Interview with Andy Tomkinson Part 2: "Launching and implementing BCM"

Q1. Which are the vital elements for good BC strategies?

The old adage “KISS” certainly applies to BCM. Politically incorrectly translated as, “Keep It Simple

Stupid”. One could controversially say “BOTTOMS” too, “Back On To The Old Manual System”. I wouldn’t necessarily put them both together in a mission statement (to avoid any misunderstanding) but my point is simplicity is the key. Too complex will mean people won’t engage. The strategy should have a destination explaining what good looks like and the route on the way to getting there so a programme is essential. It needs to be resourced and most importantly have suitable leadership to push and pull it through. “RACI” standing for “Responsible Accountable Consulted and Informed” is a good way of looking at it. So despite my best efforts to set the example of keeping it simple clear and concise I have managed to use three acronyms in one paragraph! KISS. BOTTOMS. RACI.

“Manifestum breve asciscere”

Q2. Can you please comment on “Plan is nothing- Planning is everything”?

The no-plan plan means you rely on information, good judgment, decision making, powers of authority, initiative and leadership which is a big ask when faced with death and destruction. The natural response to danger is fight, flight or freeze. It reminds me of a quote from Sir John Harvey-Jones, “Planning is an unnatural process. It is much more fun just to do something. That is why failure comes as a complete surprise instead of being preceded by a period of worry and depression”.

If you plan, then you buy into the process and own the results. If someone plans for you, it is their plan not yours. Ownership and planning are essential ingredients in BCM.

Q3. What are the main obstacles a company could face during implementation?

a. Initiative weary; too many new initiatives and not enough time for the routine day job.

b. Too complicated. Too many TLAs (Three letter acronyms) BIA with RTOs and RPOs , not to mention MTPoDs, BCMOs, BCP IMP DRP aaarrrggghhhhh!

c. Starting with the hardest element first the BIA. Do some simple easy quick victories first to inspire confidence and gain awareness.

d. Threaten them with scare mongering about risks

e. In BIA tell them they are non-essential in other words could be made redundant.

Q4. Are there critical stages in the BCM life cycle? If yes, can you tell us more about them and why are they considered critical?

Write a repeatable annual programme with a commitment that every Jan there will be a policy review and every June there will be a rehearsal and training every September etc. If there is a cycle or better still a spiral of continual improvement then activities are likely to become embedded and enduring. To this write a BCM Manual which explains “how to” do each repeatable activity. Then the critical stages are training,

Q5. What is the relevance of supply chain to BCM ?

BCM cannot be done in isolation. Integration with those around you is vital. Up and Down the supply chain are risks (upside and downside) and resources (reserves, alternatives and contingencies) that you will find useful. If we monitor the supply chain we can horizon scan for a ripple effect approaching us. We can consider merger and acquisition at the right time. We can see what our competitors are doing. We can see where the market is going and how customer needs are changing.

Q6. Based on your personal experience, what are the most frequent reasons for a BCM failure?

a. Never finishing a BIA which was too complicated and was the first step of the programme. Boring Boring Boring.

b. No leadership or interest from top management. Boring Boring Boring.

c. Boring Boring Boring, it will never happen to me, complacency.

If BCM is engaging, educational and exciting people will have some appetite and the energy will rub off. If it is dull it will die. Don’t be BORING with BCM!

Q7. What are the criteria for assigning the role of the BCM officer? What skills are required? Is it a full time job or not?

The role of a BC Manager has massive privilege. You really get to know what makes an organisation tick. That makes you a very useful resource for senior management as eyes and ears on the operations but equally as horizon scanning risk radar. You have a business hat on so can follow the finances but have a technical hat on and can’t have the IT wool pulled over your eyes. You are in touch with the human side and humanitarian aspects but respect how long it takes to build a reputation and how easy it is to lose it in a matter of seconds.

If the BC Manager is conducting BIA and writing plans they are doing a great injustice since there will be no engagement embedment or ownership. If they are entertaining, engaging and an infectious enthusiast then BC will be a breeze that everyone wants to play their part in.

Q8. Where should a BCM officer reside within the company; Business or IT?

