10 ways to ensure your business continuity project plan fails
The business continuity (BC) planning process can be a daunting challenge. Project planning can play an important role in keeping the process on track & help in your success in protecting your organization from unplanned events that can disrupt operations. The goal is to identify the right information & determine a process to keep it current and accurate. Key elements of a business continuity plan include:
- risk assessment
- business impact analysis
- strategy development
- plan development
- awareness & training
- coordination with external services
Of course you want the project plan to be successful, so there are 10 things not to do to be more likely to reach your business continuity planning milestones & goals.
1. Go it alone. Don’t have a ‘committed’ sponsor/champion for the business continuity project.
Not having executive buy-in or sponsorship will make it more difficult to successfully implement a BC project plan. To ensure success (vs. failure), have an executive sponsor who:
- Personally ensures that all stakeholders are ‘on board’ with the project
- Understands & can articulate a clear message as to the importance of the project
- Stays on top of the BC project with regular reports on status
- Quickly resolves issues, especially with the level of departmental engagement
- Engages a ‘lieutenant’ to ensure progress is being made & issues are being addressed if the executive is not readily available
2. Make it up as you go along. Don’t bother with an experienced project manager.
Although you may have a natural project planning abilities, there is a “science” to it, so it’s always best to engage a project manager, or one with appropriate PM training/experience, to oversee the project. This can be essential if the project is the first of its kind for the organization. Business Continuity plans can get pretty detailed and comprehensive, so it always good to have an experience project manager on hand to keep things structured, on task & moving forward. This is especially important with high profile BC plans such as cyber security planning.
3. Just do it, don’t explain or educate stakeholdersAs the business continuity manager you are the expert. Your participants/stakeholders generally have no back ground knowledge of business continuity planning, so they will be relying on you to educate them. Successful business continuity planning requires a certain level of awareness training so that stakeholders understand justifications for BC planning and the process & tasks of what BC requires. It also helps to put it in the perspective of their department. Read more about approaches to building stakeholder buy-in here.
4. Tackle the hardest biggest, challenge first.
A crucial element to project planning is fostering a feeling of success and completion. For this reason, I recommend starting with a small project that can be in the form of a pilot. This approach:
- Demonstrates proof of concept
- Allows for refinement of methodology
- Enhances chances for success and buy-in
5. Don’t have well defined plan steps, tasks & dates.
Confusion & ambiguity of what is required or an unclear understanding of expectations slows down project results in resistance to engagement. Be sure to define steps, assign specific tasks & determine reasonable timelines for completion. Lock in dates for key activities, i.e. orientation sessions, workshops, data collection periods, reviews in advance of beginning so that everyone knows understands the milestones & end goal.
6. Make milestone unachievable & non-specific.
Don’t set the project up for failure by making unachievable or unclear goals. Negotiate specific but achievable milestones & dates for the completion of activities with stakeholders. Be sure to have stakeholders contribute to determining what is doable & realistic for them.
7. Don’t engage or communicate with stakeholders.
You identified the stakeholders you need to complete the business continuity plan, now be sure that you engage with them not only at the beginning of the project plan, but throughout. Communication during the key activities helps ensure issues are addressed & keeps project on track.
8. Keep an extremely broad scope
To enable success, be sure to keep a tight lid on scope. We have all gotten in meetings that end up in the weeds or off scope. Stick to the scope of the plan, & table any discussion that may increase scope & present a barrier to your plans success.
9. Constantly change the schedule without documenting the change.
Let’s face it, from time to time, the milestones dates may have to be moved due to unforeseen challenges or lack of commitment from the stakeholders. It is important to document these changes & the reasons why to see if there is a pattern that needs to be addressed. Formal change control sheds light on potential issues with commitment of stakeholders or perhaps unrealistic deadlines.
10. Be inflexible.
To err is human, so sometimes we need to be flexible with your stakeholders. A little understanding & flexibility can help ensure cooperation to keep the overall plan on target to achieve the end goal.
As a business continuity project manager, with quite a few years of experience, I have learned what does & doesn’t work in getting the business continuity planning team to the finish line. I like to share my best practices in every project I tackle. I hope these tongue in cheek tips help you successfully project manage your business continuity planning process.