Author Archives: Ken Simpson

Luna Park

… conversations realised

Luna ParkGreat day (and evening) at the Australasian BC Summit yesterday. In keeping with the quality and variety that has become the mark of this event there was a good range of speakers and topics on offer.

The keynote presentation from the ABC’s Ian Mannix was a great start to the day. Ian shared insights into how people react in a crisis situation and offered some useful guidance on the type of messages that we need to learnt to craft to improve communication in these situations. We need to think about application of these ideas to plans (if we really think somebody will use them when under pressure) as well as staff and customer/stakeholder communications.

The presentation was supported by some great video from a scenario exercise conducted by the Catalyst program, which highlighted how good our BC/CM exercises could be if we were allocated the budget to acquire the production capabilities of the ABC. The link above has some excellent resource and acces to the full version of the program, should really be mandatory viewing for all in this business.

Following this rather hard act was Saul Midler who spoke about “right sizing” our BC capability. Interesting title as the term “right sizing” is often used in managerial-speak to mask efforts that involve redundancies and down-sizing. The presentation spoke about getting the investment level right, and presented some useful statistices that people could use to support their own cases.

For me the most intersting part of this presentation came from audience interactions. First when harldy anybody raised a hand to show they had been impacted by a major disaster in the Phillipines – remarkable given the extent that our largest telecommunications company has outsourced its Call Centre operations to the Phillipines. The BC person from that company certainly raised his hand, but perhaps another example that we have not fully embraced supply chain continuity and how essential it is to have visibility of our suppliers suppliers.

The second came when Saul highlighted examples of cases of over-investment in protective and recovery capabilities. In general these were cases where the ICT function had over engineered their recovery or availability options, clearly in excess of the metrics derived from a BIA exercise. My surprise was not that this happens, but from the questions this generated from the audience. I would have thought the first questions would be “How do we learn from what they did so we can make a better case and get funding?” Sadly, that question never arose. Neither did the one about the validity of the whole idea of BIA, at least until later in the day.

 Peter Brouggy’s session on Business Disruption Risk Management at Westpac presented a challenge to the thinking of both legacy Risk Management and legacy BCM. An interesting model with a heavy reliance on metrics, but it yields language and measures that will resonate with business Executives. The comment that some of the biggest obstacles he had to overcome were getting his onw head around the model – and seeing the value in it himself. A challenge we all face, it is hard to sell new ideas unless we actually understand them and have some belief and passion in the cause. Also some interesting conversations over lunch about how or thinking and percpetions change as we adapt to new roles, ideas and challenges in our professional lives.

These changes and challenges we all face can often be helped if we have a community we can talk to and draw assistance form. Glen Redstall’s session described how such a group had emerged in Wellington. The New Zealand “Government Sector Business ContinuityGroup” has grown from a small group meeting for coffee to a support network that not only enables people to learn and develop within the discipline, but is shaping how other parts of government perceive and work with the BC function. Great to see as they exemplify coaching and collaboration – some of the different fundamentals I tried to encourage in my session.

Another conference and another opportunity to showcase that BC folks have learned about Social Media – alas they have not. Still little to no activity on the Twitter stream. The upside to that – it wasnt hard to arrange the meet up for those tweeting from the sessions (both of them). I am sure Susan Henry will continue the twitter conversation on Day 2, sorry I was unable to stay.

This conference has been built and developed over 8 years, and is a tribute to the efforts of Tim Janes (BCI), Linda Nguyen (Continuity Forum) and their team. It was also the last go around for Tim as he will be passing the baton of the conference to somebody new for next year. He is leaveing the event in good shape, and it is a very positive legacy.

Thanks Tim for your efforts, none more difficult than keeping my sessions on time!

… a conversational opportunity

It is a lovely morning in Sydney, perfectly clear sky to enjoy the view as I flew in this morning.

Even better is the prospect of some real world conversations on subjects as diverse as BC and resilience today.

 

I am in Sydney for the Australasian BC Summit, one of the better conferences on the global BC circuit. Even if we don’t have a lot of direct asian input, we do make the New Zealand contingent welcome. There is an interesting array of speakers today and I will post on those I attend and any interesting conversations that unfold.

