This post on business continuity communication has been updated. It was originally published in September 2013.
In society today, communication often is not face-to-face, but is more electronic. This can lead to less than cordial interactions, miscommunication, or misunderstandings. As either the sender or receiver of a communication, we have all experienced the thought “did she understand my message?” or “did he really mean that?” In our role as business continuity professionals, communicating the status and needs of the program can be one of our most important functions. Without proper communication, the following may occur:
- Tasks and action items are not completed because “someone else” was responsible. Clearly assigning ownership, and receiving acceptance of ownership, for tasks or assignments should be an area of focus for the Business Continuity Management (BCM) office. Emphasize the responsibility of everyone to manage threats in their areas and ensure that documentation is up to date. Communication of risks, documentation, and training should be specific to ensure that risks and responsibilities are understood.
- Members of the BCM team should consider themselves to be consultants to the organization, working as partners with other departments. This can be achieved by the use of clearly defined language that ensures terms and concepts are understood in non-technical and non-BCM language.
- Good communication to senior management is critical to the success of a BCM program. They are the final decision makers and have ultimate accountability, so the current state of the risk profile and risk mitigation efforts should be communicated to them clearly and honestly. The benefits of the BCM program should be included in this communication, but “bad news” should not be left out. Education of senior management related to the qualitative nature of risk assessments, as well as the current state of recoverability and preparation, is also key.
- It may be necessary to secure information from outside experts, such as insurance brokers, consultants, emergency services, and civil authorities. Providing the appropriate information to them allows for feedback on strategies, risks, operational tasks, or other pertinent information that can then be forwarded to various functional areas and senior management within your organization for use in plans or decision making.
- Ensure all appropriate members of the organization are part of the communication. Their roles and responsibilities, the state of the program, how they will be impacted by the program, and what to expect during an event will invite ownership in the process. This is especially important for those outside the technical implementation or management.
As is the case in other areas in our organizations – the better the communication, the better the results. As business continuity professionals, we cannot execute all the tasks necessary to ensure readiness. Business continuity begins and ends with communication of the necessary information, concepts, and status across all areas of an organization.