A cautionary tale of best practices for document imaging business continuity
A couple years ago I was on site at a credit union in Michigan to assist with a business continuity test. We discussed what would happen if their imaging server failed and what the plan would be to continue operations uninterrupted or with as few disruptions as possible. We distributed instructions to all front-line staff on how they could generate receipts for members by printing them to laser printers vs. thermal printers, which were tightly integrated with the imaging solution, and we practiced the steps.
Then… the CEO did something most folks don’t. She unplugged the network cable from the server, and we sat back and watched. I witnessed members coming and going, tellers smiling and helping them, printing the receipts on letter-sized paper (rather than thermal), having the members sign them so they could be scanned later. It was business as usual for the members.
After about half an hour, she plugged it back in and we did a debriefing of the staff to see what their experience was and what they heard from members. The only member feedback was, “We like the bigger receipts!” Wow! What a way to come through a disaster! If that’s the biggest thing on the member’s mind you nailed it! But the story doesn’t end there.
Why we prepare
That was on a Thursday. The following Monday, back at the office, I got a call from the CEO who shared that their branch WAN link went down and since the network traffic couldn’t reach the imaging server located at the main branch, they just did what they practiced the previous Thursday and business went on as usual. I wondered what would their Monday have been like if they wouldn’t have prepared?
This is a great example of why it’s necessary to prepare for the unexpected. Gone are the days of an imaging system being a back-office research optical platform for reports and statements. Today they are much, much more! Imaging systems are how internet retailing is getting done and credit unions are operating on the front line. Products like eSign of loans and membership documents, mobile RDC moving images as money, etc. They have become much more integrated and critical in nature. With that in mind, so has testing them, and making sure they will be there when we need them.
Lessons to take away
Here’s what I recommend. First plan for the day something bad happens. Know what that plan is and what that plan is not. Test it! Don’t take a vendor’s word for it and don’t make assumptions. Don’t let competent vendors lull you into complacency. Test it. Regularly. The landscape is always changing and what worked a year ago may no longer work as new services or solutions are added to the equation. Don’t let the intellectual capital for this sit in someone’s head. Write it down. I like to say, “If you didn’t doc it, you didn’t do it!”
Lastly, I strongly recommend you engage an expert if you don’t know where to start and even if you do. They will talk you through the scenarios. What’s the probability this event will occur? What’s the risk if it does? What’s the cost to mitigate the risk? What’s your tolerance for that and so on? Then they will help you write the plan for the team, the board and the regulators and yes, they will even help you test it and document findings of the test and identify areas for improvement. Remember, as Benjamin Franklin said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”