Business Continuity and Recovery Testing is critical to ensuring that your plan documentation is functional and accurate.
As part of our responsibilities as Business Continuity professionals, we spend a significant amount of time writing and following up on documentation, not the least of which is writing business continuity, crisis communication, crisis management, and technical recovery plans. Ensuring that the plans are written and up to date is only half the challenge. The other half – the real challenge (and higher priority, in my opinion) – is to ensure that the documentation is functional and accurate. What is the best method to ensure plans are functional? Business Continuity and Recovery Testing.
Testing requires time, equipment, resources, and expertise to run. Organization of these resources and performing an exercise can be difficult. What are the benefits?
For documentation, the benefits are:
- Demonstrating that the documentation is accurate.
- Plan steps are accurate
- Contact lists are accurate
- Assumptions are validated
- Gaps in the plan are identified
- Identifying unknown contingencies.
- A tested plan has a much higher possibility of succeeding during a real event.
Additional test benefits are:
- Verifying resource availability or capability.
- Training team members for their recovery roles.
- Determining the actual length of recovery time and the ability to achieve the desired company RTO.
- Following exercises, those responsible see the need and benefit keep documentation to up to date.
- Assessing the true functional recovery of the areas tested.
One additional comment on testing: In many organizations, the necessary planning for the exercise can distort the actual level of preparedness because often the documentation, technology, resources, and gaps are either updated or remediated during the planning process. This can give a false sense of accomplishment. If there is a rush to update applications, documentation, or other preparations, it should be noted in the test results. An understanding of the amount of work involved in exercise planning and preparation can demonstrate why continuous review and updates are needed related to documentation, strategies, and technical implementation.
Testing is a critical aspect of your BCM program, demonstrating the actual functional capability of your documentation and technical implementation. In future blogs we will discuss how you can perform tests and exercises, and how to maximize the benefits of testing while limiting the impact of those exercises on your operations.