Continuity plans are going public

Once, business continuity was a matter between a company and its shareholders.

Once, business continuity was a matter between a company and its shareholders.

More recently, regulators have become interested in the topic. Now anyone you do significant trade with may want to know that your IT can stay up and running in the event of a disaster, be it natural or man-made.

Sainsbury's is planning to make all its critical suppliers demonstrate just that. Suddenly business continuity has moved from an important piece of housekeeping, which was sometimes not done, to something that could lose your company a deal.

At the moment Sainsbury's says it is "working with" all its suppliers to ensure business continuity plans that cover IT are in place.

But business continuity could soon be a contractual requirement for many UK and international business deals. Companies without explicit business continuity plans will have to get them together pretty quickly to bid for new contracts or risk losing business.

The National Counter Terrorism Security Office certainly thinks so. Its business liaison officer Richard Flynn believes companies with clear disaster recovery plans will be much more likely to win business than those that don't.

This is a wake up call for all businesses without such plans. Even for those that have plans, it is time for IT departments to ensure they are in a language managers and customers can understand.


Proving your worth

Another area where non-technical people have been crying out for clarity is the tangible business benefits of IT investments. It may be a no-brainer for the IT department that efficient and up-to-date IT is crucial to corporate success, but they should spare a thought for the less technically gifted - especially when they want money for new projects.

Evidence of IT's business value is an essential adjunct of trust, expertise and goodwill. The problem is how to acquire it and offer it up in a user-friendly form to those who hold the purse strings.

The key prerequisite is understanding clearly what your business colleagues perceive as value.

The next task is to select a measurement framework that is both practical and accurate, and can also play a role in improving the ongoing performance of the IT department. As one analyst puts it: "Without it, you are open to IT becoming not just a cost centre, but a blame centre."

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