06/02/2012

By Andrew Bale, Chief Executive Officer, Resilient Networks.

Ten top tips for planning and implementing a successful and comprehensive continuity strategy ahead of London 2012:

1. Understand your current business continuity requirements

Understanding your current business continuity requirements involves going back to your business impact analysis and revisiting the key objectives of your organisation. Once you know and understand the risk to infrastructure and services that are critical, such as inbound voice calls that need to be protected, the strategy to mitigate risk can be developed.

2. Establish that your business continuity plan meets your current requirements

The second step in implementing an effective business continuity plan is identifying all of the stakeholders that could impact upon your business. To do this you need to consider all your both internal and external – suppliers, customers, staff etc. In doing this you will quickly become aware of the areas your current business continuity plan does not cover with regards to the requirement of your various stakeholders.

3. Evaluate the importance of inbound and outbound voice telephony communications

In business continuity planning the management of inbound and outbound voice communications is often a much neglected area. This is because people often don’t fully appreciate the complexities of the inherent systems. To fully evaluate the importance of these telecoms systems you need to identify and communicate with suppliers, figure out how calls are routed and pinpoint risks.

4. Flag potential failure points within your premises and the wider network

Pinpointing risks on and off premises is key. You need to look for failure points in business networks – but not only single points – it has to be wide ranging, from the loss of cable infrastructure to equipment, UPS system and even has to go as far as looking into diverse routing. The questions you have to ask yourself here is whether your plan will allow your calls to follow you even if you have to relocate the entire business.

5. Develop a strategy to match your business continuity requirements

To develop an effective strategy to match your business continuity requirements you have to look at your people infrastructure. How will you move people (should the need arise) yet maintain access to supporting systems, what message are you going to give in the first hours after an incident? You also have to figure out how key staff’s calls will reach them especially if they’re handled on a DDI by DDI bases. By figuring this out upfront you will be able to develop a comprehensive strategy.

6. Gain senior management buy-in

Gaining buy-in from senior management is absolutely critical. Why? Because at some stage you will seek financial sign-off to incorporate voice services and solutions into your business continuity strategy – and they will hold the key to the vaults.

7. Inform and train all relevant staff

Build a communications plan that includes all the people who are going to be involved in managing the business at the time of an unforeseeable event making sure that they understand the role they have to perform with regard to managing inbound calls and seeking feedback to ensure key points have not been missed or incorrectly defined.

8. Rehearse, rehearse and rehearse again

If you don’t rehearse you’re planning to fail. You can have the best business continuity plan in the world on paper but you still need to put it into practice to ensure it is as effective as you think. You need to play out scenarios for managing calls with your staff to test theories. You can do this by having walk throughs, engaging in table top exercises or running real life ‘shut-downs’ department by department.

9. Have your plan readily available to invoke

Once your plan is ready you have to make sure it’s available. Staff have to be able to access it offsite easily. Ideally you should be able to invoke the voice component of your business continuity plan from anywhere at any time.

10. Continually update through change control

Once you’ve gone through the expensive and time consuming process of compiling and making available your business continuity plan you should build it into your business’ change control process. Doing this ensures that your business continuity plan becomes an integral part of the business and that it is constantly updated.

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