Safe Harbor Consulting has been successful in assisting a number of organizations with their Table Top Exercise Programs for business continuity, disaster recovery and crisis management solutions. One of the first challenges we face in the exercise planning process is to settle on the right scenario for the exercise.
Of course, the first thing we do is to get our client to forget about the scenario for a moment and list those things within your programs that you want emphasized in the exercise. For example, we ask questions like:
Do you want the scenario to include death and injury of employees and guests? Or, keep the focus on business interruption?
Do you want to address damage assessment procedures or just have the scenario result in the loss of access to facilities?
Do you want the scenario to result in a long term outage (weeks or months)? Or, a short term loss (hours or days)?
Do you want the scenario to be an immediate impact and obvious disaster? Or, an escalating problem that “rolls” into a disaster?
Knowing the answer to these questions will help us land on the proper scenario.
But, this scenario discussion also leads us to talk about another interesting phenomena in business continuity planning that I am not sure I have heard anyone else talk about. Many times, I find myself trying to talk the client down from those “spectacular” disaster scenarios to scenarios that are more likely to occur and, believe it or not, more likely to offer a greater challenge to your organization.
The phenomena I speak of is a concept I call “Marketplace Empathy”.
One of the factors that will measure your success in responding to and recovering from a business interruption event is how well do you meet the outside world’s expectations? In those newsworthy, high impact, catastrophic events that impact you, your costumers and your competitors alike, you are not necessarily expected to be up and running the next day, or even weeks or longer. The marketplace, as a whole, can empathize with your dilemma and will allow you the luxury of time to get back to business as usual.
This will not be the case when your business interruption event is caused by a less newsworthy, low impact event that only impacts you. If your Call Center is down because of a fire in your telecom office that takes your PBX down you are not going to be granted that same level of forgiveness as when a tornado wipes out the entire town where your Call Center happens to be located.
With it, RTEs (Recovery Time Expectations) will expand. Without it, RTEs will shrink.
With it, the news will center on the event. Without it, the news will center on your inability to deliver.
I do not believe Marketplace Empathy is a concept that should influence your planning process, but it is something you should consider when planning for and/or executing your Table Top Exercises.
The fact is, RTOs (Recovery Time Objectives) and MADs (Maximum Acceptable Downtimes) are planning targets based on BIAs and other informational input, but the RTEs will be influenced by the scenario you are impacted by and responding to. When you go with the Tom Clancy-esque type of scenarios in your Table Top Exercise you risk having your participants focusing on the event itself and you allow people to challenge the real need to recover the business when the impact is so great and so many people are affected.
Marketplace Empathy. Just something to consider when planning your next exercise.