Is Your BCM Program Agile Enough?

As a business continuity program owner, you know all too well the amount of time and effort that you and your team invest in managing information, ensuring participation from your lines of business, and keeping your program current and relevant. While all this effort and dedication to business resiliency excellence is commendable, it means very little if it cannot be tied to the value that it delivers for the organization.

BC professionals know that I am not going out on a limb with this observation…call me “Captain Obvious!”  But many in the industry often fall into the all too common snare of getting caught up in the minutiae of “the weeds,” losing sight of the value you intended to deliver.  It is easy to get lost in the depth and breadth of maintaining content in your continuity and recovery plans, and to get distracted by administering and analyzing BIA data.  Next thing you know, months have passed with little actual intrinsic value brought to the organization.

As BC practitioners, you must remember that the fundamental, primary goal of your program is the recoverability and resiliency of the organization should it face any adversity.  When you get bogged down by process and tools, by comprehensive documentation, and by the “analysis paralysis” of trying to be exact, it is easy to lose sight of this goal.

Having worked for a handful of software development companies, I’ve been fully immersed for years in a project management methodology built on principles for delivering value faster, known as Agile methodology. And while this project management discipline is most often associated with IT and software, Agile has practical applications that business continuity programs can apply to significantly demonstrate the program’s value to the business.

  • Deliver value more often, get feedback more often
    Are you managing projects in what’s known as the Waterfall method? Do you outline project scope, create a grand objective, and then work in sequence until you get to the outcome?  If so, what happens if you get to the end and you miss the mark because the factors that went into decisions you made changed along the way?

    Using Agile methodology, you still define a main objective, but you break it down into smaller, more manageable deliverables that ultimately lead to the desired outcome. By doing so, you maintain perspective, incrementally deliver value, and provide a mechanism for receiving feedback along the way, which enables you to make the adjustments needed to still hit the mark. Additionally, you’ll bolster support for your program as you frequently show the value delivered by the program.
  • Interact, Collaborate, and Respond to Change
    The Agile methodology was created by technology and software development professionals who fundamentally believed there was a better way to manage complex projects for moving forward and getting better outcomes. Let’s apply the main tenants of Agile to the world of continuity:
    • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools – As a program manager, your primary goal is to solve the problem of making the enterprise resilient to difficult situations. To do that, you must cross boundaries and build relationships with staff, team leads, and department heads from the various lines of business.  These are your customers.  Get to know them.
    • Collaboration over assessment and analysis – Work directly with subject matter experts and decision makers to identify recovery objectives and solutions instead of investing heavily in writing lengthy, burdensome risk assessments and business impact analysis reports.
    • Responding to change over following a plan – Keep your plans at a high, strategic level, indicating roles and responsibilities instead of itemizing specific tasks for each person on a team to carry out. Rely on your experts’ knowledge when possible over documenting every detail. At the time of disaster, they’ll most likely do that anyway vs. reading a detailed document.
  • Perfection is the enemy of progress
    Phrases often used to express this principle of Agile are “fail faster” and “be accurate, not exact”. It is natural to want to execute and deliver a project perfectly. However, if you insist on complete precision in determining the metrics against which value is measured, you’ll never get off the starting line. Strive for accuracy, not exactness, and make progress. Furthermore, every project is subject to time, scope, and resources. These variables don’t always go as planned and inevitably will change over the course of a project. You are best equipped to adapt to these changes when you manage smaller targets for quick wins. By failing early, you can adjust and still meet larger objectives.

Like you, there are BC practitioners who have been thinking about different ways to manage programs for delivering value and getting better outcomes. David Lindstedt and Mark Amour with are two such continuity professionals, going so far as to layout a framework that dissects how Agile principles can be directly applied to continuity programs.

Never forget, your program exists for the value it brings to the organization. Your focus must ultimately be on the value that it delivers for the enterprise. So, ask yourself, is your BC program Agile enough to drive organizational value?

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