Also wondering if anybody, other than vendors posting advertisements, will be using Twitter. An interesting test to see if Social Media is having any impact on the BC practitioner yet. WIll have to wait and see how that unfolds.

Any conference attendees keeping up on their RSS feed?

Please help the wider community join the conversation by posting online (or Twitter) comment and discussion.

… conversations are central to resilience, and continuity.

conversationsThis is not a new idea, I wrote about the value of conversations over two years ago, and The Cluetrain Manifesto is 15 years old. Sometimes we just need to be reminded of the things we already know.
For me that reminder came in the form of my recent visit to Continuity Insights Management Conference in New Orleans. Conversation and debate enables insights – reading also helps, but I digress.

The feature that struck me about this conference, more than the other major industry events I have been to, was that dialog was present during all the sessions I attended – not just during the networking or free time.

The CIMC conference reminded me why I had lost interest in blogging. It had become a monologue rather than a conversation.

Not only was I reminded of the value of conversations by the visit, but also re-invigorated by the wonderful feedback, to want to contribute ideas and encourage ongoing reading, thinking and discussion.

Which is why I am already planning to go to CIMC next year, with an expectation of similar positive experiences.

It is not the words and lofty ideas that matter it is the conversations. A resilient discipline needs to be able to engage its practitioners in conversations, not just about our current practices but also (and perhaps more importantly) about how we manage change and move into the future.

We often talk about the so-called ‘resilience disciplines’ – but rarely stop to question if our discipline is in fact resilient itself.

But in order to promote conversations we first need to be where people gather who take an interest in our subject, and we need to engage them first in order to promote conversation on the more abstract ideas. In my case blogging with a new strategy for promotion and engagement.

I never thought I would be writing these words but … stay tuned for a post later this week about that constant source of BC conversations the BIA.

What motivates you to discuss and debate practices and how they might evolve?

Any thoughts on the question if BC is a resilient discipline?

CIMC – Morning 2

Keynote session today was a panel discussion around the growth of mobile applications and Social Media and how that impacts on BC/DR.

Builds nicely from the comments made in yesterday’s keynote about the magnitude of the upheaval in society that is flowing from this area. Also highlight an observation from another session yesterday – one of the lessons from Hurricane Sandy was that there was minimal demand for portable generators (which stores had massive stocks) but they totally ran out of power boards (or power strips as they say here).

Since the learning of earlier disasters (which prompted the stock of generators) the number of devices needing regular charge has grown exponentially. As an example, when I was stuck in New Orleans after 9/11 I had a laptop and a cell phone. Almost no other technology.

Today, I have 2 cellphones (one Australian and one local SIM), an iPad, a laptop, an iPod and a smart watch that all need regular charging. How has your risk profile changed in respect of this demand for charging devices?

Interesting discussion in the panel, but I would have liked to see at least one person from outside the BC closet who could offer different perspectives around these new trends.

This was followed by another interesting session of presentation and robust discussion around Cyber Threat. A smallish group for this session, which had excellent content – albeit very IT (which is really an occupational hazard in this space).

Judging by the discussion, this challenge to broaden our horizon and start to address emerging threats is not yet a mainstream debate in the industry here. I have an article on this subject in the current issue of Continuity magazine.

If you are at the conference drop by the BCI stand and grab a copy of the magazine.

CIMC Conference – Day 1

BmUClG2CIAEh2mVI am in New Orleans this week for the Continuity Insights Management Conference, my first visit to a CI conference.

I have been to New Orleans several times, but this is my visit visit since Katrina, so the Sunday afternoon “Road to Recovery” bus tour was an interesting start to the conference. Even after 10 years, or perhaps because of the passing of time, there are still a number of abandoned, derelict buildings.

