Business Continuity Management indicators – leading or lagging?

In business continuity management, you need to know how well you’re doing. In fact both BCM and disaster recovery need their indicators, just like the rest of the management sectors, whether for finance, production, logistics or any other domain. In a world where KPI (Key Performance Indicator) is a watchword, and the accepted rule is “what gets measured, gets managed”, it’s clear that the right measurements can help in effective management. However, if BCM is designed to keep things running, whereas DR is destined to be applied when they stop running, do they necessarily need the same type of indicators?

There are two main categories possible for indicators for business continuity management and disaster recovery: one for telling you to what degree things are likely to be alright in the future; and the other for telling you how much things have been alright so far. The first category is that of leading indicators: these precede events and give early indications, although their accuracy can be variable. The second category is that of lagging indicators. They give information after the event; the information is more reliable, but it arrives later than that of the leading indicators.

For business continuity management, in order to avoid business disruption, you need to know ahead of any event if things are likely to be alright, which suggests starting with leading indicators. The first ones may be quite basic: for example, answering yes or no to the question “do we have a BC plan?” This doesn’t mean that lagging indicators are to be ignored: assessing how well your business really did continue in the face of a transport or postal strike is still important for improving for the next time. Similarly, disaster recovery, even though it happens “after the event”, is also first of all well served by leading indicators (frequency of data backups, for example), with lagging indicators in reserve (how many of our key data servers are still available, for instance).