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Business Continuity and Agile Working

This is a guest blog from Wisework Associate, Graham Ramsey. It covers a topic that is highly relevant to today's world of agile working. Contact can be made with him at Graham.Ramsey@Rabcoms.co.uk, www.rabcoms.co.uk, +44 (0) 7867 900479 .

In this Blog on the subject of Business Continuity Management, or Organisational Resilience as it can also be referred to, I am going to share with you some of my knowledge and experience.  I have been involved in Business Continuity (BC) for 25 years across a range of industry sectors, operating as a permanent employee, contractor and consultant.

So, what is BC? It is about having the capability to respond and manage any disruptive event that impacts the ability of your Organisation to operate as normal, minimising any impacts to customers (internal and external). BC is a separate process from Disaster Recovery which concentrates on the restoration of IT systems, telephony and building infrastructure. 

BC is a recently developed business process. It evolved in the mid 1980’s as a methodology to enable Organisations to manage their threats and vulnerabilities. It is about preventing disruption and empowering staff at all levels to be able to identify, control and manage risks. In the unfortunate event that an organisation is disrupted, the BC process provides support to recover and return the business to normal operations in the shape of a BC Plan. 

Once an initial BC Plan is scoped it must be exercised. I have found that only in this way can it be appropriately tested. Full “buy in” is needed at all levels here if the final BC Plan is to be relevant. Finally, changes are inevitable and a dedicated Stakeholder must be empowered to update the Plan.

An essential part of the BC process is recognition of the Organisations IT and technology dependencies. Understanding  systems, applications and when data must be accessible are key elements of the  BC Plan. 

Technology can enable staff to operate remotely. The move towards an agile working environment provides businesses with an enhanced level of resilience. However, the effectiveness of an agile working culture is dependent upon staff taking their portable technology e.g. laptops, with them whenever they leave the office for a defined period of time. This can be part of the BC Plan.

Effective communication is crucial for the agile worker in any crisis situation. Do employees know who they need to interact with in a crisis situation?  Do they have access to relevant contact details for colleagues, customers, stakeholders? Do staff operating remotely have the connectivity to interact as required with colleagues e.g. via Skype or conference calls – for example, do they have sufficient  mobile network coverage or internet connectivity?

Do individuals have a suitable workstation at home to operate comfortably for a few days or longer? The health and safety implications for the agile worker and therefore employer are often erroneously overlooked. What are the impacts upon others in the offsite working environment ?  Is it secure from unauthorised persons – after all most business information is commercially sensitive at least.

All these considerations and more mean the agile worker needs to be included in the preparation, updating and exercising of the Organisations BC Plan if effective business continuity is to be achieved.