To put a new twist on maximum tolerable outage, we’re talking about the length of time an organisation can afford to stop working, not in terms of making its products or providing its services, but on looking after its business continuity. Companies that have dedicated BC personnel may never have to answer the question. However, other BC staff can be pulled out and put on other projects and emergencies. After all, if the business is running and a business continuity plan exists, the temptation might be to use BC personnel elsewhere in the organisation.
While there’s no point in having a team of people just sitting around waiting for a disaster to happen, it would be overly optimistic to think that business continuity, once set in motion, is self-perpetuating. In fact, it’s the reverse. Sooner or later, things will change enough for the current BC plan to become obsolete. At that point, “maximum tolerable outage” of the BC team has been exceeded. Unless the team gets back to its BC duties, the organisation will be exposed to unnecessary and perhaps even considerable risk.
That gives us an initial indication of the “maximum tolerable outage” of a business continuity team. MTO is necessarily shorter than the time it takes for the environment and the situation to render the BC plan suboptimal or even unworkable. It’s also shorter than the time between tests of the BC plan, because planning such tests and interpreting the results are what allow the BC plan to be improved or evolved as appropriate. If keeping a full BC team in action all the time is too expensive, and trying to have it switch between different functional tasks is to difficult, then consider maintaining just a core BC staff in operation, and the use of BC consultants coming in specifically to handle peak BC workloads.