Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Business Continuity Management report 2009

The Chartered Management Institute in the UK has released the latest of its annual reports into Business Continuity Management, sponsored by the UK Cabinet Office. Called 'A Decade of Living Dangerously' it looks at the ability of the UK as a nation to respond to disruptive challenges. A total of 1,012 survey responses were received from the Institute's members. The full report is here.

BCM is a part of the UK’s formal preparations for the possible threats posed to business, whether from internal systems failures or external emergencies such as extreme weather, terrorism, or infectious disease. Hence it has a role to play in addressing the inevitable impacts of climate change. The Civil Contingencies Act 2004 required front line organisations to maintain BCM arrangements and since May 2006 local authorities have been required to promote BCM to business and voluntary organisations. BCM is enshrined in BS 25999-1, the British Standards Institution’s Code of Practice for Business Continuity Management.

It's interesting to see how possible climate change impacts are being considered and addressed. The UK government has made an assessment of various potential risks and the survey looked at how concerned managers were about them.

Electronic attacks tops the list, followed by disease and severe weather. Flooding was separately identified and ranked fifth. The survey indicated a high level of disruption due to extreme weather incidents, such as flood or high winds, with 25% of respondents having been disrupted in 2009, slightly lower than in 2007 and 2008 but substantially higher than in previous years (and the survey was conducted before the heavy snowfall, flooding and utility outages across the UK in February 2009).

In terms of the perception of threats, the second highest increase over the last 10 years is in extreme weather, with the level of concern increasing by 144%, outpacing even fear of terrorist damage. Interestingly, the largest increase in threat is seen as from pressure group protest. (Arguably, the threat from environmental pressure groups will be as much around damaging a company's image as physical damage to operations).

It's all relevant because one of the less discussed aspects of green IT is the requirement to build a business infrastructure that can withstand the potential threats from the long-term impacts of climate change. Many companies have business continuity systems in place, but they tend to be limited in scope, based on immediate and local threats. In a global business world the impact can be felt in a remote part of the supply chain or have indirect consequences in skills availability, etc. Hopefully we are a long way off, but businesses need to be prepared and IT can help build flexibility and redundancy into business operations.

The survey showed that the number of organisations with a Business Continuity Plan in place is 52%, up from 45% in 2002, so there's a long way to go. We will keep track of these reports as the years progress.

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