The BC/DR Expanse: 2014 & Beyond
No, there’s no show titled “America’s Next Top BC/DR Practitioner,” or “Survivor: Contingency Island,” but let’s say such a show did exist. If a practitioner wanted to be crowned the winner, what steps should they take, what skills should they hone and what trends should they be aware of? Being aware of current trends will not only make you better at your current role, but also better prepared to tackle future opportunities.
In an effort to learn more about the traits and skills companies view as key, as well as how the field is evolving both from a practitioner standpoint and from companies’ vantage point, Continuity Insights sat down with Cheyene Marling, president, BC Management, Inc., an international recruitment and research company focused exclusively on the business continuity industry. BC Management also conducts research, concentrated on benchmarking business continuity programs and staff compensation. BC Management has clients and candidates in over 90 countries.
Given Marling’s role within BC Management, she has exclusive insight into current trends and how these developments could impact practitioners in 2014 and beyond. Marling offers key insights into how business continuity (BC) and disaster recovery (DR) professionals’ roles are changing, the key traits a successful practitioner should possess, how practitioners can best increase their credibility in the field and how executives are changing their views on BC and DR.
Continuity Insights: Can you name one or two recent trends that will impact BC and DR professionals’ roles in 2014 and beyond?
Cheyene Marling: For the last 3 to 5 years, BC has been progressing to an enterprise planning program, encompassing not only BC, but several other closely related disciplines. In the past, DR was separate from BC, or risk management (RM) was separate from security. You had RM, information security, DR, BC and sometimes facilities — and all of those disciplines operated very separately as silos of an organization. But in the last 3 to 5 years, there has been a lot of transitioning, as companies try to incorporate these once separate areas to create more of an enterprise program and eliminate duplication of efforts. At this time, I’m still receiving a lot of calls from companies that currently have BC and DR separate, but are trying to join the two.
This trend is going to be effecting professionals’ career planning because professionals are now doing much more than just BC or DR. In many cases they’re also having to do RM, information security or facilities. As several disciplines are being incorporated into the program, individuals planning for the future will need to diversify their background, expertise and qualifications. This is especially true if they’re looking to move up within an organization, because the individual who is managing the entire program needs to have a background in several disciplines to be able to manage the entire enterprise program.
The second trend I’ve observed is that BC is certainly getting increased visibility at the executive level. This is being brought forth by the fact that several regulations are coming to the forefront. Now individuals, given that they’re getting increased visibility at the executive level, need to have more of a strategic, “thinking-outside-the-box” perspective. Writing a program, assembling a program and developing a program is completely different than actually being able to incorporate a program across an organization, and being able to present at the executive level and understand the culture of the organization. So as BC becomes more elevated at the executive level, having the ability to really influence, be strategic and think outside the box is essential.
CI: When you addressed your first trend, you mentioned that you have observed many disciplines coming together into more of a centered role. Do you notice organizations reducing their staff, or is it more likely that they’re just looking for a “leader” who can offer insight into many different subject areas?
CM: There are a lot of de-duplication efforts in many companies. It becomes very political. If you have two leaders, with one managing just the DR piece and one managing just the BC piece, it becomes a battle. In many cases you have one person giving one message and another person giving a totally different message. So a lot of companies are looking to not only streamline efforts and make an enterprise program to avoid duplication of efforts, but also to reduce these conflicts. What I’ve found in every case where I talk to individuals who are looking to streamline their program is that it’s very trying for them, because they’re not necessarily looking to remove someone; they’re trying to identify a structure that will make the most sense for the company and they want to do that without letting someone go. But at the end of the day this is a smart move for companies because it is a duplication of efforts.
CI: From your unique perspective, what do you see as the most-desired qualities or key skills of leaders in the BC and DR fields?
CM: The intangible skills are definitely in the forefront. Intangible skills are strategic skills like thinking outside the box, being able to influence executives and being able to think about the culture of the organization and what type of program is going to work best within that culture. Having these skills is crucial, especially because BC has really elevated, as I mentioned previously.
The other key component is that companies want someone who has real-world experience. They want someone who has actually responded to an event; someone who has learned what worked and what didn’t work from their involvement. Ideally they want someone who has been through multiple events. I would also say that having the ability to really roll out a program and be able to train the entire organization on how the program functions is also a highly desired skill.
I hear time and time again from companies that they want someone who:
- Can influence and champion.
- Has real-world experience.
- Has rolled out an effective program.
- Can communicate at all levels within the organization, from the executives to the end users.
- Is not only involved in BC, but also has the ability to interact with compliance, audit, security, facilities, crisis communications, IT, operations, etc. Being able to diversify their background and understand what everyone’s involvement is within the program is key.
CI: You mentioned that organizations are looking for professionals with real-world event experience. For those who maybe aren’t quite as experienced, and even for those who have been through an event but want to increase their knowledge base, what are the biggest learning opportunities? Is there an increasing case for professionals to get involved in associations, conferences, receive professional certifications, etc.?
CM: You bring up a good point that not everyone coming out of the gate is going to have experience managing a program during an event. For those individuals who are just coming into the industry, it is really important to incorporate themselves, learn within the organization and create opportunities for themselves. Don’t just assume that opportunities are going to be given. That piece of advice really applies to all levels, not just to those who are beginning.
It is also really important to be certified, even for those individuals who have expertise because it shows your dedication to the industry. Many of the certifying bodies require continuing education credits (CEC) to maintain your certification, which increases your skills within the profession and keeps your knowledge sharp on current trends. Many of my clients value the due diligence certifying bodies go through in testing and confirming a professional’s knowledge.
As you’re entering into the industry, entrench yourself into every opportunity you possibly can within the organization. If you have the ability to work across the organization with different departments, do so. If you’re working with a global organization, offer yourself up to assist with some of the global planning efforts or assist with the business impact analysis (BIA) for another office. You may have to put in time after-hours to be able to coordinate with India or Asia, but having that exposure and experience is going to be crucial later on.
CI: Are there any specific areas where you foresee opportunities for BC and DR job growth in the coming years?
CM: We work across all industries. During the recession there were very few job opportunities coming up. Thankfully, now we are seeing a lot of positive job prospects coming up in the future. Even in January, we had probably the most robust January we’ve had in five or six years, and that was across many different industries. That bodes well.
But if I were to point to one future trend, it’s this: We are seeing a lot of emphasis given to crisis management. We’ve seen it in our data: Companies are more aware of crisis communications and crisis planning. In the last three years, we’ve made placements for people who are just crisis managers, where in the past we never made such placements. In many instances, crisis management is considered one responsibility within all of your different responsibilities for BCP, or IT/DR resiliency planning. But now we’re seeing that some companies, especially larger organizations, have a person just dedicated to crisis management. This person is continuously managing different crises and that’s their primary responsibility. In general crisis communications and crisis planning have become more emphasized in entire programs.
Finally, RM, in terms of enterprise operational RM, can definitely be a driver in BCP. A lot of companies are shifting to having BC report into RM. So we’re seeing that where there might not be as many opportunities for chief continuity officers, there are certainly more opportunities for chief risk officers. I’ve seen a few candidates who have made that transition, where they’re still managing the program, but it’s driven by the RM department versus having a BC office. This isn’t to say that BC is going away, we just see a transition as it comes out from IT and moves under RM.