Thus, the need to be confident that vendors understand and can adapt their solutions to individual company or organization situations is to ensure that the vendor (not the organization that the vendor represents) has the prerequisite experience and knowledge to complement the needs of the business continuity professional.  We have all been faced with the 912ers, those who quickly became business continuity experts on September 12, 2001.  Before 9/11 these individuals were engaged in selling everything from vacuum cleaners to Ginsu® knives.  The professional must have a vendor community that is as dedicated to improving preparedness as they are and has the prerequisite credentials to do so.

Expanding Vendor Knowledge

As many of us have experienced, the road to certification requires a detailed understanding of the components of business continuity management. This study takes considerable time and dedication. Coupled with experience, this comprehension makes for fully-developed business continuity professionals. 

While many vendors have years of experience, they lack the knowledge of areas (in this case, the ten professional practices) that will allow them to apply complementary components of a holistic solution.  Whereas, their expertise may be considerable in their area of concentration, they still need to understand the entire business continuity management landscape.
Emergency notification vendors have a true understanding of communications technology, personnel tracking, and reporting. However, in general, they are less familiar with the roles and responsibilities of recovery team members. By pursuing education in recovery team structure, reporting, incident control systems, and interfacing with municipal authorities, the vendor acquires an understanding of how emergency notification fits into the larger continuity operation.  This view of the broader spectrum allows the vendor to better match the product and service offering to the business continuity program of the client.

Why Vendor Certification?

The customer gains a great deal from having a fully-versed vendor. The need to explain terminology and concepts is replaced by a cooperative sharing of ideas. Generalities give way to specific requirements and help to create a fully-integrated solution. The vendor spends less time trying to explain a vague value proposition and is able to show specific advantages to a given product or service. Nothing frustrates a client as much as having to devote time to defining terminology or concepts that are an inherent part of business continuity.   

Vendor certification provides assurance that a product or service provider has the capacity and capability to understand the complex working of business continuity management needs. In discussions with vendors and clients in the business continuity community, it became apparent that the need to have knowledgeable, committed, and experienced vendors was of great interest. 

Vendors wanted an identity that clearly defined their role in the process of implementing solutions. Clients wanted a way to pre-qualify vendors. The situation is analogous to the industry prior to professional certification. Employers and hiring managers were not able to differentiate between truly qualified candidates and those with impressive resumes.

The DRII Solution

With the DRI International designations of ABCP (Associate Business Continuity Professional), CFCP (Certified Functional Business Cont-inuity Professional), CBCP (Certified Business Continuity Professional) and MBCP (Master Business Continuity Professional), clarity was brought to the marketplace. A person's designation demonstrated their knowledge, experience, and commitment to the profession. It is, only natural that DRI International would bring the same purpose to the creation of vendor certification.
The introduction of the Certified Business Continuity Vendor (CBCV) designation fills the gap between the professional looking to create and maintain a company's program and the vendors necessary to complement the effort. CBCV is a useful evaluation tool for the continuity community to ensure the needs are understood and results are delivered. 
A vendor who seeks to become a CBCV must demonstrate the ascertainment of knowledge by taking and passing the same qualifying examination that other DRI International professionals have taken for ABCP, CFCP, and CBCP.  This ensures that the vendor knowledgebase is the same as the customer's.  In addition, the vendor must provide references to demonstrate their experience.

Alan (Al) Berman is a CBCP, MBCI, a NFPA committee member, a member of the NY City Partnership for Security and Risk Management, and the co-chair for the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. He currently serves as executive director of Disaster Recovery Institute International.