Oz's Business Continuity Blog 

A key issue

Returning home from a recent client visit, I arrived, after a long, tiring drive, to find that I couldn’t open my front door. Whilst previous occurrences were due to me forgetting to take my door key with me, I had actually remembered it on this occasion. But said key stubbornly refused to co-operate. After careful consideration, I concluded that I hadn’t said or done anything so terrible as to warrant Mrs Oz changing the locks, so I pressed on. I tried for about fifteen minutes but to no avail.

The lock in question had, I should perhaps mention, been hinting to us for a while that all was not well, insofar as it occasionally required a bit of key-jiggling before it deigned to open. This hadn’t, however, presented a major problem until now and, as such, I hadn’t got around to doing anything as radical as fixing it. So I jiggled. Quite hopefully to start with, although I have to confess that the jiggling became punctuated with the odd ‘encouraging phrase’ as time went by.

Mrs Oz and I had thought about possible mitigation measures – I am, after all, a risk management professional. These included adding a back door key to our respective key rings, changing the offending lock and installing an external key-safe on an outside wall, in which we could securely store a spare back door key. At the time of the incident, Mrs Oz had implemented the first mitigation measure (I hadn’t quite got around to doing so) and I’d had a quick look but hadn’t been able to work out how to remove the old lock so I hadn’t yet bought a new one. I had, however, bought a key safe. It was in the house waiting to be fitted, which, if I’m being completely objective, wasn’t overly helpful.

I considered my options, which included calling a locksmith, putting a brick through the glass panel at the side of the door or waiting for Mrs Oz to come home. Clearly she wouldn’t be able to do anything with the front door lock as it was well and truly seized but she did, after all, have a back door key. Having weighed up the respective merits and drawbacks of each option, I chose the latter and sat in my car to do some work on my laptop while I awaited her return.

After about forty minutes, during which the sum total of productive ‘work’ was two ‘phone calls, a few e-mails (which took ages to send over the 3G network, the only connection available) a couple of text messages and some initial jottings for a forthcoming presentation (done on my ‘phone after my laptop battery ran out), Mrs Oz arrived and, within seconds, opened the front door with her key. To her immense credit, she managed not to look as smug as I would have, had the boot been on the other foot, whilst I fought manfully to suppress the steam that was threatening to come out of my ears.

There’s a lot of talk these days about being able to work from anywhere. But, in reality, this is, for many people in many organisations, largely talk. I appreciate the fact that today’s technology enables people, at least in theory, to access (quite often a limited amount of) IT stuff remotely. But for most people there’s a big difference between working effectively in our normal working environment and ‘working’ from our car or an airport or a coffee shop or even from home, let alone the potential information security issues associated with internet access from these environments.

“All of my staff can work from home” is a mantra that I hear all the time during discussions on business continuity strategies. But the fact that they don’t actually do so during business as usual and the somewhat predictable reluctance to conduct a test of any significance – and call me an old cynic, but logging in and sending a couple of e-mails is not, in my humble opinion, a realistic test of anyone’s ability to work from home for a significant period – suggests to me a certain lack of substance to the claim. My usual suggestion to prove it by arranging a test, whereby 80% of a department with the alleged home working capability do so for a few days, is seldom taken up. I can’t think why.

And we can identify as many continuity strategies and risk mitigation measures as we like but if we don’t even get around to implementing them, let alone testing them, they’re not actually solutions. Unfortunately, this is something else I come across depressingly often.

Shortly after the aforementioned incident, I fitted the aforementioned key safe to the aforementioned outside wall. It was impressively secure. I can say this with absolute certainty, because I was unable to open it, having seemingly neglected to set the code to one of my own before throwing away the piece of paper with the factory pre-set code on it. It was so secure, in fact, that it took me the best part of twenty minutes with an angle grinder to cut the front off the flipping thing so I could remove it from the wall and fit another one. The new one, now that I think about it, is in the house waiting to be fitted!


Related articles : ‘A remote possibility?‘; ‘Make yourself at home‘; ‘Do your homework



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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 the books ‘Practical Business Continuity Management’, ‘Risk Management Simplified‘ and ‘Ski Boots and Celery – A Compilation of Oz’s Business Continuity Blogs’, 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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