the  steps taken to resume the service, and lessons  learned, is to be made and returned to the officer in  charge of the Business Continuity Plan.

– Business Continuity Planning is subject to  continuous improvement and so the officer in charge  of the Business Continuity Plan will review the  record of each incident (interviewing personnel  where necessary), with a view to improving the plan.

– If you are involved in the purchase of new  infrastructure or operating systems, or in the  development of or modification of applications,  locations or infrastructure, check whether these items  necessitate modifications to the Business  Continuity Plan.

– Report any areas of non-compliance to the  Manager, Business Continuity Team.

Planning considerations
From the outset the author intended following the  recommendations and structure of the Business  Continuity Institute (BCI), and on the whole this  has been done. However in areas the BCI is at  variance with the recommendations of both the  Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) and with Gartner  Research yet there appears to be a level of  agreement between the latter two (and with common  sense) the author has modified the BCI framework  accordingly.

In particular BCI stipulate combining the Mission  Critical Activities (MCA’s) identification phase  with the Business Impact Analysis (BIA) and Risk  Analysis (RA), but ANAO and Gartner Research  recommend identifying the MCA’s in a prior phase,  this appears to make more sense as the Business  Continuity Plan (BCP) should be concerned only with  Mission Critical Activities (MCA’s). Also if risk  is the driving consideration for the plan (rather  that criticality), then critical processes that  are considered to have a low risk of failure might  be ignored.

The resultant planning process then can be a  combination of the three main sources listed above.

Organisational design and structure for the  Business Continuity Plan
The Business Continuity Plan is activated by an  interruption of at least one critical process and  combines a number of continuity, disaster  recovery, crises and other plans under a unified  management structure.

This plan will minimise the impact of the outage,  enable the service to continue and ultimately  restore the service to normal operation. The  operation of the plan will terminate upon the full  resumption of the service and with the documentation  of the lessons learned (which may led to future  enhancement of the Business Continuity Plan).

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There are four main areas to consider when  developing the plan

1. Interruption of computing
2. Interruption to communications
3. Loss of key personnel
4. Loss of facilities eg buildings, offices.

Perform a Business Impact Analysis (BIA)
It is essential to form a plan that will serve  the business Mission Critical Activities (MCI’s)  and so a business perspective is vital to the  success of any plan.

To achieve this, workshops and interviews should  be conducted with key business personnel to  determine their concerns for their departments, along  with their view of the recovery priorities  (ranking) for their area and their concerns about  stability and recovery.

During the interview consider the impact  (financially and otherwise) of a complete failure in any  service and how long the area can survive without  it, this will help determine the Maximum  Acceptable Outage (MAO) for each process, as well as the  Recovery Time Objectives (RTO’s) and Recovery  Point Objectives (RPO’s).

Also to be identified is the “single point of  failure” for each process, i.e. a failure to a MCA  that has no viable alternative.

Evaluate the impact of a total outage of a  critical process under the following headings (ANAO):
Loss of revenue / increased expense.
Service delivery standards
Public or political embarrassment
Loss of client confidence
Loss of management control
Financial misstatement
Regulatory, statutory or contractual liability
Specific/unique vulnerabilities, and
Political ramifications

Perform Business Impact Resource Recovery  Analysis (BIRRA)
The BIRRA is intended to identify the minimum  resources required to achieve the Recovery Time  Objectives (RTO’s) and the Recovery Point Objectives  (RPO’s).

Perform Risk Analysis and Design Continuity  Treatments
“The point to risk management is not to operate  your business in a risk free environment…It’s to  tip the scale to your advantage. So it becomes  strategic, rather than defensive.” – Peter G. M. Cox, CFO, United Grain Growers  Limited.

Typical risk classification framework
In general, risks may be viewed as being negative  (threats) or positive (opportunities), but for  the purposes of service continuity, only the  negative aspects should be considered. The reason for  this is that the Business Continuity Plan becomes  active only when a risk event is manifested.

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