If You Have Not Tested Your Disaster Recovery Plan, You Are Not Ready to Manage Through a Disaster

by Scott Owens, PMP, CBCP on January 11th, 2013

Imagine being the coach of a great team with high expectations for winning the championship.  You are a world class leader and have surrounded yourself with brilliant assistants – each well known in their respective disciplines.  Weeks before the big game, you and your assistant coaches pour over film of the opponent, study their strengths and weaknesses, and meticulously design a powerful game plan based on technical and artistic analysis.  The plan is great and everyone agrees that it will set the groundwork for a huge victory.  Each player on the team receives a full color, spiral bound version of the game plan. 
Between this time and the big game, there is much to do, and with the media days, budget meetings, and sponsor obligations, you never get around to getting the players out to the practice field to run through the new playbook. 
On the day of the championship game, everyone seems calm and confident.  After all, everyone has a copy of the most magnificent plan they have ever seen.   Some of the players have read the chapters that contain the insights to their position, but most assumed that it would be common sense, and since they were experienced athletes they could do what was necessary to win.  
As the game starts, you see a few good moves, but not exactly matching the way the plan was designed, and very little communication.  By the end of the first half, chaos has set in.  Frustration at team members is obvious and key milestones have been missed.  Since the game plan was not being followed by the team, it has forced the coach to shift formations and player positions on the fly, and to make decisions without having timely information.  Ultimately you have trouble matching up to the challenge and end up losing the game. 
I realize that a world class coach would not take this approach because he or she knows that the secret to success on game day is proper training.  The game plan is part of a successful outcome, but unless everyone on the team understands their role and respective responsibility, there will be chaos.  And when the game is on the line, every moment and decision counts.  Bad or delayed decisions can result in failure.
So it is with business continuity and disaster recovery planning.  Many organizations have built elaborate, technical, and process-centric plans to help them mitigate risk and manage through a crisis.  But if the plan has never been tested, or if key individuals aren’t familiar with the details, there is a strong likelihood that the plan won’t work the way it was intended. 
As a business continuity professional, I have facilitated dozens of disaster drills for clients large and small across many industries, and there is one constant in all of them – the team always learned something that resulted in revisions to the plan.  It might be as simple as modifying phone numbers in your contact list, but it could be significant, such as realizing that a crucial vendor cannot meet your requirement and has to default on a contract.  What a surprise that would be in the wake of a building fire. 
The bottom line is that if you haven’t tested your business continuity or disaster recovery plan, you aren’t ready to manage through a disaster.

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Posted in not categorized    Tagged with Disaster Recovery Plan, Plan Test, Best Practices, Disaster Drill


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