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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 software fronts. 

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 hand-in-hand with risk management.

Contact Information

proj-mgt @ proj-mgt dot com

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