Traditionally, business continuity consulting engagements have been one size fits all, with that size being large or comprehensive.
In other words, if you wanted to hire a consultant to help your organization strengthen its business continuity plan, it was viewed as an engagement to write the entire plan, providing you with soup to nuts service–and charging you soup to nuts prices.
It was a little like using paper towels in the days before Select-a-Size. Back then, if you had a small spill and needed a paper towel, your options were using a whole paper towel or nothing.
It was the same with BC consulting: either you hired them to perform many or all tasks or you felt you had to do it on your own.
In recent years, however, there has been something of a paradigm shift, especially for smaller organizations or those with a limited budget. Many firms, including MHA, have begun demonstrating heightened creativity and flexibility in terms of the levels of service we provide to clients by providing services explicitly tailored to the organization rather than the organization tailoring its needs to the consultancy.
Increasingly, client needs may require what might be called micro-engagements, or allowing them to purchase services a la carte.
Under these arrangements, the consulting firm provides a more limited, focused type of service, advising and back-stopping the in-house BC team, thus allowing the organization to strengthen its program while stretching its dollars.
Would your organization benefit from arranging a business continuity micro-engagement?
In today’s post, we’ll bullet out some of the areas where the use of a la carte BC expertise can be especially efficient and impactful and set forth the two most commonly encountered methods for arranging BC consulting on a limited scale.
The following are a few areas where getting just a little bit of business continuity expertise can make a big difference in the resilience and recoverability of your organization, without eating up too much of your BC budget.
- Strategy development. An organization just getting started in BC might turn to a consulting firm for guidance in setting up their BC strategy overall, including such areas as relocation, technology needs, staffing, cloud use, data protection, and alternate data centers. Consulting firms with experience working with other companies of similar size and in the same field might have insights that could help the company get up and running quickly while avoiding costly mistakes. Such an engagement might take as little as two or three hours of consulting time.
- Strategy review. Organizations possessing the resources and expertise may prefer to develop their business continuity strategy in-house. Strategies developed in this way can frequently be improved, at a reasonable cost, through a process of their undergoing review by experienced outside consultants. Consultants can confirm whether the proposed strategy meets current best practices and is in line with current trends in that industry. The consultants would share their assessments with the in-house team which would then have the option of revising their strategy accordingly.
- Budget preparation and justification. Experienced BC consultants are typically highly familiar with the corporate budgeting process. Such consultants can provide valuable guidance to business continuity managers in terms of what level of funding they need in order to obtain the human and technology resources required to meet their BC objectives. The consultant can provide the numbers needed to help the BCM manager prepare a budget and justify it to senior management.
- Documentation review. If the organization prefers to create its own recovery strategy and overview documents, it might find it beneficial to have this work reviewed by a consultant before final acceptance and implementation. The consultant can provide insight into whether the documents’ structure is optimal, the level of detail is appropriate, if other information should be included, and whether the documents meet industry and BC best practices. Whereas contracting with a consultancy to create the documents might require 20 hours of time, hiring them to perform a review might necessitate only 2-4 hours.
- Plan development and framework. The organization can leverage the consultant’s plan writing experience, sample plans, and templates to create their own plans. High-quality templates and sample plans provide you with detailed guidance on what should be included, allowing your team to focus on getting the numbers and time frames that are appropriate for your organization. Buying a good sample plan from a consultancy is a way of getting your hands on a lot of hard-earned expertise at a comparatively modest cost. After customizing the sample to suit your organization, you could then return to the consulting firm to have them review your work.
The areas listed above are just a handful of those in which a consultant can engage with your company for a small number of hours while providing a significant impact.
Assuming you identified a consultancy with the skillset you’re looking for and you were interested in hiring them for a limited number of hours, how might you go about setting things up?
Here are a few arrangements you may want to consider:
- Micro-engagement. The client engages with the consultancy to provide a limited, one-time service of a modest, pre-defined scope. The targeted nature (and predictable cost) of this type of arrangement makes it an attractive option. A drawback of these arrangements is the amount of overhead involved in setting up the arrangement.
- Monthly fee. Some clients pay the consulting firm a set monthly fee entitling them to a certain number of consulting hours per month. The number of hours and dollar amount can be modest, but the arrangement ensures that the client has on-call access to a consultant who knows their organization and BC plan and is available to help on short notice.
- Bucket of hours. The client might contract for 10 to 20 hours of consulting time per quarter, for example. The consultancy would agree to perform certain identified tasks within that time period, with any extra time being available for the client to apply to other tasks as needed. Unlike the monthly fee arrangement, a bucket of hours allows the client to draw on the hours as necessary, and if the arrangement is long-lasting, the overhead of setting up the arrangement is much reduced for both parties.
The bottom line is, not every spill requires a full-size paper towel.
MHA and many other business continuity consulting firms have come to recognize that not all clients need the full menu of their services every time out. We are glad to work with clients on more limited, a la carte arrangements, or on setting up buckets of modest amounts of hours that can be used as needed over time, allowing organizations with in-house BC teams to use outside expertise as a backstop to their own efforts while also controlling their expenses.