23 November 2006

Human Factors: Pandemic Fear & Y2K...

Organizations are running around looking for quick answers to "Pandemic Planning." Is this the next Y2K? Many agree that it is not the same threat and more are convinced that specific losses to personnel will have significant impact on operational risk factors.

And yet there is a standard waiting for any organization who wants to increase it's Business Resilience, regardless of the origin of the "Virus."

BS 25999-1:2006 is a code of practice that takes the form of guidance and recommendations. It establishes the process, principles and terminology of business continuity management (BCM), providing a basis for understanding, developing and implementing business continuity within an organization and to provide confidence in business-to-business and business-to-customer dealings.

In addition to the above, it provides a comprehensive set of controls based on BCM best practice and covers the whole BCM lifecycle.

BS 25999-1:2006 has been developed by practitioners throughout the global community, drawing upon their considerable academic, technical and practical experiences of BCM. It has been produced to provide a system based on good practice for BCM.

It is intended to serve as a single reference point for identifying the range of controls needed for most situations where BCM is practiced in industry and commerce, and to be used by large, medium and small organizations in industrial, commercial, public and voluntary sectors.

BS 25999 will be published in two parts:

* BS 25999-1:2006 Code of practice for business continuity management
* BS 25999-2:2007 Specification for business continuity management.

The standard, just as ISO 27001; is designed to provide both the guidelines for best practice and the mechanism for auditing and testing the controls. A management system with a continuous quality lifecycle provides the organization with a cultural catalyst to enable change.

The simple question “Have you achieved your BS25999 accreditation?” will prove to be a powerful driver for both public and private sector organisations and the wrong answer will have severe adverse consequences, costing money and credibility, customers and competitiveness.

A truly independent and accessible Standard for Business Continuity has been long overdue, but now its here we all need to take on board the challenges and opportunities it presents and help organisations build resilience to this new standard nationally and indeed internationally. By doing so we will all be able to drive and at long last firmly establish Business Continuity into the mainstream activity of organisations of all types and sizes increasing their resilience and finally creating real Continuity.

Organizations who are waving the panic flag for increased resources and funding to address the future of a "Pandemic" should look closely at the behavior that drove them to the brink of Y2K. A world wide panic, millions of dollars invested in redesigning software applications and then at the apex of the millenium, a huge sigh of relief. Or was it the sounds of disappointment? And in the after action reporting and for the next two years an Internet revolution was born. Our applications were reengineered and the next generation of innovation was born for companies to serve customers in ways they had never dreamed.

A strategic investment today in "Pandemic Planning" and Continuity of Operations will have the long-term benefit of creating a stronger and more survivable organization. In fact, this time the emphasis will not be so "Tech-Centric" but "People-Centric". Who is "Core" to our business? What processes are necessary to run the business and who are the people we really need to support those processes? Everytime you run a new exercise or test your contingencies you are learning how and what are the fundamental items that have been overlooked.

The Human Factors are in play this time. That makes it more unpredictable and more unreliable. More importantly, it becomes necessary to put your employees through some of the most stressful training they have ever had to endure. Imagine telling your "Core" they can't leave work for the next month. What people do you have on your team that will give up that much time and isolation from close family members? The fact is, you won't know until you see them under fire. You won't know if all of the training made any difference until you see your people perform under the most demanding and emotionally challenging circumstances.

You better start now. And you should be prepared to see some of the most shocking human behaviors you have ever witnessed. The people you never expected to be heroes will be. The most brave and macho people on the outside are often the first to run and hide. Fear is a phenomenon that enables some and paralyzes others. Your job is to find out how it affects those you choose to lead your organization during the multiple waves of "Pandemic Attacks" just over the horizon.

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