Storm Emma was ‘Snow-Joke’ says Databarracks

Organisations must test their business continuity plans, warns Databarracks in the wake of storm Emma this month. Data reveals that only 51 per cent of UK organisations are confident that their business continuity plan is up-to-date

The recent snow storms to hit the UK, should act as a catalyst for organisations to test their business continuity (BC) plans. This follows research from Databarracks revealing that only half of UK organisations are confident that their BC plans are up-to-date.

Peter Groucutt, managing director of Databarracks discusses: “Storm Emma brought huge disruptions to the UK’s transport network, notably impacting how people were able to commute to and from work. Because of this, a lot of organisations would have been forced to invoke their BC plans to remain operational.

“According to our latest research, only 51 per cent of organisations have a BC plan in place, that is up-to-date and have been tested in the last 12 months. This suggests that as the storm intensified, many organisations would have been left exposed to severe business interruptions, simply through poor BC management.

“Business continuity is no longer a luxury insurance policy; it’s absolutely essential for all businesses no matter their size and must be updated and tested on a regular basis.”

Groucutt continues: “The BC plan sets out how an entire business will respond to and recover from any incident, enabling it to get back to business as usual, as fast as possible. Critically, an effective plan should include a Business Impact Analysis (BIA). This is where the bulk of good BC planning takes place. It determines and evaluates the potential effects of an interruption to critical business operations, resulting from an incident. The objectives an organisation should look to address during their BIA are:

•The types of impact an incident might have on a business; whether that be financial, regulatory or legal impact, for example.
•The business functions and services, that support these services.
•Assigning ‘criticality’ to those services.
•From this a firm can then work out both the upstream and downstream dependencies that will affect an organisation’s ability to deliver these services and functions – for example, power needed to remain operational or suppliers needed to deliver goods.
•Finally, you can then outline your recovery objectives, including your justification for this.

“Once a firm has a plan in place you need to ensure that it can be executed. Testing your plan is critical but often the opportunity to actually do this is rare. Instead, firms should look to capitalise on known events to test their plans. As part of our Business Continuity podcast series, we recently spoke to The Economist magazine, which said that during tube strikes it takes the initiative to practice invoking its BC plans. The exercise goes through the exact roles and processes, that staff should undertake during an incident, giving everyone the chance to practice executing the BC plan.”

Groucutt concludes: “It’s important to remember that writing a BC plan is not a one-off project. It’s a working document that needs to be constantly updated. A three-year old BC plan that refers to long-retired employees and out-dated systems won’t be helpful to those who need to use it when the next snow storm hits!”

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David Dungay

Editor - Comms Business Magazine