Demystifying IT Business Continuity

Demystifying IT Business Continuity

By Olowu Modebola Anne

The frequency at which cutting-edge technological trends are emerging has been historically noted this century to be on an 87.5% rise; what I would term, ‘Technology, as never seen before’. It has degraded lots of popular IT infrastructures, adapted, upgraded and even birthed a new bulk of IT must-haves. I am glad to tell you one of the new sweep of necessities it has brought into the heart and muscle of every franchise and enterprise is what is called Business Continuity.

Business Continuity is the ability of an organization to continue the delivery of its services and products at an acceptable and predefined level following a disruptive incident. {Source: ISO 22301}  Simply put as, the phenomenon that ensures business continues as usual, no matter the situation of the organization i.e. come rain, come shine you are still very much in business. It is implemented and guided by the International Organization for Standardization ISO 22301 Business Continuity Management System (BCMS) standard.

Business continuity proudly boasts of upholding the resilience strategy of any organization from financial institutions, to health institutions, FMCGs, Oil and Gas etc. As a continuity, resilience and risk management professional I would say business continuity is particularly crucial to the survival of any organization in tempestuous times, it helps to prepare the enterprise ahead of the unknown, disruptions which could be from technology, people, processes, the environment etc., ( either man made or natural disasters).

It is thus, quite important for organizations that want to remain a going concern to envisage, get prepared and respond to stern issues and incidents as they relate to their businesses; especially the one we term the critical business functions and processes, which are the core of the organization itself.

Source: i2k2.com

According to the Business Continuity Institute (BCI), organizations with BCP’s (Business Continuity Plans) have rapid and articulate responses to incidents; as disruptions to business operations can upshot into sombre consequences for an organization; but an organization with a robust Business Continuity Plan can predict the unexpected and afford timely response to protect its business, their customers and reputation.

Let’s see Business Continuity in IT

While a lot as gone into having plan B’s, business continuity can be termed the mother of all plan B’s, as it contains the master sheet of all scenarios in which a plan B can be activated and an effective continual improvement plan, that is why I am not surprised most business investors seek out the ISO 22301 certificate from any organization they intend to invest in.

Business continuity covers technology, people, process and premises, with a special preference given to external factors, especially natural disasters.

In this article milieu we will be looking at IT Disaster Recovery (DR), since a bulk of all what we do today seats and relies on the support from our IT departments and units, we can’t help but proactively consider something going wrong with this structure. As such, IT Business continuity is an indispensable subset of Business continuity, which solely emphasizes on reducing business down time and accomplishing prompt IT functions resumption in the shortest possible time following an incident or disruption.

IT business continuity or disaster recovery is the capability of an organization to effectively reinstate its hardware(h/w), software(s/w), humanware(h/w), network and data i.e. it’s acute IT Infrastructures behind the success of its business to par or above , during and after a crisis or incident.

Here the recovery objectives are essential, as the response and restoration sequence must be in sync with the optimal performance of the business, while some organizations only focus on IT disaster recovery as only recovering the IT infrastructures (h/w &s/w) alone, they forget the human ware is also very important and can be fatal, if the loss of talents and professionals in this field, is not looked into by business continuity in the form of what we call succession planning. The IT professionals are needed for business continuity planning and for business to continue to run as usual; many organizations have suffered losses and disruptions due to the exodus of key IT personnel.

Why have an IT Business Continuity Plan?

Which we also call the IT DR plan, it contains all the scenarios and instructions on how the IT functions and business processes relying on IT can be restored promptly back to normal, it provides information and methods to curtail the effects of a disruption, what the IT personnel’s should do, the IT vendors to be contacted etc.

BCI’s IT resilience report stated 95% of organizations without disaster recovery/IT business continuity plans, face fatal business loss and don’t last a year; that’s like going under with a bang.

Every organization that depends on IT for one function or the other needs to have a tailored IT business continuity plan, that is stout enough to provide procedures to guarantee incessant delivery of critical IT functions and the use of Business Impact Analysis (BIA) to identify all necessary resources required to maintain a unique and resilient IT infrastructure. A resilient IT infrastructure that covers data, network and all the wares will give a resilient business, which will always exist to proffer solutions to its customers.

Is there any benefit to having an IT BC plan?

Finally, the benefits of Business continuity and IT business continuity as a whole cannot be over emphasized, it’s popular among organizations to hang their thoughts and gateways around insurance, but what say you, when a clause puts you out and we all know insurance may not necessarily protect your reputation, as seen under strategic and reputational risk.

Irrespective of the type of enterprise, the unexpected can always happen, it now depends on how well prepared you are to face the challenges and pull a September 11 on the disaster; that’s to bring to our notice some organizations despite the terrible effect of the world trade centre’s fall on 09/11/2001, still carried out their businesses successfully on that fateful day.

An IT business continuity plan needs to be developed and tested regularly, as one of my favourite BC quotes states, ‘an untested plan is as good as no plan at all’ so it is not enough to just have a plan, it needs to be effectively tested and improved on.

Not only does the IT BC plan helps to create familiarity with common or expected incidents and how to combat it, but it also helps the organization to recover from a disruption and also largely reduce its impact.

It will go a long way to boost the brand and reputation of the organization,

It will be a sustainable guide and ensure redundancies of IT processes and functions,

Reduces the loss of revenues and protect stakeholders’ interests,

Most importantly effects the fulfilment of the organizations statutory legal and contractual obligations,

And my personal favourite, it gives the organization a competitive advantage and great sense of confidence.

Enterprises no matter how small or big must have the drive to ensure they remain a going concern, it’s like having a will in place to protect your heritage and that is what the Business Continuity Management System is all about, asides having a robust BC plan for your IT departments, Finance or HR departments etc., it also provides procedures for managing crisis, emergencies and many more.

Business continuity will not only protect your critical IT functions or other processes but it will also create for you a chain reaction of opportunities that you never saw before, as most challenges when looked into also brings in solutions that can help you grow your organizations.

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