Overanxious or underinsured?

The problem with business continuity planning is the third word in that phrase. All the planning in the world is pointless if the reality fails to match when things go pear-shaped.

The problem with business continuity planning is the third word in that phrase. All the planning in the world is pointless if the reality fails to match when things go pear-shaped.

Many surveys have drawn attention to companies' failings where business continuity is concerned - either not enough have plans, or those that do cannot be sure they will work in a crisis.

There is, though, a valid argument that for many organisations the effort and cost involved is a distraction from more profitable business decisions.

Bluntly, we are talking insurance here. The householder who chooses to go without house contents insurance on the grounds that a burglary is unlikely and they have no possessions of enormous monetary value may save enough to pay for several holidays abroad over the years. But, of course, the insurance companies understandably sell a different scenario.

The same principle applies to businesses, especially smaller ones. There are some companies so commercially dependent on their IT systems that they must be covered for any eventuality. Some will need to guarantee business continuity in order to win business. Others are so profitable that planning for disaster is a relatively minor expense.

But there are others where the costs in time, money and effort of planning for unlikely disasters outweigh any business benefit. The key is to assess the risks and make an informed decision which can be reviewed if circumstances change.

And as our three case studies on page 22 make clear, once having decided what is needed, it is crucial to create a plan that fits your business needs and resources, communicate it and test it regularly.

Respect all IT skills

Nobody still believes that IT is nothing more than banging out invoices and payslips. The huge changes in financial services and the (initially delayed) success of e-commerce are just two examples of how IT creates business opportunities for organisations with imagination, opportunism and commitment.

But has the trend to exhorting IT professionals to see themselves as business leaders gone too far?

In our Letters page on page 18, Chris Potts makes a timely call for a twin-track approach to IT, where the more traditional element of IT as service delivery is accorded equal respect to the apparently more glamorous area of business exploitation of IT.

This makes sense - IT is a multi-faceted area which flourishes through harnessing a wide range of skills and aptitudes.

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