21st Century Solution for 21st Century Problems

BusinessManagement

  • Author Michael Bittle
  • Published June 2, 2020
  • Word count 1,396

Business Continuity Planning (BCP) changed with COVID-19.

I have been a part of this industry since the “good ol’ days”, when we made duplicates of our punched cards, just in case we dropped the original set. Back in the 1970’s, we ran everything on mainframes, which we safeguarded in protective rooms under very stringent controls. The worst thing that could happen back then was dropping a pizza slice into a tape drive (guilty as charged!). As we moved into distributed networking in the 1980’s, computer systems became more important for day-to-day operations, and some people realized we needed specialists who could plan for disaster management and data recovery in case something drastic happened.

In 2020, one of the many lessons we have learned is that every business needs an effective business continuity plan. It is no longer good enough that Fortune 500 companies can afford to have full-time BCP Managers on staff. Every type and size of business is vulnerable to natural or man-made disasters and every business needs some sort of a BCP.

At the Institute for Business Continuity Training (IBCT), our focus is to train people who otherwise have full-time jobs, on how to best plan, organize, develop and maintain an effective business continuity program for their organization.

We teach proven methodologies, and our focus is to ensure that after taking our course, you can return to your place of employment and actually develop an effective business continuity plan for your organization.

We make certain that our course materials cover the usual DRII 10 Professional Practices, and comply with international standards. We pulled our material together to create a unique BCP lifecycle. Then we took each of the 7 elements of that lifecycle, and developed solid methodology with step-by-step procedures, illustrations, case studies, and software to clearly demonstrate how each element would be completed once a course participant returned to their company. The result was that we produced very effective training courses and now our flagship course is the Diploma in Business Continuity & Resiliency Management.

Certification

After the launch of the flagship course, we quickly learned that professional certification is important to individuals as a means to augment their resumes. Holding a certification is one way to demonstrate to your current and future employer, or clients, that (1) you are serious about your responsibilities in business continuity planning, and (2) you have achieved a meaningful measure of knowledge and experience in the field.

IBCT has always recommended to individuals who plan to make BCP their career that they eventually obtain either the DRII or BCI certifications. Of course, not everyone who works in business continuity needs to do this, just as not everyone who works in banking needs to have a CPA designation. Just as there are many designations available within the accounting industry, over the past 10 years a number of business continuity certification programs have been created.

We eventually settled on an agency called the National Institute for Business Continuity Management, which offers a certification exam for the Business Continuity & Resiliency Professional (BCRP) designation and others. The NIBCM only offers the certification, not the training. The basic requirements for the BCRP designation are (1) two years of experience in BCP, and (2) a 70% or better score on their exam. IBCT was able to demonstrate to the “NI” that our course content is equivalent to what someone normally learns in two years “on-the-job”, and as a result, they waived the experience requirement for individuals who take our Diploma course and then sit the BCRP exam.

Changing Requirements

Business Continuity Planning has proven that it is not a static field. In the past 9 years, we have seen a burgeoning range of new and revised regulations and legislation, such as Sarbanes-Oxley, HIPAA, Basel II, and the EFA Act - just to name a few- which have resulted either in specific BCP requirements, or in "audit creep" at banking institutions. In addition, the globalization of most large corporations has motivated many to subscribe to an international standard for their business continuity plans, and many have adopted the International Standard ISO 22301.

In response, IBCT has continually tweaked its courseware to ensure it also complies fully with the recently revised International Standard ISO 22301. With the outpouring of Federal guidelines and directives, we have developed specialized courses for the banking industry, pharmaceuticals, telecommunications, retail, manufacturing, insurance and service firms, non-profits, and government organizations.

The sudden change in the economy as a result of COVID-19 necessitated a paradigm shift for how we managed our course offerings. Realizing that travel and training budgets were being slashed, but the need for business continuity planning was perhaps even greater than

before, we looked for new ways to help our present and future clients receive the training they needed at a price they could still afford.

Immediately, IBCT reduced the length of our flagship Diploma in Business Continuity & Resiliency Management course from five days down to four, so that participants would be back in the office as soon as possible. We retained the full 5-day content but repackaged it to fit a 3-day timeframe. That course is ECP-601 in the USA and ECP-801 in the rest of the world. We also expanded our training to include online courses for those on very limited budgets.

The Future of Business Continuity Planning

A challenging aspect for most Business Continuity Planners is how to stay relevant in their organization once the Plan is up and running. Yes, we know that to stay “on the radar screen” of your C-Suite, the plan needs to be updated and exercised on a regular basis, and staff training and awareness programs must be maintained. But what happens when your executives start thinking the BCP program is “less than critical”? In some organizations, Business Continuity Planners have been subjected to the same realities in this economy as everyone else. I regularly receive resumes from BC planners who have been let go from their jobs. One major software vendor has even predicted that BCP will eventually become a normalized aspect of Operations Management and the need for specialists will completely disappear. We have already seen this happen in some areas of IT management.

Recent discussion within the BCP industry has revolved around whether those involved in Business Continuity Planning should be looking at adding depth to their training (i.e., by taking a Master’s degree course) or by adding breadth to their background (i.e., getting more involved with security, human resources, facilities management, etc). I regularly see individuals from outside BCP increasing the depth and breadth of their experience by taking our courses. About 1/3 of our course participants come from an IT-background looking to expand their disaster recovery skills, and another 1/3 come from an emergency response or security type of background looking to become involved in more corporate planning. The remaining 1/3 comes from operational management and those who are already involved in BC planning. It would seem that those whose experience comes from fields outside BCP are moving into our territory to increase their “corporate survivability”. What are you doing?

Ask yourself this simple question: What would increase your value to your organization, and what would increase your value to a prospective employer? The key, I believe, is to find a balance. I am a firm believer in the value of professional development and continuing education, and have been surprised to learn that many companies – and even some BCP practitioners – do not share my view.

To remain relevant to your current organization, and to increase your value to a future employer, means that you have to keep your resume and your skill set up-to-date. You should be looking for opportunities to increase both your breadth and depth of knowledge.

Increase the breadth of your knowledge by joining associations with similar but distinct interests, such as security, records management, facilities, etc. Membership costs are usually low, and they almost all offer monthly lunchtime meetings with speakers, and the networking opportunities are a real bonus. At the same time, increase your depth in business continuity planning by taking a course, attending a conference or joining your local ACP chapter or similar business continuity association.

Since COVID-19, the world of business continuity planning has become more vital and at the same time more complex and interdependent with other functions of your organization. We all need to stay abreast of these changes if we are to remain relevant to our employers and our careers.

https://www.BCMcourses.com

https://www.IBCT.com

Michael Bittle, MA, BCMP, BCRP is Managing Director of the Institute for Business Continuity Training, www.IBCT.com. He brings over 40 years of broad international experience in business continuity, emergency management, IT systems, and financial administration. He has been honored by a number of organizations for his contributions to the field.

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