In the days when business continuity was still mostly a competitive advantage, there was a tendency to think of maximum tolerable outage as being defined by external customer expectations. Whether for manufacturing, finance or other industry sectors, MTO was measured in terms of effect on the customer base, likely customer reactions and the impact on business performance. As BC comes of age, the perspective has changed making it more and more of a necessary component for running an organisation and avoiding the internal stress of downtime; in Frederick Herzberg’s terms, BC is becoming a “job hygiene factor”. But are organisations getting the message?
People don’t restart, reboot or just pick up where they left off in the same way that machines do. Machines don’t get stressed, demotivated or just plain bored in the same way that people do. Whereas external customers and partners usually do have another choice, i.e. doing business with someone else, either on a temporary or permanent basis, employees are typically stuck with a downtime situation and all the limitations and frustration it imposes. Expecting everybody to immediately launch back into their work after an outage as though nothing happened is not just optimistic, it’s unrealistic.
So what’s the answer? The first step is for organisations to understand the scope of the effect of downtime in internal human employee terms. Among the different steps that can be taken to manage or reduce that effect, prevention is likely to still be the best. Maximum tolerable outage that is defined also in terms of what the company personnel is prepared to tolerate is a preventive measure. Getting senior management from the top down to recognise the importance of that approach is a priority, because employee dissatisfaction usually spreads by contagion to customers and then leads to loss of profits, a problem that everyone wants to avoid.