It doesn’t matter as long as they are credible with the Board and are friendly with the workforce. It is more about the person than the department. If IT stifles business then a BC Manager in IT might send out the wrong signal. Social media is a means to make a mark and so communications or HR are as good as any other department to host the BCMer.

Q9. What is the relevance of BCM employee awareness and education in the BCM context?

BCM has to be sold if it is to be effective. The sales and marketing function of BCM is the awareness campaign which must be resourced properly and its success factors measured. Training, both induction and refresher is critical. How can you expect to test or exercise if there has been no training. This is not confined to business continuity awareness week (or day) but should be ongoing throughout the year.

Make it interesting and lively:

• A race to the DR site with prizes for the most unusual form of transport.

• A T-Shirt with slogan.

• Mugs and key rings.

• A video film.

• Photos in the corporate magazine or on the blog.

• Certificates for training and exercises.

• Wallet cards and staff handbook.

• Rewards and recognition.

• Quizzes and crosswords.

• Social events the BCM BBQ after the annual rehearsal.

• Only your imagination limits what can be done.

Q10. What are the benefits of testing and exercising?

Practice makes perfect. Testing and exercising ensures familiarity with what must be done. This will inspire confidence and improve skills. It is the primary way of seeking engagement. It demonstrates the management intent to set time and money aside to “do it” rather than talk about it. It is a form of inoculation (like a vaccine) against fear of the unknown. It shows customers, suppliers and the regulator that you are serious about BCM. It provides feedback for implementing lessons identified and lessons learned to aid the spiral of continual improvement.

Q11.When is a test… not a real test, yet people believe it is a test?

Don’t call them tests or exercises or drills… call them rehearsals. A rehearsal does what it says on the tin. It is a practice where mistakes can be tolerated and learned from in a non-pressure environment with no career repercussions for weaknesses uncovered. Rehearsals can have metrics and key performance indicators but no “pass/fail”. If you have made the rehearsal fun and achieved an educational, engaging and challenging experience that participants can draw upon should they find themselves in a real drama you will succeed.

If you have embarrassed, exposed or bored the participants they will vote with their feet and you will never get them to tick “Accept” for the next meeting invite on BCM.

Q12. What are the chances for a company to successfully respond to major incidents and/or crises events if this company is solely equipped with crisis communication plans and media training- while lacking thorough knowledge of its real priorities and mission critical operations and having no relevant incident management and recovery plans in place?

Better to have something than nothing. “The Golden Hour” is a critical time in the aftermath of responding to a major incident. Getting BCM off to a good start through stabilising a crisis can only be a benefit. I would argue good crisis management is part of BCM. Command Control and Communications are essential for BCM and are the foundations of a good start to invocation. BCM should not be defined as an evacuation plan or crisis which place focus on their recovery plans and neglect their crisis communications plan. What are the risks to this company in case of a severe incident or a crisis?

The organisation will be much more likely to lose credibility and market share due to poor reputation with no crisis communications plan. Can you imaging sending the kids upstairs to continue doing their homework when the kitchen is on fire? The focus might well be on homework but not ahead of the priorities of saving life and raising the alarm.

Q13. What is the final destination of the BCM journey? Is there an ending?

There must be a finish line to cross, something to aim for with associated metrics (time and distance). What does an athlete do once they have achieved a World Record time? They continue training to want to be faster, better with renewed and increased targets. Same goes for BCM. One crank of the BCMS handle over a calendar year achieving all the milestones is a creditable performance in which everyone should take pride. That said, having reached the destination, there is always churn, change and circumstances which require further effort later. So there are targets and finishing lines for races but never an ending where BCM can afford to rest on its laurels.

Q14. What is the future of BCM?

To continue to become more widely recognised as a business imperative. To fine tune good practice and become more practical and less theoretical. To be better accepted at Board level by being clearer and easier to understand. To have more entry level practitioners and have BCM become more inclusive with other compliance type activities. The emergence of convergence with other disciplines. Cohesion across industry and across silos in organisations. Faster, cheaper and better technology and greater outreach through social media.