Countless hours and thousands of words have been spent extolling the need to get Senior Management buy-in for Business Continuity - an admirable effort. Yet so little has been written about capturing the attention of BCM's largest audience - line managers. We shouldn't assume that the threat of punishment (the 'stick') will suffice to gain their cooperation; instead we ought to dangle incentives (the 'carrot'). And the most valuable of these incentives is Knowledge Capture.
The old adage "You don't miss your water 'til your well runs dry" is applicable to Business Continuity Planning.
Documenting your Business Continuity strategies and alternatives presents a great opportunity to capture knowledge that exists in your organization, but may not be widely known (or may be hidden).
Suppose your company relies on an application developed by your in-house IT group years ago. It's been patched and updated many times over the years. Bob's the only member of the original team left at the company. So naturally, in your DR Plan you assign Bob as the Subject Matter Expert to recover that application.
Has Bob thoroughly documented the recovery steps, the infrastructure requirements, the interfaces with other applications and databases? Does he have copies of the original design specs and updates somewhere?
What happens if Bob leaves the company? Before he does, capturing his knowledge in your DR plan could be an invaluable resource.
Years ago your Customer Service Department converted from a manual call tracking system to an online system. Every new employee is routinely and thoroughly trained on the system. So what's the manual workaround if the application goes down? The phones still ring. You might be able to temporarily fall back on the old manual system - if you had the forms and knowledge to make it work.
Is there anyone on the Customer Service team (or anywhere else in the organization) who remembers how the old manual system worked? Anybody got a copy of the old manual forms? Now is the time to find out.
Your Facilities Department knows who to call if you have a plumbing leak, or an AC unit failure (and a whole host of other potential 'risks'). Have those contacts been documented? What if the Facility Manager is on vacation when the roof leaks or the basement floods? Who will know whom to call? Documenting those contacts (and backup contacts) in a Business Continuity Plan makes them available in any emergency - no matter when it happens, or where that Facility Manager might be.
These are just three examples of the types of "knowledge capture" that can -and should - be documented in Business Continuity Plans. You can probably think of plenty more within your own organization. Planning is a great opportunity to get people to document what they know. That documentation may prove very useful when that application fails, the lights go off, or the pipes start to leak.
When it's time to update the Business Continuity Plan it's also a good time to think about capturing knowledge that's hidden in shared files, desk drawers - or people's heads. Because once it's gone, it may be gone forever.