Workarounds and the backlog effect

A workaround is an alternative process used to replace the normal ‘business-as-usual’ process or IT system which may be unavailable during business disruption. When determining the Maximum Tolerable Outage (MTO) for a business function, whether or not there are manual, paper-based workarounds is a factor that can help work out how long you can afford to be offline from your IT systems and possibly allow you to implement a lower cost ‘warm’ or ‘cold’ solution’ instead of a ‘hot’ one.

These workaround procedures define the interim tasks to keep the process going whilst the IT systems or other resources are being recovered.

When considering how long a process can operate manually one area to beware of is the backlog effect. At time of incident, if the volume of work remains constant but the rate of processing is slower because it is manual, an increase in workload eventuates which will result in backlog. This backlog may increase exponentially for as long as you are not processing at full capacity. For each process there comes a time when no matter how much overtime you throw at it, it is very costly or impossible to catch up.

It is important to consider what this threshold may be for your process and what the absolute maximum period of time is that the process can operate manually and still feasibly recover. It is wise to allow some contingency between the MTO you select (when the process needs to be recovered by) and your absolute maximum time operating manually to ensure that you have some breathing space in case something goes wrong with the recovery efforts.

As a result, how long will your area will be able to function using manual workaround procedures should be revisited during your area’s BIA updates and tested as part of your business continuity exercise program.

OpsCentre – Business Continuity Consulting