Recent reports from the likes of Gartner and the CMI both point to the increasing focus on business continuity strategies – something hardly surprising when you consider the cumulative effects of business disruptions of late. Last year alone, insurance firm RSA estimated that the snow-driven disruption in 2010 cost the UK economy £1.2bn a day.

With the Royal Wedding this year and the Olympics in 2012, not to mention the inevitable striking in key areas like transport, there are more and more instances where the daily lives of working people can be affected during the working year. While the nature of the incidents themselves cannot always be predicted, the fact that these incidents will take place – on an increasingly regular basis – can be.

Amidst the disruptions, businesses have to know that the vast majority of their staff can be productive even if they can’t make it into the office. Yet, worryingly, our recent analysis of business disruptions found a significant rise in communication failures in 2010, such as disruptions relating to telephone or network outages, compared with previous years.

There’s no excuse for not having a productivity protection strategy – flexibility needs to be more integrated into continuity plans.

The emergence of internet and mobile technologies does, however, mean that such precautions are far less daunting than they used to be. The technology is now available and affordable to enable far more of your employees to carry on working as normal. Technologies such as Recover Anywhere, for example, offer businesses agility without compromising on security, enabling them to recover more people and more departments; faster and more cost-effectively than ever before.

Think of it like this: if unplanned events do disrupt your business, who do you want to have a higher percentage of the workforce active, winning business and serving customers – yourself or the competition? Can you really afford to have over half your workforce out of action for days at a time?

Recent research* spanning 35 countries released by the Business Continuity Institute (BCI) shows that over 70% of organisations recorded at least one supply chain disruption during 2010, with 20% admitting they had suffered reputational damage as a result.

When a supplier fails

Businesses that have shifted production to lower cost countries are most at risk with more than eight out of ten experiencing disruption, usually due to failure of transport networks and supplier insolvency. Even when suppliers were identified as being critical to their business, almost half the firms surveyed confessed they had not checked their suppliers’ business continuity plans.

As a SunGard Availability Services customer, you recognise the importance of building resilience into your own operation – but have you addressed the impact of a key supplier failure? SunGard offers a range of market-leading software tools and expert consulting services that can help you reduce your exposure to the failings of others.

Continuity Management Solutions (CMS) – Supply Chain package

This software bundle will help you to assess the impact on your business and customers in the event of supply chain disruption. It features a Vendor Assessment module that enables you to evaluate your vendor’s BC plans and ensure their objectives match your own. Even more importantly, it helps you plan workarounds should the chain be broken.

The other products in the package are BIA Professional, a highly effective survey tool to help you understand the effect on your business when disasters strike, ensuring your continuity plans meets actual business needs. We also offer the award-winning LDRPS (living Disaster recovery Planning System), which unlike DIY Microsoft Office based plans, helps you manage the complexity and numerous changes that occur within multiple plans; across several locations within your organisation. And if you already have a mature plan in place that’s becoming unmanageable, don’t worry we can help you migrate to CMS, so you won’t loose all  the hard work that you put into your original plan. 

Supply Chain Consulting services

Our pragmatic and experienced consultants are skilled at quickly getting to the heart of your business, identifying critical dependencies and helping you understand your level of risk based on the critical activities identified in your business impact Analysis. Working closely with you, they will help develop a supply chain strategy covering key areas including:

  • Supplier procurement – helping you draw up a vendor specification setting the minimum level of BCM provision you expect from your suppliers based on industry best practice. This will cover core components from general programme management through to overall risk and incident management. We help you collate the information you need to make informed decisions on BC strategy, ensuring a full audit trail to meet internal and external compliance requirements.
  • Process mapping – matching suppliers with business-critical processes to identify any vulnerabilities.
  • Supply chain incident management – drawing up action plans covering your response, escalation, management and monitoring.
  • Lifecycle supply chain review – Our web-based tracking and reporting portal gives you the ability to monitor, note changes and, ultimately, improve your suppliers’ resilience.

Click here to find out more about SunGard's CMS Supply Chain Package

Click here to find out more about SunGard's Consulting Services

*Business Continuity Institute: Supply Chain Resilience – October 2010

International insurance provider Markel International takes an unregimented approach to business continuity (BC) that in these days of red tape and bureaucracy is highly unorthodox. But it is a policy that has proved highly successful for over three decades.

“What we do for our clients is manage their risk. Managing our own risk is an extension of this.”
Steve Fountain, IT director
Markel International
Given its remit, Markel’s own risk management must be exemplary to maintain market confidence. In line with its belief that BC should be an integral part of Markel’s business as usual operations, rather than an ‘add on’ handled by a central department in isolation from the rest of the business, responsibility for BCM has been fully devolved.
Markel’s company values of spontaneity and adaptability are reflected in the simplicity and flexibility of its BCM programme, which was shortlisted in both the ‘Strategy’ and ‘Excellence in BC in Insurance’ categories of the prestigious 2010 CIR BC Awards.
The insurer has long relied on SunGard Availability Services for Workplace and Technology Recovery services and has thoroughly embedded BC into its company culture. “Everyone takes collective responsibility for BCM, which flies in the face of conventional wisdom,” says Markel’s IT manager Nigel Poll. “But because we’ve tested our response so thoroughly, it’s become second nature.

Historically, cost-effective recovery has been constrained by the limits of technology. Now it is possible to costeffectively recover more people via super connectivity and one seamless estate through virtual and physical environments. Here’s how to exploit new capability and benefits for a flawless recovery.

