Innovation in business continuity plans

Innovation in business continuity doesn’t always have to be technological, as one award-winning approach to a business continuity plan has shown. Sometimes the real innovation is simply in the point of view – the “how” of business continuity, instead of the “what”. That was what the New South Wales Police Force revolutionized to win the Australian Business Award for Innovation in 2008, winning organisations being “those that display exceptional leadership in their industry, and are role models for other organisations seeking business and product excellence”. A BC framework is essential to a police force as an emergency service; what is unique about the one used by the NSW Police Force is that instead of being driven by incidents, it is determined by consequences.

The fundamental concept is that what causes damage or unavailability is not the issue; what matters is a business continuity plan to handle the consequences in order to respond and accomplish recovery. Not handling the consequences correctly can lead to a domino effect, for example in a business context where an event makes occupying a building impossible with the initial consequence that communications are interrupted. As business functions then cease, customer deadlines are missed, meaning that contract penalties are payable, leaving too little money to pay staff wages, which in turn leads to the loss of key employees and the eventual bankruptcy of the company.

The innovative aspect of consequence based planning in a business continuity plan is that the plan starts with the consequence of “no communications”, to bring an effective response to avoid the chain of consequences listed above. Whether the initial event leading to the problem was a fire, a cyclone or an explosion is not of prime importance. The analysis for doing planning like this starts with identifying the key components of an organisation, then broken down into the individual functional components and business functions that support these components. BC planning is applied to these functions and components, rather than having separate plans to deal specifically with a fire, a cyclone or an explosion.