Business Continuity Tip of the Month

A reasonable assumption?

There’s no getting away from it, we have to make some assumptions when we’re putting our business continuity strategies and plans together. And that’s a perfectly reasonable thing to do.

But it’s a good idea – in fact, if we want our plans to be robust and stand a chance of actually working, it’s essential – to challenge and validate those assumptions from time to time to ensure they’re reasonable.

Typical examples of assumptions that might need a bit of a reality check include :

  • People will be willing to travel long distances and work at a recovery site miles away from their nearest and dearest for as long as we want them to. The reality is that some people can’t or just plain won’t. And for those that can and will, experience shows that the Dunkirk spirit typically lasts about a week or so.
  • The people we rely on to make our plans work will all be available and contactable when we need them. But most people do have lives outside of work. They go on holiday. They go out. They turn off their mobile phones. They have the occasional tipple. They change their phone numbers without telling anyone. They might even be affected by the incident that causes us to invoke our plans.
  • Everyone can work from home, even though they don’t do so at the moment. Actually, some people can’t, for any number of reasons. And often for those who can it’s only feasible to do so for short periods, not days or weeks on end.
  • Our IT or business recovery plans will work, even though we’ve never tested them. It’s well known (ask anyone who’s done it) that many recoveries don’t actually work very well on the first test as there are wrinkles (sometimes great gaping chasms!) that need to be ironed out.
  • We can buy large numbers of servers and other IT equipment at the drop of a hat. However there’s probably no guarantee of this, which can jeopardise our recovery capability.
  • Our customers will cut us some slack because we have such a good relationship. The harsh reality is that, like the Dunkirk spirit, the sympathy vote can be short-lived. 
  • Our tapes go offsite as soon as the backups finish. All too often, whilst that’s what the procedure says, the process isn’t rigidly followed, increasing the potential for unacceptable data loss.
  • People will do what it says in the plan. The reality is that the only thing we can expect is that people will do unexpected things!

Assumption is the mother of all foul-ups, particularly where assumptions haven’t been validated. By all means make assumptions when you have to, but do revisit them from time to time to ensure that an invalid assumption doesn’t invalidate your plans.