Prior to the London bombings in July and the recent disaster along the Gulf Coast caused by Hurricane Katrina, studies and grumblings in the corporate world indicated that business continuity planning (BCP) was no longer a top priority. That wasn't to say that BCP was nonexistent - but, without any major business disruptions in the U.S. since the Northeast blackout in 2003, it seems that businesses had grown complacent.
Well, hopefully business leaders take notice of how shifting their focus from disaster recovery can have dire consequences. FEMA, formerly a cabinet-level agency, is now part of the Department of Homeland Security, which has devoted most of its attention to counterterrorism. We all see how well that is working out for FEMA. When it comes to BCP, shortsightedness and lack of top-down leadership may be the greatest danger. Just because there hasn't been a need to invoke a business continuity plan doesn't mean that something won't happen tomorrow. Experts - often derided as doom-and-gloom fear mongers - had warned that a direct hit by a Category 4 or Category 5 hurricane on New Orleans would devastate the city. Unfortunately, shortsightedness and a lack of leadership prevailed. Executives take note.
So, when it comes to BCP, Murphy's Law applies. BCP needs to consider every outcome - because if it can happen, it will. Terrorist attacks, earthquakes, power failures, floods and hurricanes are just a few of the disruptions that must be weighed when devising a disaster recovery plan. Granted, there is a slim chance that an earthquake will hit New York, but terrorist attacks or even a hurricane are distinct possibilities - while a major earthquake is a real concern for firms in San Francisco. Again, if it can happen, it will.
Hopefully, BCP will jump up a few spots on the priority list because of Katrina and the London bombings (see our cover story, page 38). With any luck, some of the smaller financial organizations (regional banks and insurance companies, for example) located in the Gulf Coast region had adequate plans in place. If a number of financial firms can't return to normal operations because their plans weren't well thought out or their backup facilities were located too close to New Orleans, regulators may decide that even stricter oversight is needed - just what today's regulation-inundated executives don't want to hear.
What are your greatest concerns when it comes to BCP in the industry or at your organization? Write to me at [email protected].
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www.fema.gov Greg MacSweeney is editorial director of InformationWeek Financial Services, whose brands include Wall Street & Technology, Bank Systems & Technology, Advanced Trading, and Insurance & Technology. View Full Bio