Are You Ready For Disaster?
All projects and companies should
have contingency or business continuity plans. The unforeseen is often your worst enemy.
Typically, larger companies are better protected than are small ones.
The topic of contingency planning and business continuity are ignored
only at the risk of catastrophe.
Not Just Data Backups!
Beyond basic systems and data back-ups (please
don't tell me you're not at least ensuring these are done regularly, and tested
for recoverability), there are some very basic and
simple contingency plans that should be developed, published, and
periodically reviewed. This is basic business continuity
planning. You need to have plans for ensuring your business can
continue forward regardless of the problem.
The level of detail in your
contingency or business continuity plan can vary by a number of factors
including: size of company, criticality of organizations and their
function within a given company, criticality of your services or
products to your customers, and your business and liability exposure
should you be shut down for hours, days, or longer.
Contingency Planning 101
Some of the high-level questions
for which you should have answers are:
- Where should staff meet in
the event the building is not accessible?
- Who has the authority to
close the business in the event of an emergency?
- Which staff members are
critical and must be on-site or always reachable?
- Where are the back-ups and
how are they restored?
- Who can cover for each
critical staff member?
- Who are single points of failure and
how can those risks be ameliorated?
- What systems, vendors, and partners
pose risk should they fail?
- Who is responsible for communicating
with customers, and how?
Contingency plans should consider
both short and longer term events and attempt to provide
guidance for both. Project contingency plans should generally address
shorter term, lower level risks.
Project Management Contingency Planning
Astute projects managers seek to
avoid single points of failure. Key team roles, critical systems
functions, and software are three of the major, controllable failure
points. Even small projects warrant thought on these fronts. Ensuring
no one team member is indispensable avoids the risk of that person being
hit by the proverbial truck.
All too often, small businesses don't assess what
data needs to be backed up. Knowing what data should be protected and how
to protect it is a key to contingency planning. Proper system back-ups (including period
testing of recovery), along with appropriate hot or cold stand by
systems are also a part of the contingency planning on the systems and
Source code control helps to protect against lost code
and unrepeatable builds.
Understanding the priority of
deliverables and which parts or complete deliverables may be deferred or
dropped can serve as a schedule contingency.
Contingency planning goes