Should businesses be ready for anything?

Business continuity has, without a doubt, been brought firmly into the
spotlight by the recent terrorist attacks in London.

As the first real terrorist threat since the IRA bombings, companies are
experiencing first hand the disruption that terrorism can cause.

Whether the disruption is direct, through damage to property or, more likely,
has an indirect effect through their supply chain, their customers or their
employees’ ability and willingness to travel to work, terrorism is a stark
examination of any company’s business continuity preparation.

According to James Hart, commissioner of the City of London Police, only 50%
of businesses have business continuity plans in place. This would suggest that
perhaps businesses haven’t been as thorough in their overall risk management
programmes as they might have been.

Does that mean business continuity practitioners are cashing in on business
fears? I don’t believe so.

A robust continuity process is a fundamental requirement for any business
regardless of whether it is based in London or the green fields of Suffolk.
Terrorism has bought the issue into sharp focus, but we have been seeing a
growing demand from companies looking to re-evaluate their business continuity
processes as their levels of risk awareness have developed.

Terrorism has been a catalyst, but flooding or the failure of a supplier to
deliver a key component can have an equally devastating effect on a company’s

There is also an increased impetus for companies to develop a thorough
business continuity process with the advent of a new British standard due for
publication in 2006. This will continue the process begun by the Publicly
Available Specification 56, and will continue to drive demand for structured

Businesses always need to think about how they can best manage the risks that
challenge their operation. The awareness of business continuity has always been
there. The London bombings have simply pushed it higher up the corporate agenda.

Hugh Leighton is a director of risk control consultants Aon UK

Profiting from panic

The London attacks have confirmed many people’s worst fears that the
terrorist threat in the UK is a very real one. The tendency to panic about the
security of business systems has inevitably followed.

But business continuity experts seem to have seized on this panic as an
opportunity to promote their services, a move that is at best highly
inappropriate, and at worst morally wrong.

The fact that these experts are choosing this moment to move in to canvas
potential new customers in London and indeed all the major UK cities, not only
turns a disastrous situation to their own financial advantage, but also instils
yet greater fear into the UK business world, creating a sense of panic that is
beneficial to no-one.

The key issue to remember in terms of business continuity is that the fear of
disaster is not a new phenomenon; preparing for any kind of business breakdown
has been central to working practices for years and very many businesses already
do have some form of contingency plan, in case the worst does happen.

Fears of businesses not being able to continue to perform due to power
failure, flood and the like are a continual threat that have to be considered,
and as a result companies have instigated systems to cope.

Of course, these measures continue to be a vital part of business strategy
and the recent terror attacks have heightened the need to be well prepared for
further emergencies.

But a more reasoned approach should be taken and each and every business
owner should take their own measures to ensure they are properly insured and
have duplicate records kept off site for retrieval if and when required.

Continuity plans range from the obvious, such as taking daily and rigorous
backups of their systems, a task made easier by the nature of the digital world
in which we now live, to more basic measures such as storing emergency supplies
in offices.

Surely this can be achieved without companies having to pay the exorbitant
costs which many business continuity companies are now trying to charge?

Julian Phipps is managing director of marketing consultancy EHS

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