Each year, my CUSO celebrates Business Continuity Awareness Day, and this year’s festivities are upon us! If you are not familiar with this cherished event, Business Continuity Awareness Day is part of our CUSO’s ongoing business continuity awareness campaign, the date of which aligns with our board’s annual approval of the organization’s Business Continuity Plan (BCP). But what exactly is business continuity, how do you celebrate it, and why might your credit union or CUSO want to consider hosting its own Business Continuity Awareness Day?
What is business continuity?
First, let me say a little about what business continuity is and what it involves. While it seems very much like the makeup of disaster recovery, business continuity management and planning works to keep mission-critical business functions and operations active through an emergency. Business continuity aims to make sure that business functions and technology have the necessary redundancy to keep operations afloat, but its number one goal is the protection of life and assets.
So who is responsible for business continuity? When it comes to the “culture of continuity,” each of us in the organization is considered a part of the Continuity Response Team. Each person is responsible for the safety of one another, and the security of our company’s assets. Certain staff might take on a more acute role when it comes to resumption, recovery, and communications, but everyone plays a role in business continuity.
But for what kind of events does business continuity prepare the company? You will find that the kinds of events business continuity monitors and plans for are those known and unknown threats that could eventually place the organization at risk. Some threats that business continuity plans account for are weather-related events, utility and equipment failures, and cybersecurity attacks. The business continuity plan accounts for as many of these realistic threats as possible and addresses how the organization can best remain resilient throughout them.
(Don’t have a Business Continuity Plan? Jim Lawrence covers why they’re so important and how your organization can create and maintain one in this series.)
Business Continuity Awareness Day
Have you ever felt changed once you became aware of something—when you gained that sudden bit of knowledge that caused an epiphany? It changed how you did things, didn’t it? It’s a lightbulb moment. To put it in perspective, the philosopher Thich Nhat Hanh believes that “Awareness is like the sun. When it shines on things, they are transformed,” and I for one agree. The more aware I am of my surroundings, the greater my chance of reacting in a cool and calm manner, especially when it comes to business continuity.
(Maybe Hanh was talking a little more spiritual in regards to awareness, but I think it applies, don’t you?)
If your credit union does not already have one, perhaps consider developing your own annual Continuity Awareness Day in order to increase the knowledge your staff has of operational risks, and how best to remain prepared for unexpected disruptive events. An Awareness Day can also help illuminate new personnel about the benefits of business continuity, and what role or roles they might play in their organization.
What does one do on Business Continuity Awareness Day?
Every organization is different, so your program might differ in some detail, but here are some things every organization can do on a Business Continuity Awareness Day:
- Overview of business continuity and its importance
- Review department recovery plans
- Test your organization’s emergency notification system
- Review what to do in the event of a disruption
- Review what occurred in previous events, even if they did not disrupt
- Ensure team members know their roles and responsibilities
- Cross-team cohesion exercises
Another suggestion for your awareness day is to pick a theme within business continuity—this year ours is Operational Resilience—and demonstrate how the plan mitigates business disruptions. If the day’s schedule allows, maybe fit in a practice of event response scenarios, using tabletop exercises or the like. Practice is the vehicle for preparedness.
Always be prepared
In order to stay ready for unplanned and unexpected events, it is important that an organization continue to practice what its Business Continuity Plan prescribes. The organization must keep practicing the plan, making adjustments as they go, and learning something new each time. But just as important as practicing is recognizing that no matter how prepared one feels, there will still be something new to learn from an event. Through awareness, the organization can deliver the benefits of propagating that knowledge, and guide better decision-making when unexpected events occur.
To close, I would like to give the last word to Esteban Camargo, who offered, “by celebrating business continuity awareness at your organization, you help avoid being lulled into complacency, and ensure readiness when action is needed.” As a business continuity professional, I could not agree more with Esteban’s assessment. It is exactly the kind of insight needed when realizing our relationship with business continuity.
May your continuity awareness program thrive as well as your organization, and remember that everyone plays a part in business continuity.