In the leadup to Continuity Insights New York, October 29-30, 2012 at The Hotel Pennsylvania in New York City, Continuity Insights asks presenters about their chosen topics, critical business continuity skills, how prepared we can be, and which famous person would have made a good business continuity professional. This week Doug Weldon, President of the BCI USA Chapter, discusses executive support, the need to have a total understanding of the business and its processes, and Dwight D. Eisenhower’s deep understanding of planning and incident response.
Continuity Insights: What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced during your career as a business continuity professional?
Doug Weldon: The biggest general challenge has always been to gain top-down executive commitment to a new BCM program. If the executives’ perspective is that a program should happen from the bottom up, when the exact opposite needs to occur, I find that turning that thinking around has always been my biggest challenge. If the support doesn’t exist it’s a challenge to establish because I’m battling engrained thinking on the part of senior leadership.
But I have also been in situations where I’ve had fabulous top-down support and it’s a constant fuel that feeds the business continuity or risk program. When it’s not there it can really get cold at night, that’s for sure.
CI: You are giving the second presentation in a three-part BCI track at Continuity Insights New York. What is the theme for the track and how does your presentation on Risk Management Governance fit into it?
DW: In this and future BCI conference tracks we are dealing with advanced topics. It’s possible because your charter is to serve the experienced business continuity professional and we at BCI want to stretch the bounds of learning and experience.
In New York I will build on my presentation from the 2012 Continuity Insights Management Conference in Scottsdale because I know that some in the audience saw the value in what I was saying.
CI: Complete this sentence: To be a successful business continuity professional you must master the risk assessment, the BIA and _________________.
DW: Of the various competencies that the BCI promotes, the risk assessment and BIA are center stage as structured approaches for understanding the business. Understanding current business processes in general has to go along with this. Sometimes people take a narrow view of the BIA in terms of driving BC and managing the requirements — as opposed to what I think you gather from a total understanding of the business, which is:
- How the business works: What are the processes for and what is the value proposition of your business to customers and key stakeholders, such as regulators.
- The key dependencies between processes from the point of view of people, data, facilities and so forth. You then not only understand the business from the point of view of the risks you’ve assessed and BC requirements you’ve developed, you need to come out of it understanding the business as a whole, its general value proposition to the market and how it achieves that.
- The strategic objectives of the business: What are executives thinking about what they need to achieve next and how the BCM program should line up to help achieve those strategic objectives?
CI: True or false: There are some things you simply cannot plan for, e.g. the massive earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis in Japan last year.
DW: I would disagree that this is an example of something that you cannot plan for. The walls built at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant nuclear plant could have been built for the worst-case scenario of a 30-odd foot tsunami, but it wasn’t for economic reasons. So this particular example is a complete falsehood.
CI: Which U.S. president, professional sportsperson or musician do you think would have made a good business continuity professional and why?
DW: Dwight D. Eisenhower’s famous quote about preparations for D-Day comes to mind:
“In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”
That is so true for our business in general. He was an advocate for very strong plans, yet he knew that during an incident the response would need to be managed. What he did as a general was so akin to good business continuity practices.
CI: If you formed a band with other business continuity professionals what would you call it?
DW: (Shaking) Earth, (Destructive) Wind, and (Raging) Fire!
For more information on Weldon's presentation, as well as the full agenda and registration details, visit the Continuity Insights New York website at www.continuitynewyork.com.