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2012 Survey ‘Planning for the Worst’ Shows Encouraging Signs

Having learned from disruptions, organizations take action on business continuity plans

Published: Wednesday, March 21, 2012 - 13:31

(BSI: London) -- The 2012 Business Continuity Management Survey, “Planning for the Worst” published this month by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) examines how prepared organizations were for unexpected and damaging disruptions to their day-to-day operations over the past year.

During 2011, UK organizations were presented with a wide range of unexpected threats, according to research published in CMI’s survey. While winter weather was the most common cause of organizational disruption for the third year running, other significant business disruptions included the public sector strikes (which caused problems for 55% of managers), the Blackberry outage (39%), the summer riots (26%), natural disasters such as the Japan earthquake and tsunami (19%), and international social and political unrest such as the Arab Spring uprising (18%).

The findings, released ahead of Business Continuity Awareness Week (which ran March 19–23), suggest that this wide range of threats has prompted business continuity management (BCM) to become increasingly adopted in the United Kingdom. After a sharp increase in BCM uptake over the past two years, the 2011 figures show another rise: 61 percent of managers now work for an organization that has BCM in place, up from 58 percent in 2010. These improvements are exemplified by the fact that, learning from the past two years of heavy snow, 37 percent of organizations have now formalized their arrangements for managing the impact of severe weather.

Looking forward, many organizations are already thinking about how to minimize the impact of the Olympic Games: 25 percent of managers will allow staff to work flexible hours; 17 percent of staff will be able to work remotely; and a further 17 percent of managers have prepared for an increase in annual leave requests.

With the launch of the report, CMI is renewing its calls for small and micro organizations to follow the example of medium and large organizations by putting robust and proportionate business continuity plans in place. At present, just 31 percent of micro organizations and less than half of small organizations (48%) utilize BCM, compared to 61 percent of medium and 74 percent of large organizations. BCM continues to be most prevalent in the public sector, with 73 percent of managers reporting BCM arrangements, and in large private sector organizations with 70 percent uptake of BCM. However, this falls to 52 percent overall in the private sector when factoring in small and medium-sized businesses. Uptake of BCM in the nonprofit sector is 60 percent.

“Today’s report shows that UK organizations are affected by a huge range of organizational challenges, many of which are entirely out of their hands,” says Christopher Kinsella, the acting chief executive of CMI. “Yet with good management, the impact of these disruptions can be kept to a minimum. It is encouraging to see that business continuity management is increasingly becoming a key part of organizational good practice, but there is clearly more to be done—especially among small and medium-sized businesses and the nonprofit sector. With major events such as the Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics on the horizon, as well as continued international unrest, and the threat of further strikes, no organization can afford to be complacent.”

The report also shows clear advantages for organizations which do have plans in place to deal with crises when they hit. Of those who had to activate plans in 2011, 81 percent agreed it reduced disruption and the same number stated that any cost in developing plans is justified by the business benefits they bring.

Recommendations

As part of its commitment to revitalizing management and leadership in the United Kingdom, CMI is calling for all organizations to learn the lessons of the last 12 months in line with the report’s recommendations, which include the following five suggestions.

When developing BCM, the business impact analysis should take precedent over the risk assessment.

Organizations can change rapidly, so review your BCM regularly, checking that it remains relevant to your current operations.

Only one fifth of managers expect their business critical suppliers to have BCM, and only 7 percent expect all of their suppliers to have BCM. Review which suppliers are critical to your operation, and examine whether they have BCM. If not, you may want to find out why.

Use BCM based on a common framework—such as the British Standards Institute (BSI) standard, BS 25999-1, which provides BCM best practice recommendations; or BS 25999-2, which provides requirements for a business continuity management system based on BCM best practice; or the International Organization for Standardization’s (ISO) forthcoming standards, ISO 22301, which specifies security requirements for disaster recovery; and ISO 22313, which provides guidance for business continuity management systems—and follow recognized best practice. It improves understanding and resilience, and can also give you competitive advantage.

Managers throughout organizations need to be fully competent and confident in understanding their role in BCM, but senior managers must take ultimate responsibility for the quality and robustness of their organization’s BCM.

“Over the past few years, Britain’s businesses have experienced many unexpected incidents and I am sure 2012 will be no exception,” says Shirley Bailey-Wood, the director of publishing at BSI. “So it is very positive news that more and more organizations are addressing the issue of business continuity, with many using BS 25999 as their framework. There remains however an alarming percentage which still have no contingency plans in place. The reality is that business continuity management is not a complicated science but a critical part of best practice management and business excellence.”

Planning for the Worst was published in association with BSI, an independent business services organization that develops, publishes, and sells standards and business information solutions; Aon, a global provider of risk management services and human capital consulting; the Business Continuity Institute (BCI), which enables individual members to obtain guidance and support from fellow business continuity practitioners; and the Civil Contingencies Secretariat in the Cabinet Office, which works in partnership with government departments, the devolved administrations, and key stakeholders to enhance the United Kingdom’s ability to prepare for, respond to, and recover from emergencies.

Download the report, Planning for the Worst, here.

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BSI (British Standards Institution) works with more than 80,000 clients in 172 countries to help them adopt and cultivate the habits of excellence. Clients are trained and provided with practical guidance for implementation alongside a suite of compliance tools. BSI is assessed and accredited by more than 26 accreditation bodies including ANSI-ASQ National Accreditation Board (ANAB) and United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS). BSI’s influence plays a key role within the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). As one of the founding members, it ensures that international standards address business and societal needs, while delivering real benefits to organizations.