How a BCM Professional Is Like a Family Doctor

Richard Long

Did you know that business continuity management professionals are a lot like family doctors?

Let’s rephrase that: BCM professionals SHOULD conduct themselves like family doctors, in many important respects.

The family doctor, of course, is the general practitioner who takes a holistic view of our medical care. They’re mindful of the whole spectrum of our well-being, physical and mental, and often coordinate the efforts of various specialists.

Ideally, business continuity professionals should approach their role as the family doctors of the BC program, overseeing the efforts of the subject matter experts who are the leaders of the various business units.

Unfortunately, we frequently see BC managers getting so absorbed in ensuring the recoverability of specific aspects of their organizations that they lose sight of the need to protect the whole. The area that most commonly monopolizes managers’ attention is IT systems and applications.

Moreover, after organizations experience a problem, they often focus all their subsequent efforts on making sure the same problem doesn’t occur again, which can result in them neglecting other important aspects of their programs.

The heads of the various business units can be excused for focusing exclusively on the need to recover their own areas. However, the BCM professional, like a family doctor, has an obligation to monitor and manage the health of the patient overall.

The BC manager is the individual who must understand that at least some effort should be made in every area of the program. To them also falls the responsibility of ensuring that the BC plan considers time sensitivity as well as mission criticality in prioritizing recovery of the various processes and applications. Clearly, it is important to focus on critical processes and applications in devising a business continuity plan, but this is not the most important matter from a recovery perspective. Subject matter experts invariably think that their function is extremely critical to the organization and maybe the most critical of all, and they may well be right. But the business continuity manager, as the generalist and honest broker, can help work out a priority order for recovering the various processes based on time sensitivity. They don’t need to determine which processes are the most critical to the organization overall, only which ones, when they are interrupted, cause negative impacts the soonest. This is another area where the BC manager’s ability to take a holistic approach can make a vital contribution to the soundness of the organization’s program and the effectiveness of its response in the event of a disruption.

It is important to remember that even the longer RTO processes and applications will need to be recovered and if there are no plans and processes in place, the recovery capability may not exist. RTOs provide the time and priority of recovery, not the level of criticality of a process to an organization. As BCM professionals we must ensure there is some type of plan and capability for everything, even if it is just basic.

I once heard a hospital’s top cardiologist exclaim that he had just learned how the human spine worked. He said he had just learned that “the spine was like a bunch of tuna cans with marshmallows in between them” and that many common spine problems were caused by the marshmallows’ shrinking or drying out. I found this description very entertaining, but not surprising considering he would be focused on his specialty with little reason to consider anything outside of cardiology. I am not suggesting he had forgotten anatomy from med school, but his focus was very specific.

The story underscores how easy it is for specialists to get wrapped up in their own area, losing sight of the overall health of the patient.

In healthcare, the GP or family doctor plays a vital role in managing their patients’ healthcare from a holistic perspective, focusing on the overall health of the patient.

The wise business continuity manager assumes a similar role in looking after their patient, which is their organization and its ability to recover in the event of a disruption.

While the subject matter experts zero in on the health of their particular areas, the best BC managers balance the competing priorities of the various business units while always keeping sight of the health of the program overall.

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