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A Publication of WTVP

Business continuity is all about keeping your business running-or at least a plan to get it back in the event of a disruption. A disruption can be caused by many situations, including some we've seen lately: tornados, computer outage, unexpected employee turnover, fire at a key location, etc.

This topic was raised during Y2K prior to the year 2000 but recently jumped out at me during a vacation; the instances have come in 3s. Parsons Manufacturing was devastated by a tornado, yet had the foresight to build storm shelters and also keep their computer systems backed up with copies off site in the event of a disaster. One of our clients had moved some mission-critical applications to a global online Web application, but many of their customers didn't keep a manual backup plan. A multiple-hour outage led to potentially hundreds of hours of lost billing, which could translate into several hundred thousands of dollars in lost revenue. This type of outage had significant visibility by many levels of management.

Upon our return from vacation, our flights were delayed due to a computer outage, and no one could tell us when we would get home. They assured us our connecting flight would probably be delayed as well, but that we should be okay. Of course, when we arrived in Chicago, our flight home was cancelled, and we were informed we could catch the next flight home tomorrow. Needless to say, with two small kids in tow, this created a little bit of anxiety. The airline didn't know where our luggage was, but someone else suggested the last charter bus headed to Peoria in 30 minutes. At last, a savior.

These were two examples on opposite ends of the scale. Parsons certainly did a more than admirable job, and they'll retain loyal customers and employees. In the airline business, you have a choice, and they need to maintain a better service level. In this case, with almost an expectation that luggage will get lost or a flight will get canceled, a bad experience here and there is almost anticipated. In other industries, this lack of customer service wouldn't be tolerated.

The point is that our businesses run on data, people, buildings, phones, and inventory. Businesses should take a little time and look at how their business runs, look at common business disruptions, and take a look at proactive solutions to keep the business and its customers operational.

Also, you should probably get an outside perspective from management consulting firms that can perform business continuity planning audits. You might be surprised at the high-level business risks being undertaken at any given moment in companies of all sizes. IBI

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