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The Importance Of Being Documented

When you pull together an organisation’s information, you are actually constructing…

Developing a Business Continuity Management (BCM) strategy, framework and process is essentially developing a guide for what to do when the unknown happens. But how does one plan for what one does not know? Unknowns are infinite, so anticipation will have to suffice. One has to anticipate what could happen – very often, in the hope that it won’t!

In Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy the titular Guide is described as a “standard repository of all knowledge and wisdom; an encyclopaedia of useful but sometimes bizarre information.” The Guide is intended to help travellers as they journey through the galaxy and encounter beings, places and cultures that are completely outside their experience. At its core, BCM is mapping out the unknown, for the inexperienced. You aren’t waiting for the event to happen; indeed, you do not want it to happen at all but in case it happens, you want to be prepared. But where do you start? The unanticipated is a grey area, but at its most basic, is the need for information.

There are BCM templates aplenty on the Net; each one has its pros and cons, and they all give some idea on what your business continuity plan (BCP) should look like. At the very least, BCM and BCPs should include disaster recovery, business recovery, crisis management, incident management and contingency planning. These are separate components but they need to work seamlessly if the BCP is to be effective. They need to be aligned, and working in the same direction in order to achieve one objective: keeping the business running despite the disruption caused by an unforeseen event.

They also need to be customised to the requirements of the business because each business has its own particular problems, in addition to the general challenges faced by the industry it is in. Each organisation also has its resource limitations, and its own way of doing things. This is something that all planners must be aware of because it may be the organisational culture – the human element – which may be the most significant barrier to the success of the business’s continuity planning. What ties the components of BCM together is documentation; pulling together information past and present on the firm, is a very good place to start the extensive and all-encompassing process of BCM plans.

When you pull together an organisation’s information, you are actually constructing a picture of its history. Information gathered will show where it experienced adversity, and what it did to overcome this. It will also indicate where it failed; this will give an idea of what can be done that wasn’t tried before, or how it could be done better. This documentation will help develop a multi-layered, more comprehensive understanding of the organisation, and where its weak points and shortfalls lie. BCM is about being prepared. Documentation lays the foundation for the necessary preparation, and should thus be an ongoing part of the whole process.

Business continuity planning is an ongoing exercise because the business environment is dynamic. Any change in the environment, like a change in regulations, for instance, will need to be reflected in these plans. Likewise, any new investment or product will have an impact on the business, and necessitate a relook at its continuity. Ongoing documentation – a continuous stream of information about all parts of the business – will show how the business evolves, its flashpoints and milestones. It will show where it needs support, and where to tighten its belt; where it can take chances, and where to cut losses. It actually gives insights into the future by leveraging on what it can show organisations today.