Tracey Forbes, VP Business Development, Software from Sungard Availability Services shares her views and definition of situational awareness in business continuity.

Situational awareness is the missing link between planning and incident management – real-time insight is what makes a real difference in outcomes.

Situational Awareness In Business Continuity

“Ultimately the question is – did you have the right information at the right time in order to recover?”

— Tracey Forbes, VP Business Development – Software, Sungard Availability Services

Read about how Sungard AS AssuranceCM BCM Software can help improve your organisation’s BC strategy and outcomes.


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?

Who is the weakest link in your supply chain?

As a SunGard Availability Services customer, you appreciate the importance of business continuity management and will be diligent about getting your  own house in order. But how resilient are your suppliers? Supply chains today are increasingly complex, less transparent and subsequently more  risky. If one of your key suppliers failed, what effect would it have on your  business? As the entertainment chain Zavvi found to its cost, its fate was inextricably – and fatally – linked to that of its wholesale distributor, the Woolworths-owned Entertainment UK.

According to a recent Marsh supply chain survey,  62% of companies see supplier failure as a risk, but less than half have measures in place to deal with any supplier outages. Given their mutual interdependence, many companies recognise the need to treat suppliers as an extension of their own organisation when it comes to business continuity management (BCM) planning. Yet few actually do so. Of those questioned in the 2009 BCI Supply chain Survey, just one in nine felt their BCM needs had been fully met. Two thirds had been partially successful in getting their needs adopted through their supply chain, while almost a quarter had either not tried or not been successful at all.
It is easy to see why many organisations find the task is simply too daunting to contemplate. Firstly, the number of dependencies in the supply chain has increased exponentially and the mapping process to identify single points of failure is far from straightforward, with numerous levels and nodes that network to other suppliers. Taking one example, a freight forwarding company found that just one of its contracts involved over 150 subcontractors ranging from trucking companies to overseas agents and shipping lines. Each of these parties will carry their own risks and would need to be understood and mapped!
Then, as we all know, a plan needs to be regularly tested if it is to be effective. The ideal approach is to broaden co-operation between your various supply chain links by including them in your incident management exercises, introducing them one at a time.
Finally, it is an unfortunate fact that a high number of outsourcing relationships fail within their first two years. Any change in supplier or a move to bring a contract back in-house represents a major business risk. An effective exit strategy is essential to manage the transition.
SunGard offers a range of products and services designed to support organisations as they extend their BCM focus along the supply chain to tackle vulnerabilities that pose a threat to their own business. These include: 
  • Continuity Management Solutions (CMS) – a highly effective, purpose-built software tool designed specifically for bc professionals that  saves time spent on admin and plan development. The Vendor Assessment module maps the complex dependencies that exist throughout the supply  chain and will help plan workarounds should the chain be broken.  
  • Consultancy Supply Chain Services – encompassing procurement support, supplier selection, process mapping of existing suppliers, incident management, scenario walkthroughs and rehearsal.
  • Exit Planning to manage the switch to a new supplier or integrate the service back into the organisation, minimising the business risk.

Click here to view SunGard's CMS online video for more information

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.