The Next Big Thing
Posts about next generation technologies and their effect on business.

The shifting world of business continuity

disaster2.pngI was in an exchange this week with an individual talking about business continuity. The view that business continuity needs to focus on:

An organizations business continuity approach need to be reassessed in a world of high levels of automation, contracting for services and reduced latency. The very definition of foundational terms like ‘work location’, ‘services’ and ‘support’ are changing. Diversity of perspective is likely to be a critical component of any kind of timely, situation response.

 

“The management of business continuity falls largely within the sphere of risk management, with some cross-over into related fields such as governance, information security and compliance. Risk is a core consideration since business continuity is primarily concerned with those business functions, operations, supplies, systems, relationships etc. that are critically important to achieve the organization's operational objectives. Business Impact Analysis is the generally accepted risk management term for the process of determining the relative importance or criticality of those elements, and in turn drives the priorities, planning, preparations and other business continuity management activities.”

 

In today’s environment, business impact analysis is becoming ever more technical and the interconnection between environmental factors more complex. We have seen situations recently with program trading that an entire financial institution has been placed at risk when their automated trading responds in an unforeseen fashion or their governance breaks down. We’ll be seeing similar techniques applied throughout organizational processes.

 

The response to almost any situation can be enabled by techniques like VOIP and other approaches that allow additional levels of abstraction. Simulations can be used to understand the implications of various scenarios as part of business continuity planning.

 

As I mentioned back in March:

Having an effective, robust approach to business continuity is part of management, security and many other roles within an organization.  It is important to remember that there is a cost for being unable to respond to an incident.

Goal-oriented sourcing

handoff.pngOne of the changes the IT service industry is experiencing is a realization that those commodity-oriented contracts that are focused on non-business value oriented SLAs are less than ideal for the change-oriented future that most organizations are experiencing. There is a need for a bit more creativity in the joint development of business-focused, yet quantitative, contract techniques that are mutually agreeable. No one cares if the disks are spinning or lights are flashing (except maybe the IT folks) if the tasks of real value for the business are not getting done.

 

Unfortunately, this means that benchmarking vendors can be significantly harder, since every organization is unique in what they are trying to accomplish. Defining the specific capabilities of a vendor to address the gaps or supplement the weaknesses is going to develop into a core skill for the future. There definitely are commonalities between organizations that can be part of how service organizations are measured, but will those be enough to make a difference?

 

Another dimension of the new expectations for service relationships is the requirement for the various entities to work together. What should a multi-sourced environment look like? Ways to share the success and pain need to be codified in the contract so that there is less finger pointing and more meeting the needs of the day. Once again, this is not a trivial shift in contracting. The current approach to roles and responsibilities try to define a clear “lane in the sand” between vendors. The need is to take the accountability a step further and clearly define the way turnover of responsibly takes place, so it is less “throwing it over the wall” and more of brief, conceptual embrace, ensuring that the handoff takes place effectively. Sure this can be awkward at first, but we live in a culture that demands greater collaboration.  Think of it more like “hug and release” fishing -- no one gets hurt.

 

Joint problem-solving can be a bit of a concern as well since many times it feels like one vendor may be training the other, transferring intellectual property along the way. That may just be a cost of business to reach shared objectives.

 

Those who can be viewed as part of the solution and not part of the problem should win out in the end. But today that kind of perspective is qualitative at best and rarely quantitative at all.

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About the Author(s)
  • Steve Simske is an HP Fellow and Director in the Printing and Content Delivery Lab in Hewlett-Packard Labs, and is the Director and Chief Technologist for the HP Labs Security Printing and Imaging program.
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