Have Critical Response Information With You When It Counts: Business Continuity Planning Goes Wireless
Severe weather, malware attacks and acts of terrorism have changed the way enterprises and governments look at Business Continuity Planning (BCP) and Continuity of Operations (COOP). These factors, combined with the increasingly
mobile nature of today's workforce, mean that most key people won't have physical access to centrally stored BCP data when a serious incident occurs.
This article explains how wireless technology is used to solve the ubiquitous problem of accessing key contact and BCP protocol information from anywhere, and to ensure communication reliability during a crisis – all significant
gains that can be achieved with only incremental investment to an existing BlackBerry® solution.
Included in the article is helpful 'how to' advice on introducing mobility to BCP and COOP in your company.
"In an emergency situation, the ability to communicate quickly to a large number of people is vital," says Jim Kennedy,
Manager, Business Continuity Management at Scotiabank, Canada's second largest bank. "This used to mean physically carrying
around an enormous binder with hundreds of pages of contact information, and a pager and a cell phone. Now we carry everything
we need on our BlackBerry® smartphones."
Business Continuity Planning (BCP) – also referred to as Continuity of Operations (COOP) in the public sector – involves
the design of procedures and protocols that take place when an incident occurs that disrupts, or threatens to disrupt,
At Scotiabank, the delivery and storage of critical BCP information to BlackBerry smartphones is achieved using a third
party application from Wallace Wireless. Wallace's application features a 30-to-1 compression technology, capable of compressing
thousands of pages of BCP data for local storage on a smartphone.
This level of mobility means that emergency response and business operations can continue, even if a network or physical office
building is compromised due to severe weather, power outages, acts of terrorism, or IT infrastructure failures.
"Wireless communication and on-device data storage have proven effective for us in managing major incidents, like the 2003
North American power outage, as well as minor incidents, like individual server failures," says Kennedy.
Speed is Everything
"When business operations are interrupted, the obvious hard costs occur in the form of downtime," says Rob Moffat, President of Wallace Wireless. Depending on the business, this can mean millions in lost revenues by the hour.
"But beyond downtime, the greater risk is to the company and brand itself, reflected in the stock value
following the crisis," says Moffat.
A study published by strategic advisory firm Oxford Metrica1 illustrated an immediate decline of 8 to 11
percent in shareholder value following a crisis, based on data from global markets. When dealing with a crisis,
a company then falls into one of two categories: they are a 'recoverer' or a 'non-recoverer'.
Recoverers typically see their stock value bounce back in a matter of weeks, then actually climb to a higher
valuation than before the crisis occurred. In contrast, the stock value of non-recoverers typically remained
depressed a full 225 days following the crisis.
Following an incident, the actions taken in the first 20 minutes are very important to a company's ability to recover.
"With such a short window," says Moffat, "you can't waste time searching for hard copies of protocols, or phoning wrong
numbers due to stale contact information." The Wallace Wireless solution offers automatic wireless updates of contact
information to all devices.
"Whenever someone's contact information changes, smartphone devices can be automatically updated over-the-air," says Moffat.
This guarantees that each smartphone will contain up-to-date contact information and eliminates manual update procedures.
Scotiabank's Kennedy says having up-to-date contact information makes for much faster communication when it counts, and
appreciates the time savings when updates are required. "Within a matter of seconds I can update BCP related data like contact
information and push it out to users," says Kennedy. "Before I would have to email updates to all parties, and they would manually
update their own binders or spreadsheets."
The business continuity plan in place at Scotiabank meets the following four critical requirements which Moffat recommends for
organizations that want to maximize their BCP effectiveness.
The Four Requirements of an Effective Wireless Business Continuity Plan
The increased mobility of today's workforce makes it highly unlikely that all key personnel will be 'in the office' to access physical materials
when an incident occurs. Critical data must be stored on the smartphone (as opposed to just being accessible via wireless network connection) in
case network access is unavailable in a crisis.
2. Reliable Communication
Key personnel should be able to participate in emergency protocol from any location in the world. BlackBerry smartphone users can communicate to one
another using one-to-many PIN messaging. The ability to send PIN messages to a group of one or more people (from a smartphone or server) is an invaluable
feature when main cell networks are compromised or congested.
"We use group email and PIN messaging to get critical messages to key players in the incident management team at Scotiabank," says Kennedy.
3. Reporting Capability
Reporting ensures regulatory compliance and enables post-event analysis. "Debriefing after the incident is a critical component of our BCP process at Scotiabank," says Kennedy.
The Wallace Wireless solution allows storage of PIN messages on each smartphone, and uploads to a company's database so that an audit of crisis activities can take place.
This helps organizations improve BCP strategies and protocols over time.
"The security model embedded in the BlackBerry® Enterprise solution is second to none," says Moffat, "On-device security features, built-in encryption capabilities and flexible security
options such as remote wiping of data when smartphones are lost are among the reasons why the BlackBerry solution is at the forefront of the BCP industry," he says.
Getting Started on Your Mobile BCP Initiative
When laying the groundwork for a mobile business continuity planning, Moffat recommends business continuity professionals begin by answering the following preliminary questions:
- What data do you want to mobilize? (Consider both key contact information and critical BCP data.)
- In what format does this data exist today?
- Who are the key individuals who should carry this data on their smartphones? (You might refer to your organization’s strategy for deploying smartphones to key individuals for guidance here.)
- Which of these metrics will be important to validate your investment in mobilizing your BCP operations:
- Time savings from automatic (versus manual) updating of key contact and BCP content data?
- Tracking improvements in incident responsiveness?
- Time savings of relieving your IT group from tasks relating to regulatory compliance?
Kennedy encourages other professionals responsible for business continuity to learn more about the benefits of wireless technology in BCP, saying, "Companies who have a BlackBerry solution in place would
be wise to incorporate its capabilities into their BCP and incident management strategies."
White Paper: Improving Communications in Emergency Situations
Webcast: Business Continuity for Financial Services Institutions
(1) The Impact of Catastrophes on Shareholders Value by Rory F. Knight and Deborah J. Pretty. Templeton College of Oxford University, 1996. A research report sponsored by Sedgwick Group, from the Oxford Executive Research Briefings series from Oxford University.