The job boards are lighting up with ads for business continuity positions; however, thriving in this role is probably harder than you think. If you have eight key skills, you can succeed as a BCM professional. If you don’t, you should probably find another line of work—or get to work on filling in the gaps in your skillset.
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BCM Requires an Unusual Combination of Skills
The tumult of the past year and a half—coupled with the drive to reopen the economy—has led to a sudden spike in demand for business continuity management professionals. This is good news for people who are already in the field, as well as those who would like to enter it.
However, filling this role is harder than many people think.
Working as a BCM professional is an unusual position in that it requires the skills and temperament of both an introvert and an extrovert. A competent BCM pro has to be, at various times, both a diligent, laser-focused nerd and an outgoing, charismatic leader.
It’s a tall order, finding such people—or demonstrating that breadth of talent in one’s own personal portfolio of skills. But’s that what it takes to do this job well.
The 8 Skills You Need As a BCM Pro
In my experience, there are eight qualities that, if you have them, will enable you to excel as a BCM professional.
Here they are:
1. Knowledge of BCM Methodology. This one is obvious. You have to know the intellectual foundations of the field. This means having a practical, inside-and-out grasp of BCM methodologies and approaches. You also have to know how to tailor the methodologies to your organization’s industry and culture.
2. Knowledge of the Business. To be a solid BCM planner you have to have a deep knowledge of all aspects of your company’s business. This includes its history and its current operations. You can’t protect something unless you understand it.
3. Social Skills. This is where a lot of would-be BCM aces fall short. And if you’re the type of person who prefers to stay at their desk all the time, this is where I have to break some bad news: A large component of being good at BCM is interacting with people, and by that I mean people at all levels throughout the company, from workers on the factory floor to senior executives. You have to have good social skills. You have to know how to talk, listen, persuade, engage, energize, and inspire.
If you aren’t good at these activities, you’ll find it hard to do a good job. If you find these activities fatiguing, you might not enjoy the job. The fact is, a large part of this role involves trying to get people to do things they have little incentive to do. You have to charm them into doing it, which takes charisma.
4. Leadership Ability. If you’re going to be a solid planner, you have to make people feel confident that you know what you’re doing. To be a BCM professional is to put yourself forward as someone who has the leadership chops to help guide your organization though an outage or event. Your role as a BCM professional is to be a trusted advisor to the senior management at your organization. You have to have the leadership cred to get those managers to believe that you are worthy of trust and that your advice is worth listening to.
5. The Ability to Facilitate and Coordinate. The BCM planner is not primarily a hands-on, frontline soldier. Rather, he or she is a facilitator and coordinator. The BCM pro draws forth information and builds consensus among various stakeholders and coordinates among multiple parties to get things done. Notice the word dictate is nowhere in this description, because a BCM team member can’t dictate anything. He or she can only connect, encourage, suggest, convene, and guide.
6. Communication Skills. This is huge. Really, this could be broken into three separate skills, those of speaking, writing, and presenting.
Speaking: You have to be able to present complex material verbally to groups of people in a polished, articulate fashion. If you can’t, you will probably have minimal impact.
Writing: You have to be able to write clearly, otherwise, people who read your reports will not know what you are trying to say. People who read your recovery plans will not know what they are supposed to do. Can you think of a bigger recipe for disaster than a person working through a checklist in an emergency and not being able to make out the intended meaning of the different steps they are supposed to take? I can’t.
Presenting: Your program will live or die on the support it gets from senior management. That level of support usually depends on how well you present your case in terms of your program’s gaps, needs, and roadmap. A good presenter knows the audience, is prepared, can tell a story, and does not lose the crowd by making them look at 500 slides.
7. Consultant Mindset. A bad BCM pro treats the people he or she works with as fellow drones at their giant organization. This type of BCM person takes their time, feels no urgency, is more of a time server than a self-respecting professional. A good BCM professional has a consultant mindset. They treat the company as their client. They focus on providing excellent customer service. Good BCM professionals aim to sell themselves and prove themselves every day. Their focus isn’t on waiting for five o’clock to arrive, it’s on getting the job done.
8. The Ability to Think Outside the Box. Last but not least, because sometimes things don’t happen the way the textbook says they should. I’ll even go farther and say, it’s rare that things happen the way the textbook says they should. So this is the final skill I think a person needs to thrive as a BCM professional: the ability to adapt on the fly. What if the people at one of your company’s departments don’t want to do a traditional BIA? You have to come up with another way to get the information. What if they don’t want to do a traditional recovery strategy? Ditto.
Performing this role takes imagination. A lot of people think it’s going to be same way every time. It’s more likely that you’ll encounter new problems and have to improvise your way around them. If you draw a blank in these situations or find them overly stressful, then BCM might not be for you. If you find this kind of thing stimulating, then maybe working in BCM would be right up your alley.
That makes eight, and eight is enough. However, it is not too many, because I believe all of these skills are needed to do the job successfully.
Deciding on a Future in BCM
If you have these eight skills, I think you are well-equipped to thrive as a BCM professional. Missing six or seven of them? You might be happier—and your company better off—if you seek a position in a different area.
If you’re missing two or three of these skills and you want to remain in or enter BCM, I suggest you identify your weak points and work on improving them. It’s never too late to grow, and our field needs talented, motivated people now more than ever.
The 8 Key BCM Skills-and You
There’s recently been a spike in demand for BCM professionals, but performing the role successfully may be harder than you think. It takes a combination of the ability to analyze complex material and execute on details, as well as skill at interacting with, persuading, and leading others. It’s also important to have a consultant mindset and be able to think outside the box.
If you have the eight key BCM skills listed above I think you would likely thrive as a BCM professional. If you are lacking in most of them, you might be better off exploring other areas where you could make a contribution. Lacking a couple of the skills? Then think about developing your ability in those areas to make yourself a more well-rounded performer.
For more information on how to succeed as BCM professional and other hot topics in BCM and IT/disaster recovery, check out these recent posts from BCMMETRICS and MHA Consulting: