We have all seen the question of whether or not our organization needs business continuity software come up many times over the last several years, and it is a question worth seriously considering.
However, it might first be helpful to ask, what exactly is business continuity software? It can be many things actually. Some packages are very integrated and provide solutions for a multitude of business continuity objectives, while others are very subject-matter or industry specific. Likewise, some programs are easier to use than others, while several collect information that might be excessive for an emergency, but advantageous during audits.
Over the years, I have found that I continuously develop strategies to address the following needs.
1. Business Continuity - to prioritize and document "work-around" plans to rely on until the business is returned to normal.
2. Disaster (IT) Recovery - to prioritize and document IT recovery plans.
3. Crisis Management - to document crisis response requirements.
4. Leadership Succession - to ensure proper leadership is always available.
5. Incident Command - to track issues during both exercises and actual incidents.
6. Business Impact Analysis - to support risk and business impact analysis activities.
7. Communication/Notification/Escalation - to document contact requirements for all internal and external stakeholders, with the ability to automatically notify and escalate as needed.
When it comes to the use of business continuity software, there are really two distinct thoughts. On the one hand, you have your distractors, claiming there is no need or advantage to using pre-packaged software when your skilled employees can easily build what you need with software you already own. On the other hand, you have individuals that strongly believe that a well-developed software package makes creating and maintaining plans much more efficient, leaving your employees time to solve other more important business problems.
Well, in my opinion, they are both right. I have worked for a few national and global companies where the best way to support their Business Continuity Program (BCP) was to use a software package. However, my experienced advice is to be prudent in what you chose, because the effort it takes to input data into some of these packages may far outweigh their benefits.
Case in point: I was hired as a Business Continuity Manager for a national healthcare organization and was provided with a software package that I was to implement nationally. The time investment this particular software required was tremendous. In fact, the investment was so great that we scrapped it two years into its development. A significant waste of time, money, and energy for all involved, with my reputation on the line (though I was not even part of its selection).
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