As you know, a leading trend of the past several years is organizations’ hiring third-party vendors to provide services that they previously performed in-house.
At MHA, we are familiar with this trend from helping our clients grapple with the ramifications of it from a business continuity (BC) point of view.
There are many reasons for the increasing turn to outside vendors. Mostly it comes down to businesses’ desire to outsource tasks not central to their core skillset so they can focus on those that are.
For most companies, such outsourcing has been found to reduce expenses, increase flexibility, and heighten service quality—while permitting the organization to maintain a laser focus on what they do best (and what is most profitable).
There are typically three main reasons third-party resources are used (keep reading for a fourth reason you may not have thought of):
- The organization doesn’t have sufficient staff to do the work in-house.
- The company lacks the skillset required to perform the function at a sufficiently high level.
- The organization doesn’t want to do the work itself or believes that the work can be done less expensively.
Among the services that we at MHA commonly see being outsourced by our clients are commodity-based services such as food service, security, and maintenance, as well as the use of SaaS solutions (e.g., email, accounting, HR, surveys), and cloud-based IT infrastructure to reduce in-house IT maintenance.
Paradoxically, another function or subset of activities that is commonly entrusted to a third-party vendor is business continuity itself.
In this connection, MHA has discovered over the years that many organizations are unclear on what a business continuity consultant can do to assist them and when they might most benefit from bringing one in.
In our experience, there are four situations, including the three listed above, when companies can reap outsized advantages by bringing in business continuity consultants. They are:
When the organization doesn’t have sufficient staff to do the work in-house
In this situation, the company wants to bolster its business continuity program, and its employees might even have the skillset necessary to do so; however, the organization lacks the manpower. Perhaps everyone is committed to other projects deemed more important. Whatever the reason, the result is the BC program is not getting the attention it needs. The company’s exposure lingers on while management keeps its fingers crossed that nothing bad happens before they have a chance to plug the gaps. An organization in this situation can benefit greatly by bringing in an experienced and knowledgeable outside person whose sole focus will be on identifying and plugging the gaps in the company’s BC program. Instead of letting things slide indefinitely and hoping for the best, management can contract with a business continuity consultant and have the company’s BC program strengthened in a matter of weeks.
When the company lacks the skillset required to perform business continuity work at a sufficiently high level
Every serious organization needs a business continuity plan; however, relatively few possess the somewhat unique skill set necessary to implement one. The skills and types of experience needed to competently and efficiently set up and optimize a BC program include the following:
- Business function and technical IT experience (so you can speak the same language as the in-house professionals in those departments).
- Project management experience (BC projects can reach a high degree of complexity).
- Interpersonal skills (to win the cooperation of different departments).
- Flexibility and adaptability (because there are always unexpected problems and changes).
- Experience in doing Business Impact Analyses (BIAs) and Risk Assessments.
- Experience in organizing Crisis Management Teams.
- Knowledge of business continuity documentation development (i.e., preparing business continuity plans, IT technical recovery plans, etc.).
- Experience in conducting mock exercises and IT recovery exercises.
- Understanding of the relevant regulatory requirements.
If your organization cannot field a team whose members collectively have the above skills and experience, it will have difficulty efficiently and competently setting up or improving a business continuity program. This means your program will have gaps that could lead to losses in the event of a disruption. The most efficient way to gain access to the skillset and experience needed to meet your organization’s business continuity needs is most likely by contracting with a business continuity consultant.
When the organization doesn’t want to do the work itself
Your company might have the staff and ability to do the required BC work but prefer not to for whatever reason. Perhaps management would rather focus on business growth or business strategy projects. In that situation, a business continuity consultant can take care of the BC chores while the organization’s staff is taking care of its core business. Additionally, the organization may be able to save costs by using an outside provider. Often a consultant can perform at a higher level and work more efficiently, decreasing the number of actual hours needed to complete the work; therefore, even with a higher hourly rate, the costs go down.
When the company wants its staff to undergo training in BC so it can do the work in-house going forward
At MHA, we are occasionally brought in by an organization to do the work that needs doing here and now, such as conducting a round of BIAs or holding a recovery exercise. Simultaneously, we train the staff in doing those same tasks so they can handle them internally in the future. Organizations who go this route receive a double benefit: expertise now to get the job done and training for staff which pays dividends down the road.
Most BC consultancies are glad to tailor their offerings to meet the customers’ needs. For more information on this trend, see our earlier post, “Business Continuity Consulting: Now Available in Select-A-Size.”
Do you have responsibilities relating to business continuity at a company or nonprofit? If so, we at MHA Consulting would be happy to have a conversation with you regarding whether a BC consulting engagement might make sense for your organization and if so at what level. We strive to be objective in these assessments, and we do not believe that bringing in a business continuity consultant makes sense for every organization and in every situation.
As was previously said, MHA has helped many organizations in grappling with the impacts from a BC point of view in bringing in third-party vendors to perform services that might previously have been performed in-house. Paradoxically, sometimes the function of business continuity itself can most efficiently be handed off to an outside consultant. This is especially likely to be the case if the organization finds itself facing any of the four situations described above.