Business Continuity in Action

5 Feb

Essential to the success of BCM is a thorough understanding of the wide range of threats (external and internal) and recognition that an effective response will be determined by employees’ behaviour during the business recovery process.

Morgan Stanley’s response to the September 11th attacks is an example of the benefits and limitations of business continuity planning.

Continuous training following the 1993 world trade centre bombing meant that most the company’s 3,700 employees survived the evacuation in 2001. The company then proceeded to re-establish contact with its dispersed employees using house calls, public broadcasts and one of its own call centres in Arizona. Simultaneously Morgan and Stanley set out to recover its operations at alternative facilities (but not those that were originally designated as they were in the inaccessible lower Manhattan area). A temporary recovery site was established in Brooklyn until the first recovery centre could be accessed.

Other firms such as Lehman Brothers, who also were affected by the denial of access to their recovery centre, drew on emerging processes in creative ways. Over half of Lehman Brothers staff worked from home in the immediate aftermath as a result of an extensive remote access programme. This shows that “crisis adaptability is the key to continuity” (Herbane, Elliot and Swartz (2004)). The actions that Morgan and Stanley had taken demonstrated both on-going organisational learning and adaptation before and during the crisis.

The Senior Vice president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York commented that existing models of contingency planning in which single-site technical crises are considered should no longer exist. Instead priority should be the loss or lack of access to staff because without them nothing can be recovered, restored or retrieved. Business Continuity processes are more vital now than ever , the above organisations have showed that creative and flexible use of resources are required during a crisis and that can supersede the value gained from mimicking emergency plans. Such an approach requires on-going commitment and leadership, the foundations of which are provided by adopting a business continuity management approach as discussed in my last blog here.

Firms that recover quickly and thoroughly from crises will sustain little damage to their competitive position. However if a firm is unable to recover quickly, the effects on its reputation may outlast direct effects of the crisis.

The above blog and examples is based the paper: Herbane, Elliot and Swartz (2004) Business Continuity Management: time for a strategic role?

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5 Responses to “Business Continuity in Action”

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