Agile techniques have become popular over the last few years. They have their roots in software development projects. Unhappy with ‘monolithic’ projects that exceeded both time and money budgets, project teams looked for a better way to deliver useful end-results to software users – and that also kept up with changing requirements into the bargain. With agile methodologies, software is produced and released in short cycles, typically two to four weeks. Testing is done in parallel so as to avoid delaying releases and users are constantly invited to use the current release, and comment on what they find useful or not. Can such an approach be applied to business continuity?
One of the criticisms of agile techniques (in software development, at least) is that they open the door to project scope creep. This term refers to that way that the list of functionality to be designed into the product continues to expand, without any fixed and definitive version being nailed down. However, agile technique supporters view this as a natural and even desirable feature. Businesses and their requirements change rapidly nowadays. What was true as a two year road map three months ago may now have changed significantly. The older-style ‘waterfall’ projects that attempt to freeze user requirements for any length of time often run the risk of then diverging from real user needs by the time all the coding and testing has been done. Business continuity must deal with the same continually changing environment, making it a candidate for agile techniques.
But is there a danger of getting lost on the way, if agile techniques are applied to business continuity? Or of missing out on opportunities to leverage a resource between different departments, or of potentially redundant business continuity preparations? The answer is that an overall roadmap is still important even in an agile approach to projects, BC included; but that the same road map also gets updated as required as each incremental release of business continuity preparations is put in place. If these conditions are respected, agile business continuity has a role to play as a simpler, more effective way of getting BC in place.