In business continuity management, should you start with what you want or with what you have? While business continuity is frequently a goal-driven activity, there is a contrarian point of view that says, “improve on what you have, rather than aiming for something you don’t have”.
Is either point of view superior to other? If so, which one should you choose?
There are “for and against” arguments to be made in both cases. In the objectives-driven case, you know where you want your organisation to be, and therefore anything that diverges from that happy state is an issue to be resolved. This assumes that you also have realistic, relevant goals, and ways of measuring how well you achieve them.
The Achilles heel of the objectives-driven approach is often the testing of the plan to meet the business continuity goals. It is often tempting to assume that because you now have targets, you will automatically be able to meet them – which usually does not work when disaster strikes.
In the opposite direction, working with what you have, the emphasis is on necessary improvement and the approach is pragmatic.
If you detect fragility in your raw materials suppliers or production subcontractors, it may be time to replace or add to them.
On the other hand, if you ascertain that your payroll application could in fact withstand a day or two of downtime, instead of requiring a permanent hot standby backup, then things there may already be good enough.
Without overarching business goals however, you may not know if overall your business continuity planning will save your enterprise, if “push comes to shove”.
Using both approaches in combination allows you to use their strengths and avoid their weaknesses.
This lets you make sure that top level business goals are properly supported by real-life actions and processes, and that any expenditure or investment in business continuity also maps back onto real business advantage for your organisation.