Fear incapacitates - demystify BCM
Here are four ideas about how to increase participation in BCM programs. Picking up on a theme I shared in previous blogs such as A Customer Focus Means Enhanced Resilience and Future Business Continuity Is Customer-Centric, one of our challenges is not providing a return on value. By this, I mean that versus focusing on return on investment which can often be challenging for us to quantify, we should pivot to stressing the practicality of what we offer.
In contrast to a compliance-based model that relies solely on an annual BIA, plan reviews, and exercises, value propositions maximize utilization of resources. Compliance-based programming also uses fear of not completing tasks as its driver. For example, regulatory penalties can occur in many countries if you do not have updated business continuity plans. Or, there can be market impacts if you cannot prove to customers or vendors that you have a robust program. However, we know from research that this psychological tactic does not work. The utilization of fear as a method promotes inaction. Passivity in our customers is the exact opposite of the engagement we strive to achieve.
1 - Be honest
If you are similar to me, you struggle to get your business partners to willingly complete compliance activities. It is undoubtedly challenging to compete with their daily work to meet business unit goals. Being the administrator of programming regarded as on par with the audit function is not fun. Instead, wouldn’t you rather oversee programming that customers find valuable and practical? Even better, wouldn’t it be ideal to have customers come to you for the information you supply? To achieve this, limit business continuity lingo and be clear about program goals to encourage maximum participation.
I am guessing that you would prefer a model where customers chase you versus the other way around. One of the ways to realize this is, to be honest, and open with your customers. Let them know how the program leverages the data and explore opportunities that they could use for their operations. Be clear about your objectives. Business Continuity Management programs exist to protect employees, customers, vendors, assets, and operations. Managers understand what resilience means, and it resonates with them. Use it.
During BIA report-outs, some of the most exciting conversations happen when leadership discovers BCP data can assist them in attaining operational goals. However, conversations at this level do not occur unless you move beyond jargon-laden, siloed discussions to explore possibilities. By selling that your department gathers organizational data in one platform, few, if any, other processes can provide that value to leadership.
2 - Be transparent
You are in a unique position to offer strategic and tactical data to assist decision-making. In the role of BCM administrator, you govern the company-wide programming and framework. Interestingly, few of us thought to share this fact until recently. If you can gather program data that can be shared and accessed by many instead of a programmatic few, you increase the opportunities for data usage and increase value. In turn, this provides you with occasions to better educate your customers and learn more about their needs.
Most of the programs models that exist today are regimented with defined roles and access limitations. Usually, this is due to system licensure constraints. I encourage you to think outside of the box to determine ways within your organization to share business continuity information more widely. I spoke previously about how dashboards provide detailed views of complex data. An example is to share continuity data in a Power BI dashboard. A robust visual format allows for a high-level view that users can dive deeper into to gain additional insight.
Last, use language your customers understand. I suggest that you get to know their business. By investing extra time in gaining operational knowledge to understand gaps and challenges better, your effectiveness will increase.Doing this will help you to explain business continuity concepts in a way that they can quickly grasp. In short, limit jargon, as I said earlier, and instead use examples aligned with their operation. A colleauge of mine says this work is not rocket science, but it takes expertise. Do not shy away from being transparent but leveraging that expertise to the benefit of your customers!
3 - Provide information for good choices
By adopting a continuous improvement mindset and increasing program engagement, you also build resilience. If you commit to thinking beyond compliance duties and working with your customers to learn what is most important to them, you increase the chances of achieving BCM success. In a prior blog, I shared the Top 3 Reasons For A Business Continuity Program, which outlines why having a dedicated structure makes sense. So, I won’t rehash that here. What I will say is that good data sharing and governance engender relationship-building with key stakeholders. The outcome of this type of effort is preparedness and response efficiencies.
Building relationships with business partners to understand their organization’s objectives increases participation in BCM programs. Shifting your program to a partnership mindset versus a penal system will be a win-win. Bear in mind; I am not saying to throw out compliance audit certifications. What I am advocating is moving beyond a one-dimensional frame. By identifying elements and outcomes that are important to stakeholders, you gain a richer understanding that assists you in closing gaps. For example, if you miss that your customer is trying to achieve a 25% increase in sales by Q4 to make an end-of-the-year goal, how do you genuinely rate the need for operations to recover from a minimum downtime? It is a simple example, but it speaks to the importance of digging deeper with customers beyond impacts, risk assessments, and dependency data.
4 - Give customers what they want
To achieve a return on value, aim to give customers what they want. There was a time in my career when I was inflexible, keeping customers aligned with program policy. I was not open to customer suggestions or alternative methodologies. These days, I am listening and aware of the benefits of flexibility. In short, I experience greater customer engagement and interest in business continuity because I let them drive the resilience bus. I may have created the vehicle but they pick out the seats, the paint color, who rides the bus, etc. Another simple concept, but you get the idea.
Today, I continuously reassess program execution against desired outcomes. Once, I was content to let customers check the compliance box. After COVID and multiple recent insights provide by crisis events, I seek opportunities to improve. I listen to my customers and then work to execute their ideas. By taking this approach, I have developed stronger organizational relationships. Customers approach me to problem-solve and brainstorm together. With this collaborative approach, we overcome barriers and discontinuity quickly. Instead of dread, they get the importance of business continuity and want me at the table long before a crisis occurs.