Calamity comes unannounced and undefined, making recovery planning a dicey exercise. Despite a careful calculation of the odds, it is nearly impossible to foresee what type of disaster will actually strike and what problems it will drag in its wake. Nevertheless, there are strategic steps that can preserve and protect the enterprise in nearly all scenarios. The key is to see mundane details as pivotal and to view complex business issues in orderly subsets of vital functions.
Unfortunately, many a company views recovery only in terms of the technological aspect. While it is true that technology has made recovery efforts far easier and more efficient than in years past, information
is only one part of a company’s total composition. In other words, retaining data through technological means alone will not save the enterprise overall. Retaining data does not equate to continuing full
operations unabated.
Alternately, there are companies that focus merely on the physical side of recovery believing the key to resuming profitable operations is more a matter of moving its people to a safer, yet still centralised, place. While in theory that sounds perfectly logical, it is often more perplexing in practice. Traffic can be frozen in place; road systems destroyed; water and food can be contaminated or in short supply; electrical power can be off for weeks or even months.
The problems then can range from how to move people to another company location to how they can work when they get there if there is no power, no water and no safety.
In short, both the technological and physical strategies are one-sided efforts that can fall victim to the most mundane of troubles.
The better strategy is to focus on how the business should actually operate during a disaster. Determine what precise business functions need to be restored first and in what order. Second, determine the core group of personnel you need to accomplish that directive. It is important to identify which personnel are most useful to your recovery in terms of technological skills and end customer experience. The ultimate goal is to retain customers and accommodate new customers who may arise during a crisis—if for no other reason than they cannot reach your competitors. It is therefore imperative to restore customer communications as fast as possible.
Connectivity, then, is crucial during a crisis. Even more so given the rise in the mobile workforce. The ability to connect to your data and telephony wherever you are recovering from is essential if you are going to give your customers a businessas- usual experience.
Otherwise, where do the inbound calls go? How are they managed? Customers will first notice that they can’t reach you. Make sure all channels of customer communications are resumed as fast as possible. Look for a vendor that provides connectivity across all channels and in spite of public utility outage.
Both the technology and physical parameters should be planned accordingly. The ultimate goal should be to plan recovery efforts with maximum flexibility and the least number of vulnerabilities.
Here are the best practice tips for disaster recovery efforts to succeed despite the circumstances of any given catastrophe:
  1. Think short and long-term 
    Most disasters are short-term events lasting on average seven to eight days but there is also the threat of disruptions that can last six to nine months or even longer. Your disaster recovery plan, therefore, should include an immediate phase, a short-term phase and a long-term phase. The ultimate goal is to achieve a seamless environment for customers and workers in all three phases.
  2. Keep customer communications open 
    Discern how your customers communicate with your company and plan now on how you will have those channels up and running as fast as possible. The longer communications are down, the more likely your customers are to become alarmed or lose faith in your company entirely. Look for a vendor that can provide complete communications using your company’s own phone numbers, website urls, email addresses, etc. Said vendor should have multiple trunks and redundancies to ensure telephony and internet connections are protected and viable.
  3. Ensure key employees can report in
    Ensure you have more than one method to reach key personnel during a disaster. Certainly cell phones are useful but they too are subject to cell tower damage and other technical problems. Therefore, have a minimum of three unrelated methods that employees can use to check in and get instructions.
  4. Ensure employee access to data
    Rather than depend on dongles, CDs and other physical hardware, consider using a disaster recovery vendor that provides a dark site—that is a web site that is not visible on the general internet and is not activated until a disaster occurs—where employees can check in to get instructions or access company information. Dongles and CDs and the like can be lost or simply be beyond reach if an employee cannot get to their office, home or car—or wherever they stored the item. Additionally, updating information on these tools is awkward and difficult to accomplish on a regular basis, even more so after a disastrous event. This means whatever data is stored on these tools is likely to be out-ofdate. By accessing a dark website, information is current and everything is accessible to the employee (according to their clearance level).
  5. Take a holistic approach
    Physical and virtualised desktop recovery environments have their limits. A combination of the two means you can minimise most known risks. Plan a physical disaster recovery site with travel routes and mass transportation in mind. Think hard about how your employees can get to the site before you choose a location. Expect the “perfect properties” to be unavailable as other companies will be looking for the same optimum sites. Instead, you may want to consider a vendor that has multi-tenant disaster recovery centres already built. Don’t stop there, however. Also plan how your people can work from home or while mobile. Adding the flexibility of fixed, remote and mobile workstation options will ensure the best outcome for your company.
  6. Choose standardised technologies
    Whether you build your own disaster recovery office or obtain one through a vendor, you want to use standardised technologies in your DR plan so that parts are easier to find and repairs are easier to make in an emergency environment. By comparison, many proprietary technologies add obstacles to recovery efforts. That is not to say you should choose simplistic technologies, however, as many of your business functions are complex. Rather, it is to say that, as a general rule, standardised technologies are the better choice for crisis management. You will also want technologies that pose no compatibility issues. Make sure your DR plan calls for standardised technologies for these reasons.
  7. Think employee retention
    Call centre agents and other typically low wage workers are often key to a company’s operations. However, low wage workers are hard to retain in the best times; harder still in times of disaster. The motivation to travel far from home, for example, is muted or absent. Or, other factors may affect these employees through no fault of their own. For example, babysitters and elderly care may not be available during a disaster, leaving the worker with few options. Plan for this by adding flexible work options. For example, you may want to allow these employees to work from home or from satellite workstations throughout the area rather than requiring all key employees to travel to a central location. Whatever you decide, plan it now and make the options and the processes known to key employees in advance.