Business Continuity Planning: Recovery Requirements

Remember the movie, “The Jerk” with Steve Martin?  Great movie.  Anyway, there is a scene in this movie where Navin Johnson (Steve Martin’s character) loses all his money and walks out of the house saying something like, “I don’t need anything.  I need this ashtray.  But, that’s all I need.  I don’t need anything but this ashtray … oh, and this lamp.  Just this ashtray and this lamp.  I need this. …”.  You get the picture, right?

There have been times when working with business managers in identifying recovery requirements that I have felt like I was in the middle of that scene.  This somehow seems to be especially true when working with trading floor operations.  Often when I first sit down with trading floor managers and ask them, “What do you minimally need to conduct business”, they answer, quite simply, “A phone.  You give me a phone and I can conduct my business from anywhere.”

Oh really?

You mean you have the phone numbers for all your clients, brokers and the trading floors?

Well no.  I need those numbers programmed into the phone.

So it’s not just any phone you need?

No – but, if I had a phone with those numbers programmed in, I can do my job.

So you don’t need to know the state of your client positions?

Well sure, I need that.  But if I had a phone, programmed with numbers and a copy of the start of day report, I can do my job.

And you don’t need access to any market data feeds?

Well, not all of them.  If I had a phone, programmed with numbers and a copy of the start of day report and access to Bloomberg, I could do my job.

And you will remember the trades you transacted to call into the back office.

Well no.  I need my blotter system or trade tickets.  If I had a phone …


It got so bad that I would walk into these meetings with a roll of quarters in my pockets.  When they said all they needed was a phone, I would take out the roll of quarters and say, “Okay, take these.  There is  a pay phone out on the corner of the street in front of this building – go do your business for the rest of the day and let’s see how that works.”  I know that analogy kind of dates me.  Some of you reading this probably don’t even know what a pay phone is – but it often got my point across.

Once I got their egos to agree that it was more than just their expertise that made them a successful trader, and that they did depend on technology and tools more than they liked to admit, the next challenge was in identifying what was needed under what circumstances.

The difficulty with trading floors and many other business functions these days is the interchangeability of certain tools.  You get into discussions where as long as I have Application A, I can do without B or C; but, if I don’t have A, I need both B and C.  This can get very complicated.  Forget about the complication of also recovering the behind the scene applications and tools that the business managers don’t know about – that complexity is up to the technology teams to figure out.

Getting the right applications recovered in the right timeframes takes coordination between many different departments that share applications and databases.  I know some organizations try to identify “application owners” in the business community, but, this too, can get complicated.  Easiest example is, who owns email?  In a trading floor environment, there are many market data feeds that are shared between different trading desks.  Defining the ultimate owner can be challenging and cause troubles.

Once you identify the toolset (or toolset options) required to support critical operations you can start researching options for getting them operational in the requisite timeframe.

Be prepared, however, for some business managers to answer your question on what they need with another question, “Well, what can I have?” or, “How much will it cost me to have …?”

I don’t think it is too out of line for some managers to take the position that it is not a matter of what I minimally need in place, it is the matter of what I (or the company) is willing to pay to have in place.  If it is a reasonable expense to provide full functionality in a recovery site, why go through the exercise of asking me what I can get by with.  Give me solution options, and I will tell you what I can afford to invest in.  This often results in a push me-pull you working atmosphere that not all continuity planners are ready for, but one in which I think we should be prepared to handle.

Just a few more things for us to think about.  I sure am glad this job is not an easy one, otherwise anybody could do it.

Thank you for your input.