Over the years, Continuity Insights has published any number of articles and interviews that talk about convergence - the coming together or business continuity and related disciplines. It has been, and continues to be, a hot topic. And it seems as though the BCP community may have been expecting some rule, law, standard or even trend to reveal how the pieces would come together, or lay out what the new world pecking order would be.
But now experts suggest that convergence is less revolutionary (a decision to be made or debate to be won or lost) than it is evolutionary and organic. Maybe there is neither a grand plan nor the need for one. Maybe business continuity is going Darwin on us, mutating and combining based on environmental pressures and in unique and formerly unimaginable ways. While the result may not be what any of us had in mind, prevailing opinion seems to be that what business continuity looks like in the future, will -- in true Darwinian fashion -- ensure the survival of our kind.
One thing we know for sure about business continuity is that it's been tough to standardize. We don't even have agreed-upon definitions of common terms (Quick, what's the difference between crisis management and emergency management? And the odds your answer will match anyone else's?--Slim to none.); as a group, we're a little all over the place. And while some uniformity and coming together is called for, business continuity always will need some wiggle room.
"I really think that this one-size-fits-all mentality just doesn't hold," says Al Berman executive director of DRI International. "The idea of trying to pigeonhole business continuity industry-wide doesn't make a lot of sense. And I don't think anybody has a good, clear view of the future."
"Part of the convergence will take place simply because there is need," Berman says. "For example, in healthcare, you see it more and more pushing into legal and security because of the requirement for a privacy officer and the requirement compliance officer. You are seeing it in some cases reporting into IT security. In a lot of cases it will stay in the financial chain. I think that will be true in the financial services industry and banking, where they tend to start to amalgamate risk in one place and the technology is a separate entity unto itself."
According to Stephanie Balaouras, principal analyst with Forrester Research, "large financial services firms often have an enterprise risk management group that encompassed risk management, BC/DR, security." She cautions, however, that "many companies don't have a chief risk officer, and those enterprises that do have a CRO, the CRO is often focused on insurance as opposed to true enterprise risk management."
"I've also seen some companies roll up security and BC/DR under the chief security or chief information security officer CSO/CISO," Balaouras continues. "I think it does depend on the organization. I think the organizational model will vary by company and that's okay. The important thing is to leverage common approaches to a business impact analysis (BIA), risk assessments, etc., as well as, perhaps, common tools and services."
Berman says he thinks that "as business continuity becomes more and more part of marketing, we will see it move into enterprise risk and that as it becomes more instrumental in how companies do business with supply chain, we are going to see more people in procurement getting involved in it because supply chain has become such a big issue."
In the Eye of the Beholder
"And I think it will depend up on the type of business you are in," Berman continues. "For example, in things like basketball or football and there's a huge amount of security and stadium security and auditorium security, you're likely to have business continuity fit into that niche. If you're a trader on Wall Street and you know you need to have instantaneous data backup, you're not going to allow security to take that from you. If it's instrumental to your business operation, you're going to keep it in the business operation. If it's instrumental to security, you're going to keep it there. I think the business will decide what that convergence is."
Berman offers up this recent example: "About six months ago, the National Basketball Association advertised for a security officer, somebody to be the head of security. They later changed that and withdrew it and said they wanted someone to be in charge of security and business continuity."
While those in and around business continuity might have grand plans for convergence, Berman says he doesn't think business leaders are thinking along the same lines. "I don't think they are as focused on [the different disciplines] we see -- crisis management and business continuity and disaster management and security. I don't think they look at it that way. I think we look at it that way because we would like to see convergence or we'd like to see a chief continuity officer. But I think the business will evolve this and make the determination. So, essentially what we see is it moving into the proper place in the organization. I think it's going to seek its own level depending upon how the company is structured."
Cloudy with a Chance of...
Technology also is playing a part in convergence, cloud computing in particular. "As we start to see technology being divorced from corporations, like with all of this cloud technology we are seeing, it's starting to say that applications can be remote," says Berman. "You don't have to own the application, you only need connectivity to it. So, I think we're going to see some dissolution of the data center as we start to move to real cloud technology and Software-as-a-Service type models.
Berman says he thinks technology will drive the evolution of business continuity much the way it did in the 80s and 90s. "I think it's going to evolve just like it evolved out of technology in the 90s, when 80 percent [of BC programs] reported into technology. Now it's less than 20 percent," he says. "Nobody wants to have big data centers anymore and technology is getting smaller, it's getting faster, and it turns over sooner. I went to buy a back-up drive the other day, and I got a terabyte and a half of data for 150 bucks. That evolution itself is going to drive the marketplace."
"In my heart of hearts, I think we need a new generation to come in that's not carrying the baggage that the old generation carried and is not carrying the baggage that says this belongs to me and nobody else," says Berman. "This is all about how much do you give up to gain something?"
"We are going to reshape this and we're going to reshape it for the good," he continues. "But we're also going to reshape it with a determination to be better. Organizations will get smaller. They will get tighter. They will get smarter. This financial crisis will drive some of that. And a different awareness will drive it. We will just think differently. I'm confident about the future, but also I'm willing to be surprised." CI
Smarter than Me?
In our global environment, the nature of business is changing rapidly. In our global economy, the way people make and spend money is changing rapidly. But there is one thing that doesn't change: business will always be based on relationships. And the best of relationships make the best teams.
As we consider the question of convergence within our industry, we have to ask ourselves, are we afraid or do we welcome such unions? Companies of all sizes are beginning to realize the need to develop more collaborative partnerships with suppliers, customers, and industry groups. Some are going as far as teaming with competitors on some issues. We, within the continuity industry, should follow suit.
I don't think we should consolidate all disciplines into one department or group. What we should do is move quickly to begin to collaborate with others, by inviting our peers within risk management, security, business continuity, disaster recovery, emergency management, and crisis management to come to the table to talk and compare notes. We can begin by bringing these people together within our own organizations and not wait for the industry to open these doors.
If we can open up the possibility to share what we know with others and they in turn share with us, we will all benefit by learning more about our customers. We can design ways to do what we do more efficiently. We can use this cross-industry education as an opportunity to innovate. We can leverage the power of many, and we will develop higher levels of trust within the organization. These aren't bad benefits to work towards.
The title of a book I read a couple of years ago sums it up the best: "We Are Smarter than Me".-- Phil Lambert, president of the Center for Continuity Leadership