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3 posts from October 2011

31 October 2011

Emerging Social Media tools for Business resilience

Ever more businesses and individuals are embracing social media to promote their products and services in a more informal and interactive way. Research by independent business studies shows that close to 83% of major corporations have adopted at least some form of social media strategy and those remaining looking at ways to establish that capability. Engaging social media is a subtle skill and the risks from poor execution are numerous.  Loss of intellectual property, failure to clearly engage and the risk of misinterpreted statements are all business risk however failure to support its use opens a vacuum for other sources to fill the information gap. Social media is still immature and used improperly risks alienating the very people a company is attempting to engage.

While customers are receptive to the trend they have also eagerly welcomed the opportunity to respond directly when those services fail. It is a publicly available, open source customer complaints system that brands are unable to control. By the same token it is also a direct route to your customers and offers a unique opportunity for you to have the dialogue you want with the people directly purchasing your product or service. A link into the living room with a level of familiarity like never before. So what are the ways that the field of business resilience can capture this trend?

Horizon Scanning and intelligence
Social media is an excellent tool towards horizon scanning, taking into account rising threats and emerging risks. Social media presents raw and unfiltered intelligence, the significance and accuracy of which is not always clear. However there are fewer more up to date sources of intelligence, setting out emerging trends, customer opinions and rapid emerging details from incidents like the recent London riots or ash cloud from which now both the public and press are acting as media filters.

In the business resilience field organisations have a dual opportunity to develop tools for anticipating and then responding to crises that might affect them. Recent civil disturbances, strike action and other disruptive activity across the UK capital was almost exclusively organised through social media and telephone networks. Businesses with a practiced horizon scanning capability anticipated and planned for the interruptions that occurred. Social media also presents a way in which a business can promote its resilient credentials, advertising its plans and providing an extra layer of reassurance to customers, clients and suppliers in times of crisis. These tools are increasingly a method for updating stakeholders and providing situational updates and demonstrating a real commitment and understanding of resilience.

17 October 2011

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.

05 October 2011

Successful strategies for certification

It seems that a commonly asked question within the business continuity community is whether certification to BS 25999 is really that beneficial, particularly for SMEs. In fact, I wondered this same question a couple of years ago. Since then, I have gone through the certification process and have seen the direct results of certification. Over the next few blog posts I will try to provide some thoughts on whether it is indeed a suitable expense or a meaningless expenditure.

The key is to understand that BS 25999 certification is not for everyone. An organisation needs to ask itself some very simple questions before embarking on a programme that, if not thought about correctly, will provide little or no benefit to the organisation over that of simply aligning to the requirements of the standard. These are the sort of questions an organisation needs to ask itself:

  • What will BS 25999 certification achieve? 
  • Would alignment to the principles of the standard achieve the same results? 
  • Are the principals of the standard suitable for your organisation? 
  • Certification is an ongoing programme, so can sufficient resources be invested now and in the future?

I found that being certified to BS 25999 does provide some benefits that are not seen through simply aligning to the standard. It was invaluable for marketing purposes – not only did certification offer proof to clients and prospective clients of a high standard of resilience, but it also demonstrated that the organisation was willing to go that extra mile for the client. My experience also taught me that certification does not need to be expensive as is often thought. State of the art solutions are not required for certification, it is about using what the organisation has available, identifying weaknesses and improving upon them. On top of this, certification resulted in lower insurance costs for the organisation. When considering these points, certification can result in a very cost-effective programme.

These benefits will only be realised if the common pitfalls can be avoided. These pitfalls can directly threaten the success of the business continuity programme unless they are avoided. It is worth noting that many organisations have gone for certification and been caught out by the same few pitfalls. In the next blog I will explain some of these pitfalls and how to avoid them.