Recovery exercises are where it all comes together in a continuity-planning program. You have done all the hard work and are now ready to exercise your recovery plans and strategies. But, too many times, no time is put into designing a comprehensive exercise program. To be successful, the exercise program must be designed to provide consistent results over time to ensure success in a real event. We recommend that a recovery exercise program have the following components:
- Exercise Standards
- Forecast of Exercises
- Exercise Roadmap
- Planning Methodology
- Exercise Objective Setting
#1 Exercise Standards – Define the frequency and timing of recovery exercises based on the criticality of the process/application, the type of exercise required (e.g., standalone, integrated, business process), the approved processes for validation of the exercise, etc.
#2 Forecast of Exercises – Document the schedule and makeup of exercises to be held based on the approved standards. The forecast should look ahead at least 18 to 24 months and clearly define what is being tested. The forecast must be updated on a regular basis as processes and applications change.
#3 Exercise Roadmaps – Detail the steps to follow to execute a successful exercise from pre-planning thru post exercise reporting. A comprehensive roadmap ensures you consistently following the same steps over and over, minimizing potential for missing steps along the way.
#4 Planning Methodology – Best practices recommend that exercise planning include a Pre-Exercise, Exercise and Post Exercise Plans. The Pre-Exercise plan is designed to be documented at least 90 days before the exercise and provide you with an overview of the scope, assumptions, objectives, etc. The Exercise Plan should be documented at least 60 days before the exercise and include the detailed task lists, recovery timeline and other key information needed to execute the exercise. The Post Exercise plan outlines the results of the exercise, successes and opportunities for improvement, action items for resolution, etc.
#5 Exercise Objective Setting – We recommend that you use S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic and Time Bound) as the basis for defining exercise objectives. Lastly, objectives should be focused around business process testing to better simulate a real recovery.
Establishing a solid exercise program through standards, forecasts, roadmaps, planning methodology and objective setting will yield consistent results not only during exercises but provide the basis for success in a real event.