Takeaways from DRJ Fall World: Business Continuity on a Flatter, Scarier Planet
DRJ Fall World, sponsored by Disaster Recovery Journal, brings together the world’s top business continuity and disaster recovery (BC/DR) professionals. This year, the conference took place in Phoenix, running from Sept. 18 to Sept. 21.
In addition to enjoying some tequila tasting and casual golf, the pros talked about BC/DR career insights and shared their biggest concerns related to the enterprise. Major themes included globalization, executive involvement, violence in the workplace and crisis communication.
A Flatter World Brings Opportunity and Risk
Brazil, Russia, India and China — the BRIC countries — were the emerging market superstars of the past decade. However, Forbes reports that overall growth in BRIC dropped from 7.6 percent in 2010 to less than 4 percent in 2015 — with the exception of India, which remains strong.
Russia has been hamstrung by falling oil prices, weakening currency and international sanctions. China is working to transition from an export-focused economy to a domestic consumption economy — a good long-term strategy, but one the International Monetary Fund (IMF) expects to pull back under 6-percent growth in the short term. Brazil’s economic challenges include significant inflation and an annual growth rate of just 1 percent, leaving the recent Olympic host in the longest national recession in a hundred years.
Forbes predicts that Indonesia will overtake Brazil’s economy by 2018 and Russia’s by 2020 to become the world’s sixth-biggest economy. Other bright spots include Bangladesh, Vietnam, Ethiopia, the Philippines and Myanmar. Thriving developing economies mean big growth opportunities, but global interdependency exposes businesses to local risks. In addition, interdependencies between systems and automation lead to big productivity gains, but they also increase the exposure of once disparate systems to new vulnerabilities in linked systems.
As one DRJ Fall World presenter put it, organizations need to go from disaster recovery preparedness to disaster avoidance.
The Time for Executive Involvement Is Now
Linda Laun, IBM Certified Thought Leader consultant and senior technical staff member, shared the idea of marrying BC/DR with business processes. In other words, instead of seeing continuity from an IT perspective, businesses should identify their most critical processes and work on preventing disruption and recovering functionality.
Identifying these processes brings BC/DR teams in alignment with executive business priorities and shows executives why they need to be engaged in continuity and recovery. In addition to tying BC/DR to business processes, Margaret Langsett of Virtual Corporation, in a recent Disaster Recovery Journal blog post, recommended quantifying potential impact as the key to obtaining executive involvement. In addition to counting the potential costs associated with disruption, it’s also important to quantify loss of revenue and impact on the company’s reputation.
Dealing With Violence at Work
Globalization exposes business operations to political instability and terrorism in certain parts of the globe. But at DRJ Fall World, many presenters also discussed the disruptive potential of violence inside the workplace. In the U.S., according to the Justice Department’s Office of Victims of Crime, workplace violence accounts for 17.8 percent of all simple assaults and 12.9 percent of all aggravated assaults. Also, homicide is the fourth-leading cause of death in the workplace, although incidences have decreased in recent years.
The biggest cost associated with an instance of workplace violence is the human toll it takes: the loss of employees who are injured or killed, and the trauma other witnesses face in the event’s aftermath. In addition to creating communication plans for the workplace and family members, BC/DR plans should also include arrangements for counseling and support. This should be connected to succession planning strategies compiled by management and human resources.
Planning for Crisis Communications
Social media has become an increasingly important tool for communicating during business disruptions. When network and system outages make it challenging to update company websites or make phone calls, it’s still possible to access social networks using mobile devices. When the University of Wisconsin-Madison experienced a business disruption due to a storm-related power outage, IT set up a Twitter account to keep students updated on web and email access.
The Theme of DRJ Fall World: Always Be Ready
Organizations that don’t keep in-house BC/DR staff can get assistance from third parties that offer resiliency services, including disaster-recovery-solutions. Awareness of compliance requirements, as well as partnerships with auditors and certification specialists — boosted by executive involvement — are great places to start.