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When it comes to disaster recovery exercises, your exercise outputs—the reports and results—can be just as valuable, maybe even more so, than the actual exercise itself. That’s why it’s critically important to test, exercise, and document your business continuity and disaster recovery plans frequently.
In a recent blog post, we talked about a gamut of issues relating to exercises including the top 10 considerations for success. While in that blog we shared a lot of insight about how to prepare and be successful, we didn’t, until now, talk much about exercise results and outputs. Let’s do that now.
In our blog “Exercises in Resiliency: 10 Key Considerations for Business Continuity Success”, we talked about how the most successful exercises aren’t the ones where everything goes off without a hitch, instead, the most successful ones are where you identify weaknesses and failures.
Sounds counterintuitive, right?
It kind of is, but at the same time, identifying these issues—before a disruption—enables you to resolve issues so that when a real disruption happens, you’re prepared to respond. This is a great place to highlight the value of exercise outputs and reports.
Before, during and after your exercise, documentation is key.
Before you begin your exercise, you should review your existing documentation such as policies and procedures.
After you review those plans, it’s a great time to document objectives and set parameters. Be sure to share those objectives with your participants.
Documenting your objectives and parameters can help ensure your team members don’t waste valuable time trying to work through scenarios that don’t fit your exercise and can potentially facilitate more engagement and value-add.
Next, be sure that all your team members understand the difference between documenting testing issues and recovery issues.
For example, one of your parameters, no internet access, would be a testing issue. How does that testing issue affect your exercise?
On the other hand, a recovery issue might look something like this: Because our testing parameters determined we had no internet access, we realized our planned recovery processes wouldn’t work because we couldn’t access our data back-up.
Immediately following your exercise, conduct a review. Here are some areas to explore:
You can use this information, and additional follow-on information gathered after the team has had time to digest their experiences, to build your testing report. You can then share your report with your exercise team members and other team members affected by, or who will contribute to, changes that may be required for your plan’s processes. As well, you should share with your executive leadership and key stakeholders.
In addition to creating reports, a key output of your exercise should always be continuous improvement.
Knowing your limits—and explaining them to your key players—is an important part of adopting an organization-wide business continuity culture. You can move your program from one that is heard about only a couple times a year to a program that’s integrated throughout your organization—one where everyone speaks and understands resiliency language.
In addition to continuous improvement and solidifying your plans, one of the greatest benefits of the outputs and reports that follow your exercise is the ability to communicate critical information to your executive team and key stakeholders.
Why is this important? Because these exercises give you insight into where you have deficiencies, where your assumptions are incorrect, and reveal where your plans have gaps that could prevent you from restoring operations post-disruption, which can cost your organization unnecessary time and money.
By carefully documenting all of your exercise results and roadblocks, you can share this with your stakeholders to support needs for additional tools, resources, and personnel as they arise—long before a disaster.
Do you need help planning your next business continuity exercise? Check out our Exercise Template for a fully editable template designed to guide you through the development and effective execution of a wide range of business continuity exercises. Have other questions or need help? Contact a Castellan advisor today.
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