Continuity plans have been in the spotlight for businesses across the globe over the last few months. If your continuity plan wasn’t done or hadn’t been reviewed in months, then you probably felt that pain over the last few weeks. Even those with up-to-date continuity plans are refreshing theirs with their lessons learned from COVID-19.
“Continuity planning” has been topping lists of must-do’s for CIOs and IT leaders. But someone has to ask the question: even with a 2020 update, is your continuity plan good enough?
From what I’ve been reading and seeing, probably not. The good news is that you can still shore up your continuity plan so that it actually helps your business in the event of another disaster.
The Problem With Continuity Plans
For CIOs, continuity plans mean including the obvious things:
- How many laptops does our team need to work remotely?
- What needs to be moved into the cloud or onto a collaboration platform?
- What cybersecurity systems need to be set into place?
These are important items to address. They will help your business continue in the event of an emergency. But they’re not the solutions to the real concerns. They are band-aids. These things only address the symptom but not what causes the symptoms.
A continuity plan needs to address what your business needs to do to stay running most effectively and how vital business functions can continue operating during a disaster.
On their own, none of the above components reflect how they connect to vital business functions or business needs. They’re just a list of outputs. They don’t tie it back to the business need or driver or requirement. They’re not outcomes. Our continuity plans should focus on the outcomes we must deliver to support vital business functions. Then we’ll know what outputs we need to produce in order to provide the outcomes that are needed.
I’ll use one of my favorite metaphors to explain the difference between outputs and outcomes. This one might feel familiar to you if you’ve been ordering takeout food recently. You probably have a favorite pizza delivery place that you choose over any other. What is it that makes that pizza delivery your favorite? Because the output from every delivery service is the same. The output is the pizza that you receive. But the outcome of pizza delivery is that the pizza was delivered warm, the driver was friendly, it was delicious and you enjoyed every second of eating it. The output is simply what you expect because it’s what you paid for. The outcome is the entire experience and value that was delivered.
To have a good continuity plan, you need to identify the outcomes that are necessary, not just the outputs that simply keep the lights on.
We need to start with the business impact analysis which quantifies the impact of the loss of service. A business impact analysis collects relevant data and analyzes the operational and financial impact of a disruption of business functions and processes. These can be as detailed as we need it to be. The more detail, the better because we’ll be able to make better business decisions.
The business impact analysis starts us down the path of identifying those outcomes because it assumes that every part of the business is dependent on the continued operations of the other parts of the business (which it is).
Is this starting to sound familiar? When we think of business impact, in particular the holistic approach to end-to-end value, we’re really identifying the value streams.
If you read my previous article this month, you know that I’m a proponent of Value Stream Management, which is the holistic approach that applies lean thinking – optimizing the flow of products and services through entire value streams across technologies, assets, and departments – across an organization’s value streams. Instead of just looking at functions and features, value stream management looks at and manages value streams from end-to-end.
In terms of continuity plans, if we reflect on the value streams, our plan has to become more than the technology that supports the value stream. It will encompass the entire end-to-end lifecycle of business value and the outcomes of each value stream.
This where you’ll begin to focus on things like the roles of the people involved and how they interact with one another and the end customers to deliver value. Your continuity plan becomes comprehensive and more impactful.
How To Make Your Continuity Plan Valuable
Now that you understand what really needs to be in a continuity plan, there’s a second piece that needs to be addressed.
You can’t just drop this plan into a drawer and cross your fingers that you won’t need it again anytime soon. If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s that unthinkable scenarios can occur. We may not see another pandemic in our lifetimes but we will see another disaster of some type.
Your continuity plan cannot be a one and done scenario. It needs to be reviewed, updated, and addressed on a regular basis. Each time you map your value streams or add new value streams, go back to your continuity plan, and evaluate that it’s still up to date.
We can’t know what the next disaster is awaiting businesses but we can be better prepared for any disaster. The best time to prepare for the next disaster is right now.Share