The Art of the BIA (Business Impact Analysis)

Michael Herrera

The BIA (Business Impact Analysis) can be a daunting task for any organization, nevertheless, it is a requirement of any continuity program.

As a foundational requirement of any BCM program, it is essential for the development of plans, identification of recovery strategies, and implementation of solutions.

As a company, MHA has conducted well over 2,000 BIA interviews.  Over the years, we have developed a highly refined process to plan, conduct and report the results of a BIA.  I expect our staff of consultants to not require more than 3.5 to 4.0 hours of a business unit’s time to complete their BIA.  This includes 45 minutes to complete the pre-work, 2.5 hours or less for the interview and 0.5 hours to validate the results.   Management is now asking us to finish interviews in 1.5 hours!

We have learned that less is definitely more when it comes to conducting BIAs.  Your questionnaire should be in compliance with best practices, but be tightly focused and have limited questions.

Top Reasons BIAs Go Bad

  1. Management and Participant Communication – Management and/or participants are not apprised of the BIA, what is expected and what will be the end game.
  2. Pre-Work: BIA participants do not complete pre-work, don’t complete it on time or it’s so bad that you spend too much time correcting it at the interview and waste valuable time.
  3. Logistics – Conference rooms don’t have the right audio-visual equipment, rooms are too small, people aren’t fed during lunch interviews, etc.
  4. Subject Matter Experts – The right people from each participating unit do not attend and so cannot provide the needed information.
  5. BIA Tool – The tool is clunky, complex, and no one has a clue how it works!
  6. Facilitators – The person or person(s) leading the interview do not have the skills to lead the participants through a real-time session.  It gets bogged down, people get bored or outright irritated.  This is a REALLY dry subject, so if you aren’t charismatic and can’t keep participants focused, it’s not for you.

A World Class BIA

  1. Management & Participant Awareness – Management and participants are involved from the beginning and have a clear picture of what is expected from them in planning, implementation, validation, and approval of the BIAs.
  2. Pre-Work – Easy to complete pre-work is distributed to participants at least 2 to 3 weeks before interviews.   We have them identify their core business processes, systems/application dependencies, and legal/regulatory requirements for each process.   The data is uploaded to our BIA tool to speed up the interview.
  3. Logistics – Conference rooms are staged for each interview; we require a projector or monitor to display our BIA tool as we walk the participants through it.  They see the results of their efforts real time.
  4. Subject Matter Experts – Participants are picked on their knowledge of the business unit and processes; titles are irrelevant if the participant doesn’t know how the processes work or what they depend on.
  5. BIA Tool – The tool is easy to use, calculates Recovery Time Objectives (RTOs) based on input and is easy for participants to follow.  The key here is: EASY TO USE!
  6. Facilitators – Dress to impress, have high energy and enthusiasm to lead the participants. Keep the energy up and they will respond in kind.  Bring a bag of chocolate; people love it.  We use two facilitators, one to lead the discussion and one to enter the data.

Lastly, remember BIAs are never perfect.  But as you conduct ongoing BIAs, the participants will gain knowledge and refine results.  We are just finishing 11 BIAs for a Fortune 100 entertainment company this week; without following the steps noted above, it would have been a disaster.  We know we have done our job when people leave smiling and saying “It wasn’t as bad as thought it was going to be!”


Showing 3 comments
  • Monique Hafler

    Having just completed a BIA, I echo Michael’s suggestions for ensuring a successful BIA update.

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