The Employee Factor of Continuity Planning: Four Reasons It Matters to IT Executives

Four reasons IT executives charged with business continuity planning, risk management, and disaster recovery must consider their employees and operations heavily in their plans.

by Armistead Whitney

Business continuity planning, risk management, disaster recovery -- whatever you call it, it’s falling into the laps of the IT executive more often than ever before. If -- or when -- you find yourself called upon to extend your role and take responsibility for programs beyond data-centric implementations, you’ll find that there are more considerations than you’d ever dreamed, not the least of which is employee preparedness.

Recent studies have shown that businesses that have not prepared beyond data backups and accessibility often have a difficult time recovering from a disaster. In fact, many never do. Here are four reasons that IT executives charged with BC/RM/DR need to consider their employees and operations heavily in their plan:

Reason #1: It’s a New World

The past decade has taught us much about preparedness. It began with Y2K and a realization of the impact that data loss might have on a company’s ability to function. It was, unfortunately, followed up only 20 months later with the worst terrorist attack in history.

One of the many business lessons to come out of the horror of 9/11 was the need to prepare your employees and operations for disaster. This decade has also demonstrated that these threats can come from a variety of sources -- whether pandemics such as H1N1, natural disasters (which seem to be exacerbated by global warming), or workplace violence (which grows with rising unemployment rates). As 2010 begins, we understand even more deeply the key role our employees truly make in the success or utter failure of our businesses. How important will your data be if your employees aren’t prepared for a crisis situation?

Reason #2: Technologies Support Better Readiness

Consider the recent advances in communications technology when thinking about the preparedness of your workforce. Written business continuity plans sitting on the shelf, although good to have, are difficult to update, communicate, and actually use during a crisis. Software as a service (SaaS), on the other hand, can be utilized to effectively develop an "on-demand" continuity program.

For example, SaaS offers improved protection and redundancy for your data in the event of a disaster, and it enables executives, managers, and all employees to participate in crisis response via any device with Internet connectivity. How many of your key employees have a smartphone or can receive text messages? Are event-specific instructions on what employees should do during a crisis available to them via mobile devices? Our response to crises can be more swift and effective if we harness these kinds of solutions and equip users with the applications and tools they’ll need in a crisis.

Reason #3: Practice Makes Perfect

Unlike fire drills, which occur on a regular basis and prepare all employees in the building for response to a particular “pretend” emergency, it may not be possible to train all employees how to respond to every possible threat. In fact, high training and consultation fees are often an inefficient use of today’s limited budgets. Crisis team managers should be certified and need to be briefed regularly on key issues. As many will rely on their knowledge and actions, response skills to multiple threat scenarios should be refreshed regularly to improve the likelihood of successful recovery from a crisis.

Reason #4: Without Your Employees, You Have No Business

Recent surveys have shown that businesses unprepared to address a crisis have a 40 percent chance of closing their doors within two years. Are you prepared to face those odds? Is the program you’re developing sufficient to address the key concerns? If 30 percent of your workforce were struck by a pandemic and were unable to work for a week or two, consider the impact on operations, from lost sales to a lack of technical support. How useful is your data if your workforce isn’t there to access it?

There are many factors you’ll consider in program preparation. You’ll do everything from analyzing the likelihood of the occurrence of different incidences in each office location to establishing and maintaining communication with disparate employees and consultants.

Smaller budgets have resulted in more work for the IT exec. If your increased workload includes BC/DR/RM, be sure you’re offering a solution that is always up-to-date, easily accessible, and cost effective. Consider how ready each division in each office is to face a disaster and come out the other side. That, and nothing less, is riding on your planning prowess.

Armistead Whitney is CEO of Preparis, Inc., a global business preparedness company. Preparis has pioneered a SaaS system that is helping global corporations and small companies assure their readiness for 21st-century threats. For information on Preparis and corporate preparedness, visit You can contact the author at

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