First, we’ll take a look at when companies should hire a BC consultant, then, we’ll break down what consultants do to increase your overall resilience.
As the year winds down, many business continuity professionals will be refining their plans for next year, including in terms of staffing. Business continuity consultants can play a valuable role in helping you augment your staff and expand the skillsets available to you.
Today we’ll take a look at when companies can benefit from bringing in BC consultants. We’ll also break down the kinds of tasks consultants can help you perform and discuss how to find one that is a good fit for your program.
THE BEST TIME TO BRING IN A BC CONSULTANT
When is the best time for an organization to bring in a BCM consultant to help? Here are a few situations where bringing in a consultant can bring significant benefits:
- When the organization doesn’t have sufficient staff or doesn’t want to do the work in-house. In this situation, the company wants to bolster its BC program and the employees have the necessary skills, but the organization lacks sufficient manpower. The result is the BC program is not getting the attention it needs. The company’s exposure lingers while management keeps its fingers crossed that nothing bad happens. Instead of letting things slide indefinitely, management can contract with a BC consultant and have the company’s BC program strengthened in a matter of weeks.
- When the organization lacks the skillset required to perform business continuity work at a sufficiently high level. Every serious organization needs a business continuity plan and a group of people to manage it. However, relatively few companies possess the unique skillset necessary to implement a BC program. (For details on what these skills are, see: “Help, I Need Somebody: 4 Times When You Should Hire a BC Consultant.”)
- When the organization wants its staff to undergo training in BC so it can do the work in-house going forward. At MHA Consulting, we are occasionally brought in by a client to do a task such as conducting a round of BIAs or holding a recovery exercise. While doing the work, we simultaneously conduct training for the staff in doing those tasks so the company can handle them internally in the future.
AREAS WHERE A BC CONSULTANT CAN BE ESPECIALLY HELPFUL
There are several areas where a BC consultant can be especially helpful in advancing the resilience of your organization. Here they are:
An organization just getting started in BC might turn to a consulting firm for guidance in setting up their overall BC strategy. This could include such areas as relocation, technology needs, staffing, cloud use, data protection, and alternate data centers. Such an engagement might take as little as two or three hours of consulting time.
Organizations that have the resources and expertise might prefer to develop their business continuity strategy in-house. Strategies developed in this way can frequently be improved at reasonable cost through their undergoing review by an experienced outside consultant. A consultant can confirm whether the proposed strategy meets current best practices and is in line with trends in that industry. The consultant would share his or her assessments with the in-house team. The team would then have the option of revising their strategy.
Budget preparation and justification
Experienced BC consultants are typically highly familiar with the corporate budgeting process. Such consultants can provide valuable guidance to BC managers regarding what level of funding they need to meet their BC objectives. The consultant can provide the numbers to help the BCM manager prepare a budget and justify it to senior management.
If the organization creates its own recovery strategy and overview documents, it might find it beneficial to have this work reviewed by a consultant. 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. Such a review might require only two to four hours of consulting time.
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. This allows 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.
Mock disaster training and exercises
A consultant can help develop and facilitate training and exercises for business continuity (business processes) and IT/disaster recovery (technology). The consultant could come up with the scenario and templates. Your team could then focus on executing your recovery plans and identifying gaps.
Program management and maintenance
Many companies lack the manpower to handle the routine tasks of managing and maintaining a BC program. A consultant could take this work off their shoulders. The consultant could handle such routine tasks as reviewing BIA information, performing BIA updates, making sure BIA information is integrated with IT/DR changes, and following the documentation maintenance schedule.
HOW TO FIND A GOOD BC CONSULTANT
How can you find a skilled, efficient consultant who is the right fit for your organization and situation? First, collect the names of possible firms from sources such as colleagues, trade publications, and the internet. Then research the firms and put together a shortlist of good candidates. Then get in touch with the consultants on your list and ask them questions such as the following:
- Who specifically at the company will be working on your engagement? What is their relevant experience? Make sure their background and specialty match your organization’s need.
- What is the organization’s methodology? Is the company flexible when their usual way of doing things is not a good fit for the client’s culture or needs? A consultancy should be able to tailor what they do to the priorities of the client, not make the client fit their process.
- Will the consultancy provide examples of successful past work? You shouldn’t expect to get significant resources for free, but you should be able to obtain something that demonstrates that the consulting company is capable of doing the work.
- Is the consultancy keeping its process and documentation relevant to today’s environment? Ask some basic questions on solutions and options, given your needs and environment. The answers you get should provide a good sense of whether the consulting company is staying current and will be able to provide solutions that make sense to you.
The answers you get should help you begin narrowing down which firm—whether it’s MHA Consulting or another consultancy—would best help you in meeting your needs.
ACCOMPLISHING YOUR GOALS
If your team lacks the expertise or time to advance your BC program, you might benefit from the services of a business continuity consultant. Consultancies such as MHA Consulting can provide especially good value in particular functional areas, including strategy development, budget preparation, and documentation review.
In hiring a consultant, look for a firm that has a proven track record, understands the problems you are facing, and is oriented toward helping you accomplish your goals rather than forcing you into using their methodology. A good BC consultant can help your organization thrive.
Note: This is an update of a post originally published on Oct. 31, 2018 under the title “Client’s Guide to Hiring a BC Consultant.” People often ask me about the topics covered in the post, and I thought it might be worthwhile to revisit it and add a few new observations.
For more information on how to hire a BC consultant and other hot topics in business continuity, check out the following recent posts from MHA Consulting and BCMMETRICS:
- Help, I Need Somebody: 4 Times When You Should Hire a BC Consultant
- Helping Hands in 2019: What BC Consultants Can Do For You
- How to Plan a Mock Disaster Exercise
- The Cost of Calamity: How Being Unprepared Can Harm An Organization
- The Plan that Time Forgot: The Importance of Protecting Your Business Processes
- Testing 1-2-3: Three Things You Should Know About Business Continuity Testing