Business Continuity Planning (BCP) is never far from companies’ minds and becomes a priority when there is a threat to businesses or general public. A year ago, the H1N1 ‘swine flu’ pandemic forced businesses to re-evaluate their plans for managing the impact of a widespread outbreak of the virus on their organization.
But while threats like H1N1 raise awareness, the implementation of comprehensive BCP strategies is still patchy at best. A coherent BCP strategy should be considered as much more than an additional cost: it can add real value to the business. This is why it is important to spend time with customers and discuss how to mitigate risk for any type of pandemic or disaster that may occur.
Of course the risk of a flu pandemic doesn’t reduce other existing dangers. To protect your business successfully against the threat of natural disasters and terrorism, careful planning and intelligent investment is required.
Many businesses have shared disaster recovery sites and take a staggered approach to relocation. They identify the most valuable 20% of the workforce and invest in a continuity plan to ensure that these employees can relocate and continue working with little or no disruption to their activities. The second phase of their business continuity plan kicks in over the following two to three months, as their BCP partner expands these facilities to enable the entire workforce to be housed in a new work location.
Location is a key criteria: in the past, institutions invested in back up offices in close proximity to their existing workplace. But when disruption occurs, there’s the danger that security controls will also block entry to the new site. A site close to as many reliable transport connections as possible is essential. This is especially critical in the early days after a crisis when employees need to relocate and may be disorientated and anxious.
Finally, it’s worth noting that technology is keeping pace with the latest thinking in business continuity planning. Distributed and cloud computing enable organizations to replace a single point of failure with systems that provide guaranteed failover. Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) has replaced monolithic infrastructures with closely integrated but independent systems. In addition, communications protocols such as MultiProtocol Label Switching (MPLS) combined with the facilities brought by session initiation protocol (SIP) makes it easy to create "virtual links" between different locations so that calls can be rerouted quickly to another office if necessary.
Put simply, all these technologies mark a decisive shift in the role of business continuity planning. They offer outstanding resilience, but they also provide employees with the platform and tools to work more flexibly and efficiently. With intelligent investment and careful planning, institutions can kill two birds with one stone by addressing the imminent threat to their business and putting in place an IT and communications infrastructure for growth.
Head of Marketing & Strategy at Orange Trading Solutions in Paris