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Why spend time on business continuity? What you get out of planning for failure

In today’s business world, we are all faced with multiple responsibilities. It is easy to let things like business continuity, disaster planning, and crisis management fall to the bottom of the list, especially when there have been no recent crises to remind us of their importance. Every second spent “planning for failure” or making business continuity plans about what to do if something goes wrong, is one second taken away from “planning for success” – doing something that, in some way or another, drives profit.

So it’s understandable that most people don’t want to spend time making contingency plans for failure; business culture demands that we focus on seizing the moment and finding opportunities for growth, instead of worrying about bad things that might happen. There are several preconceptions operating here that drive the perceived importance of business continuity planning down. One is that the world is full of threats – hurricanes, pandemics, riots – that are wildly unpredictable and out of our control. It seems pointless to spend our time trying to predict what kind of disaster might happen, when an Icelandic volcano eruption could strike you completely out of left field.

It’s true that many disasters are unforeseeable (although many are – but we’ll get into that another time). However, if you focus your business continuity planning on the process, rather than the documentation, you’ll find that planning for potential failures can lead to present success. What do we mean by this? Often, companies do a Business Impact Analysis (BIA) or business continuity plan because they are required to, or someone told them they should. Â Those who get stuck with the task dutifully fill out paperwork, answering tedious questions like “How many computers does your department need?” or “Write down your business partner contacts”.

From every level, the push is to get it done (and over with), and completing the task gets us a gold star – “Congratulations, you’ve filled out your part!” Â The problem is that there’s no point in providing information if we never understand why we’re doing it, never think deeply about the implications of the questions, and consequently, never see any results come out of it. In this situation, all we care about is that the documentation has been completed and checked off our list. It’s no wonder contingency planning can feel like a waste of time.

Lootok’s philosophy is to drive business continuity planning as a unified process from beginning to end. Before you start asking questions like “How many computers does each department need?”, get the management team and anyone else involved in the program together. Lead a group discussion about your company’s past incidents, the risks people feel are most likely to hurt the company, and even personal experiences with disasters. Take a look at news stories of historical and current incidents, and ask if there’s anything you have in common with those companies.

Start to form a cohesive view of the threats to your company’s resiliency. Do you have a single supplier for a key commodity, like Ericsson did when a lightning strike disabled their supplier, Philips? Does your senior leadership have training to speak to the media about everything from fires to vicious rumors, the kind of training that Behr Stearns so desperately needed when rumors of their bankruptcy abounded? Getting people interested and personally invested in business continuity will go a long way toward identifying those threats that might not have been noticed before, and developing creative solutions for resiliency that work with the company culture.

When people are engaged in the process from the beginning and understand the repercussions of planning in relation to their own daily jobs, the documentation comes easier and is done more thoughtfully. When challenges are discussed as a team, and resiliency gaps are visible outside of the department, continuity strategies and decisions take on a greater impact as they are discussed by all. In these ways, planning for failure can contribute to your company’s success. Both in the event of an incident and in improving your current workflow, obstacles to continuity often turn out to be obstacles to success.