Impact vs Scenario
Some of you are waiting with baited breath for Richard’s next instalment about the common pitfalls of the business continuity programme, but I’m afraid you’ll have to wait a little longer... In this series focusing on PwC’s BCM team’s personal experiences, we now look at Tom’s views on impact v Scenario...
“Floods, terrorism, economic crises, earthquakes…”…these are some of the words I associated with Business Continuity when I was first picturing my move in to this industry and indeed they are still the words I use when describing my job to people at the local. These descriptions attract a lot of interest and similarly drive my enthusiasm for explaining to people the role and relevance of BCM for businesses around the world.
Such disasters have a high profile, and it is a challenge to encourage people to think away from the large-scale incidents and try to relate to “less dramatic” incidents that may affect their businesses, jobs and also their livelihoods. This leads to one of the most important things I learnt in my first week – “understand that it is not about the scenario, it is about the impact”. The example used to explain this was the ash cloud in 2010 – whilst this scenario may not have previously been considered by most people, the impact of travel disruption should have been foreseeable and therefore recovery plans could have been in place.
With this advice, the mentality and explanations switch from the headline events to acknowledge the fact that the same impact can result from a range of smaller, “less extravagant” scenarios, most that will never reach the headlines, but can still do serious damage to the business. To engage senior managers, sometimes we need to switch our thinking to impacts that are in many cases more relevant and frequent.
Take the simple example of access to buildings: businesses should think ahead about what they would do if staff cannot get in to the building and how they then keep their most important services running. The focus does not need be on what causes this eventuality, which might range across snow, tube strikes, travel disruption, industrial action etc..At the end of the day, the impact still remains that staff cannot get in to the building. This should also prevent managers from spending unnecessary time planning for an endless list of possible scenarios with the same eventuality – this is where Business Continuity comes in.
Many BCM managers see their top management only showing an interest in crisis scenarios, and it is difficult to engage them in what they perceive to be operationally focused BCM. Yet, by changing the focus from scenarios to impacts – taking into account what is important to the business such as reputation, strategy, regulation, finance etc - a great deal of time and effort can be saved on creating exhaustive lists of potential events and scenarios and it becomes easier to gain the enthusiasm and commitment from the board that you need to help drive forward an effective Business Continuity programme. There is a case for scenario planning to help support the organisation’s BC plans, however this should never be the start point for a successful Business Continuity programme.
To find out more about our thoughts on BCM and how it can help your business why not stop by our stall at the World Conference and Exhibition 2011, at Olympia 9 & 10 November.