The Katrina link continued on Monday morning with an excellent keynote presentation from Admiral Thad Allen. Allen directed the Federal response to the Katrina and more recently was the National Incident Commander for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Some great insights offered in his presentation included;

  • We need to correctly frame the problem
    • When he arrived in New Orleans after Katrina (7 days after impact) he came to understand they had framed the problem incorrectly
    • It wasn’t hurricane response – that had come and gone a week earlier.
    • This problem was more akin to a the impact of a “weapon of mass effect”
  • Complexity is a major challenge in everything we do today
    • Complexity operates to “aggravate risk” – and more so when risks have been realised.
    • I was very glad he mentioned this as complexity is part of my presentation using Agile for BC.
  • Social Media will be a “sociological change equivalent to the impact of climate change”
  • The event “does not create the pre-conditions”, but these pre-conditions can lead to surprise vulnerabilities and as such they can aggravate the impact of the event.

These ideas are applicable to those working within the enterprise BC/DR space as much as those responding to wide-area catastrophes. Complexity means that we will continue to be surprised by impacts and effects – as we can no longer be certain of the connection between cause and effect.

I was very (pleasantly) surprised by the level of interaction in the sessions during the day. Questions were numerous and not restricted to the end of the session. If we are actually here for dialog and learning as adults then more conferences (and presenters) need to understand and embrace this style.

Yes it can be a distraction to the presenter and the flow of their presentation – I saw that first-hand in my session – but if we really understand the material we are talking about then we should be able to adapt. I think the session was made better because of the interaction and improvisation.

Isn’t that the business we are in, responding to the unexpected and quickly returning to some form of equilibrium?

Or are we in the business of running a compliance system for others to master “read and react”?

Looking forward to Day 2 and more interesting exchanges.

 

Counting the costs … the parallax perspective

The technical definition of Parallax “is a displacement or difference in the apparent position of an object viewed along two different lines of sight”(Wikipedia). It can also be used as a means to determine distance since nearby objects have a larger parallax effect when observed from different positions than more distant objects exhibit.

In simpler terms it means that we see something as different, and relating to its surroundings differently, when we look at it from a different place or a different point of view.

For me that especially relates to this issue of counting the costs and benefits for business continuity.

I have been fortunate, over the years, to have held a range of different job roles. Often these roles forced me to look differently at the idea of business continuity and the core question of its worth.

  • As an in-house Head of BC (back in the heady days of the 1980′s) it was all about the budget.
    • The cost of BC was the amount I was allocated to spend, and I was probably a little altruistic and argued for there being a benefit.
    • But, in truth, the benefit was intangible and could only ever be realised in a major incident.
      • We didn’t have one, and there was no insurance discounts or customer demands to see evidence of BC.
    • I argued (very successfully at times) for the BC budget to be increased – but that is what you do in the corporate and Government world, increase your share of the pie when you can
  • Later I was a CIO, and I could determine allocation of resources for BC, DR and a range of other purposes.
    • But continuity and recovery are just one of a myriad of demands, and my customers didn’t put a great value on it.
      • The other things got most of the resources, and most of my attention
    • We did have a major incident that kept us out of our building (and Data centre) for a month.
      • We built an alternative site from scratch in a week and had minimal (critical) operations running again
      • Great return on investment that cost $0 – I borrowed any plans we needed form my previous role as Head of BC.
    • When we got back to ‘normal’ there was just too much to do to invest in being struck by lightning twice.
  • Later when I became a consultant the benefits of investing in a top shelf BC Programme became very tangible – at least to me.
    • Consultants can be very compelling with their arguments for why you need to increase your BC budget and how essential it is that you have a perfectly defined, built and operating BC programme.
    • But nobody else can really know what the optimum BC solution is for your organisation.
  • These days I spend more of my time as a Programme Manager outside of BC, delivering large-scale change.
    • Co-ordinating multiple projects, determining where the resources I control are applied
    • Working closely with the Top Executives and delivering the outcomes they value and will pay for
      • A level of BC capability in the programme is normally expected, but not too much.
      • Risk Management, on the other hand, is absolutely essential – and a significant area of focus and scrutiny.
    • Sometimes implementing change will sometimes negate or diminish the existing continuity arrangements – but the change goes ahead and the continuity capability needs to be rebuilt later.
      • And, yes, probably by somebody else who has to go and secure the resources for it
    • At the end of the day, this is true ‘continuity of the business’, making it more efficient and more competitive – generating the income/revenue that will allow a BC cost centre to spend/invest going forward.

