First build your 'A team', then keep it busy

Analyst firm IDC has says business continuity will be one of the top 10 IT trends in 2002. Ian Bowdidge and Zoe Frost of...

Analyst firm IDC has says business continuity will be one of the top 10 IT trends in 2002. Ian Bowdidge and Zoe Frost of Hewlett-Packard offer the following eight-step overview of business continuity management.

The A team: The first step is to create a business continuity management team, which should include representatives from across your business, such as HR, marketing, IT, logistics and finance.

You need to assemble knowledgeable division leaders who can be trusted to make sound decisions in the event of a disaster. Contact details should be circulated so that everyone can communicate rapidly in an emergency. Some larger firms choose to appoint a business continuity manager.

Back to basics: Conduct a thorough business impact analysis. You need to determine what assets, processes or services are most important to your company. What is critical and non-critical?

Once you have identified the fundamental elements of your business you should try to assess them in financial terms. You need to make sure that your business continuity priorities match your business priorities - both should be agreed by the board.

What lurks around the corner? The next step is to undertake a risk analysis focused on the fundamental elements of the business that you have identified.

You should evaluate the preventive measures that could help to avoid a disaster. Consider the operational risks your company takes every day.

To expose the risks, look at the inputs and outputs of the fundamental elements of your business.

For example, what facilities and administrators are needed to run a particular system? What systems feed it and what other systems does it feed?

The big picture: Now create your overall business continuity strategy. Each strategy should be tailored to fit the individual needs of a company. There is no such thing as a "one size fits all" solution.

It is important to realise that any business continuity strategy should be flexible and adaptable because the environment within which your company operates is continually evolving.

The nuts and bolts: The next stage is the creation of a business continuity plan.

At its best, it should simply be a guide or an aide memoir, rather than a recipe book to be followed to the letter.

Practice makes perfect: Once your strategy and plan are in place it is time to rehearse, rehearse, rehearse.

Before you begin a rehearsal make sure you set clear objectives for the desired outcome and what would be perceived to be a success.

Rehearsals should not be seen as tests. You cannot pass or fail. The aim is to learn something new.

The more you practice the more confident people will become and the better they will perform in a real disaster.

The proof is in the pudding: Make sure you have a post-rehearsal evaluation to see whether the objectives were met and to make informed decisions. Ask everyone what could have been improved. Brainstorm about the outcomes and consider what you would like to be the focus of the next rehearsal.

The never-ending story: Finally - there is no end to the contingency planning. Your business continuity strategy and plan need to be continually managed and maintained. Your plans should be living documents that are regularly evaluated, rehearsed and updated.

Further details can be found at

Pocket guide
Hewlett-Packard's eight-step guide to successful business continuity strategy
  • Establish a business continuity management team

  • Undertake a business impact analysis and financial analysis

  • Undertake a risk analysis

  • Develop a business continuity strategy

  • Develop a business continuity plan

  • Set objectives and rehearse, rehearse, rehearse

  • Evaluate and improve your business continuity strategy and plan

  • Maintain your business continuity strategy and plan. Rehearse regularly and evaluate continually.

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