The Expert's View

Getting Business Continuity Buy-In

4 Tips to Gain Upper Management Attention
Getting Business Continuity Buy-In

It is difficult to get buy-in at the very top in organizations because business continuity management is wrongly seen as an operational issue.

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In a booming economy, it is relatively easier to get sufficient resources to deal with any adverse incident that may occur. However, in these more challenging times, there is less confidence in the ability of an organization to simply 'buy itself out of trouble'. (Also read: The Business Case for Continuity Planning)

Much of the importance of BCM is to facilitate the conversations that otherwise would not take place. 

Companies often make many strategic decisions such as outsourcing, off-shoring and long supply chains without full consideration of the consequence of business interruption. They primarily focus in adding short-term value to the bottom-line, but when these strategies fail to deliver, reputation and brand image are compromised. Short-term financial losses might be containable, but long-term loss of market share is often much more damaging.

By implementing effective business continuity plans, businesses can increase their recovery capabilities dramatically. And that means they can make the right decisions quickly, cut downtime and minimize financial losses.

So, getting buy-in at the top is crucial. It requires professionals to have better understanding of the concerns of top management and an ability to communicate risk issues in a common language.

Here are a few ways business continuity practitioners can seek upper management attention.

  • Emphasize business consequences: Many leaders were shaken by the corporate impact that the Gulf of Mexico oil spill incident had on the finances, share-price and reputation of British Petroleum. Business continuity managers need to bring these real-life cases in their presentation to management and further use their skills to identify their own organization's potential high consequence events.
  • Implement innovative tests and exercises: A traditional difficulty is that BCM practitioners do not report at a high enough level to affect decisions. Although often true, they are not without influence, and one way to use it is in developing an innovative testing and exercising program. In the past, too many exercises have concentrated on evacuation, safety and emergency response. Although these are required, top management employs specific specialists to handle safety and security on their behalf.

    What BC practitioners need to do is choose scenarios and techniques in their exercises that really interest the leadership team. Using scenarios that highlight fundamental business threats and challenging top management to respond can be scary, but it also can raise the profile of BCM rapidly.

    Techniques such as war games, stress testing, scenario planning and horizon scanning are becoming important to business continuity tests. These are areas in which the BCM professional could and (in the future) really should take a leading role.

  • Be more assertive: BCM professionals can get top level attention by taking a more assertive position to organizational change. Clearly, there are limits to which individuals can become involved in strategic decisions, but by producing a well considered analysis of the consequences of change, they can often get senior management interest.

    Decisions can be reviewed or modified if consequential risks are better articulated. BCM professionals can do this through a risk management organizational framework and can make their voice heard.

  • Communicate BCM benefits: Practitioners must concentrate on finding value and benefits for BCM and promoting them. For example, if having proper BCM in place helps the organization get on the approved supplier list for a major customer, it's the BC professional's job to ensure that everyone knows about it. If it were a key deciding factor that actually won a big contract, make sure that sales, marketing and finance recognize and publicize that fact. If BCM helps procurement eliminate high-risk suppliers, again getting that message out through whatever communication vehicles is key.

Much of the importance of BCM is to facilitate the conversations that otherwise would not take place. Surprisingly, the BCM leader can exert influence and provide a unique perspective of an organization's vulnerabilities and resilience capability. It's often the approach that matters.

Bird is the technical development director at the Business Continuity Institute in the U.K. The BCI currently has over 7000 members in 100+ countries.

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