My experience has led me to think the key aspect we can focus on to exploit this Parallax perspective is distance. Remember the technical definition? The closer the object the greater the parallax effect.

We, in the BC field, are sometimes too close – and almost always too passionate – on the subject of how much BC is needed.

Passion is good, but distance is also valuable. When viewed from a dispassionate distance the variations, and the extent of BC investment that may be required somehow seems smaller.

All rather heavy going, and maybe at times self-indulgent and depressing. But learning to recognise that our Executives and Senior Managers have different, but equally valid perspectives, is critical to getting their support.

Perhaps it would have been easier (and more entertaining) to just let Joel Gray explain it, via this song from the movie Cabaret. (Please remember, it is satire).

Flash mob dance.

… BCAW 2014 – FlashBlog and late nights

Flash mob dance.Another Business Continuity Awareness Week has arrived.

In this timezone that tends to mean late nights if you want to catch the webinar program live, rather than on the replay. Replays are fine if you only want to passively consume the material, but if you also plan to ask questions and engage with the presenter then the live broadcast is the only option.

I am presenting a webinar on just that subject – “Counting the cost, of contributors and lurkers, for business continuity“. The primary focus will be on the contributions to the world’s first bcFlashBlog – but there may also be time to explore the other areas where we don’t like to comment or talk about our work and practices.

 

Until then, lets hope there are plenty of questions and interactions on the webinars tonight – and I look forward to the social media storm that will be generated by the bcFlashBlog. Here is a taste of what is happening about the FlashBlog on Twitter. 

 


… Flashmob and BCAW 2014

Once again the blog has been neglected in recent weeks. One of the projects that has been occupying my attention is trying to get together a business continuity Flashmob. Or in this case – a FlashBlog!

At 11:00 on Tuesday 18 March, a mob of writers will simultaneously publish their perspective on the subject;

Counting the costs, and benefits, for business continuity.

Here is a list of  those who have committed to the project, and the site they will publish their contribution. During BCAW this list will be live and interactive, allowing people to indicate which articles they have read, how they rate the articles and which perspectives they would like to know more about. You will also be able to follow the conversations using the hashtag #bcFlashBlog on Social Media.

Do you want to join the list?

Do you have a perspective on the topic?

Can you write approximately 500 words to describe your perspective?
 There are a couple of caveats;
  • The first is this must actually be your position, we are not looking for BC practitioners to offer what they believe is a CFO perspective but rather to get a real CFO to contribute the perspective.
  • Secondly, we are hoping to have a number of different perspective, so we may need to discuss other perspectives you could offer.
Here is what you have to do to participate;
  • Put forward your perspective, either via comment on this post, via email (Ken@VRG.net.au) or you can just add it to the List.ly list linked above.
    • Please not the list is moderated, so your submission will not appear immediately.
  • Write a short article or blog post (approx 500 words as an indication)
  • Schedule it to be published at 11:00 hrs (UK time) on TUESDAY 18 March 2014.
  • Promote your post on Social Media using the hashtags #countingthecost and #bcFlashBlog
  • Join the debate during BCAW, and vote/comment on the various articles that are published.
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… getting their attention


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Hopefully I have your attention!

The new issue of Continuity Magazine is available, which includes an article I wrote entitled “Getting their attention”.

It is about the nature of Executive exercising and the benefits that can flow from expanding our focus, embracing something different and exercising emerging threats – rather than the same old, tired, scenarios and impacts.

If you get the chance to read, would be happy to discuss or debate issues raised.

There are a number of other excellent articles in the magazine, in particular the article by Paul Robertson on the Mega-trends that should be shaping what Business Continuity needs to embrace and address for the future.

… failing to change = planning to fail

Good read here from Phil Wood at Bucks New University.

Failure to Change Kills Resilience | bucks new uni security.

“Real resilience is about mindsets and approach.” Too true, shame we keep promoting the old mindsets and approaches.

 Last year I was awarded BC Paper of the Year for “A Fork in the Road”. Included discussion around the need for “Double Loop” learning – I guess it needed to have a wider audience than just the judges of the prize.