Short and sweet

I can’t help feeling that my last blog (“(Bitten to) death in Venice“) was a little on the long side.

Several people told me they enjoyed it, which was great for my ego. But I’m conscious of the fact that we all lead busy lives and don’t necessarily have the luxury of oodles of time at our disposal to read lengthy documents, no matter how much we might want or need to. In fact that’s something I can relate to as I love reading but, what with work, hockey, cricket, chickens, bees, gardening, a (very) long-term home improvement project, the Osborne taxi service, Barney-walking and the occasional strum on an increasingly dusty guitar, I don’t get much time at all to read stuff that I’d like to, as opposed to stuff that I have to (see “Reading and writing“).

Which is why I thought I’d try to make this blog a bit shorter and get to the point sooner; maybe aim for between 300 and 500 words, which is what I understand proper bloggers do. So I’d better cut the waffle and get to the business continuity bit.

I’ve seen a lot of business continuity plans in my time. A few of them are concise, to the point, easy to navigate and, therefore, might actually stand a chance of being used if the need arises.

Many, however, are (at least in my humble opinion) far too long, verbose, poorly structured and make it difficult to pick out the important and useful bits. So I can pretty much guarantee that they won’t be used. Which is a shame. Because a fair amount of effort has probably gone into their creation. And because there is often some useful stuff in there that’s unlikely to be found because it’s so well hidden.

Surely it’s better to keep our plans short and focused; to use bullet points, checklists and diagrams rather than huge tracts of text; to make sure the salient bits are easy to find, rather than buried in a mass of verbiage or irrelevance; in short, to write something that will actually be useful to those who might have to use it.

It’s relatively easy to write a business continuity plan. But it takes considerably more effort to write one that’s succinct and easy to use.

So there it is. A grand total of 410 words. A teeny bit longer than I’d intended, admittedly. But compared to my last blog (1272 words), relatively short and sweet.

 

Related articles : “Less is more“; “A bag of spanners“; “A plan on a page

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Agree? Disagree? Want to share your own thoughts or opinions?

Are my blogs generally too long, too short or about right? Do I need to get to the point quicker or is the odd ramble acceptable? Do you read them all or sometimes not have time?

Post a comment and let me know what you think.

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Andy Osborne (known as Oz to friends and colleagues) is the Consultancy Director at Acumen, a consultancy practice specialising in business continuity and risk management.

Andy is the author of three books Practical Business Continuity Management‘, ‘Risk Management Simplified‘ andRisk Management Made Easy‘, as well as his popular blogs and ‘Tips of the Month’, all of which aim to demystify the subjects of business continuity and risk management and make them more accessible to people who live in the real world.

You can follow Andy on Twitter at @AndyatAcumen and link with him on LinkedIn at http://uk.linkedin.com/in/andyosborneatacumen

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2 Responses to Short and sweet

  1. Ed Bailey January 4, 2013 at 2:19 pm #

    Hi Andy,

    I totally agree that Business Continuity Plans should be well structured, to the point and only contain useful information, particularly so that if they are ever needed the really important information is immediately visible. I’ve read some plans and thought to myself “where are the actual instructions that say what to do?” because there has been so much waffle.

    However I’ve also found through my own experience of writing business continuity plans that some things just need explaining properly and the only way to do that is with words. As such this will bulk out the plan somewhat with information that may not be needed immediately. The way I’ve worked round this is to create two versions on my plans, a long version containing everything and a shorter version that does away with a lot of the wordy parts and just concentrates on prompting immediate actions or providing useful information (usually bulleted or in a checklist).

    Anyway I just thought I’d add this idea as a tip for anyone trying to construct their own plan..

    • Andy January 8, 2013 at 10:49 pm #

      Hi Ed,

      That’s an interesting idea. Does it give you any issues with updating – e.g. having to make the same updates twice (to the information that’s common to both formats) or do you have a way round that?

      I agree with you that there is sometimes a need for more than a couple of bullet points but, as you point out, there are often ways around that. For instance, where possible I try and put the more descriptive stuff – which tends to be the blurb about the plan (scope, objectives, assumptions, strategy, blah, blah, blah) in its own section and the “what do I do when it all goes horribly wrong?” bits in another section so they’re easy to find when you need them, without having to plough through the waffle. And, thinking about it, I sometimes do a similar thing to you, insofar as I often produce a wallet-sized “mini-plan” containing the really inportant early stage incident management stuff from the main plan.

      What I really have a problem with is stuff that just doesn’t need to be there at all – for instance, the amount of plans I see that include the fire evacuation procedure is staggering. Now I’m sorry, but I don’t know anyone who looks in their BC plan to see what to do when the fire alarm goes off. That’s just one example of unneccessary padding that should, in my opinion, be culled.

      Anyway, as it looks like i’m in danger of going off on a rant, I’ll stop there.

      Thanks for your comment and good luck in the competition.

      Regards,
      Andy

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