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(The lack of) Business Continuity Schooling in Belgium

For students who are wondering whether you can follow a business continuity (BC) education in Belgium, I have some bad news. You can’t. In Belgium, there are no universities which offer a business continuity education whatsoever. This is very different with the English-speaking part of the world where you can find different schools which even offer full-time BC master programs. Still universities in Belgium don’t seem to be willing to fill this educational gap. Why, you ask?

In the few months that I worked for RESCO Belgium I learned that many firms have never heard of BC. Many decision makers still believe that nothing bad will happen to their company and don’t believe that it is interesting to implement a BC culture in their company. This could change if clients would demand that their suppliers have a plan ready for when things go wrong, but in many sectors this isn’t the case. This is very different in countries with a BC culture like the UK, USA, Australia,… In those countries, BC is a part of the corperate culture. This isn’t the case in Belgium, most of the people never heard about BC and thus there is no demand for BC professionals.

I believe this is changing though. More and more companies are realizing how important BC management can be in their company and are starting to take measures. The more companies start to understand how important BC management can be, the higher the demand for BC professionals will be and the higher the need for a good BC education. You don’t build a culture in one day however so until then, students looking for a BC education will have to look abroad.

For professionals things are different. There are some agencies and firms which have their own business continuity training program. All varying in price and probably also in quality. I’m sure that with some of these programs you can learn a lot about BC but it’s not quite the same as a full time BC program. Also the Business Continuity Institute provides some programs to get a BC certificate, which you can follow from home I believe. But again, these aren’t full time programs.

Since there is such a lack of BC education in Belgium, I’d like to encourage all the management schools in Belgium to think about the benefits of launching a BC program. Certainly HUB/Ehsal Management School, I’m following a postgraduate at this school and earned my master degree at the HUB (Hogeschool-Universiteit Brussel) and I’m convinced that this school has the right means and knowledge to start a BC program or at least implement it in their current master programs like Commercial Engeneer or Commercial Sciences.  Many students taking part in those programs will at least be interested in what BC is about.

So it’s a school with the right knowledge, skills, means and public. What are they still waiting for?

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Finding your way in the business continuity standards

Although BC is a relative young discipline, various organizations in various countries have created standards and guidelines on BC. In this article we guide you through the most important standards and guidelines

1.       Good Practice Guidelines

A first very important guideline is the one from the Business Continuity Institute. (BCI) The BCI, founded in 1994, is worldwide the best known BC institute. They want to promote “the art and science of BC management (BCM) worldwide”. They do this by publishing their Good Practice Guidelines (GPG) on BC, a collection of best practices in the sector. The GPG are based on the BC lifecycle which is very well known in the sector.

2.       The BS25999

Next to the BCI, the British Standards Institute also has written a standard on BC, the BS 25999. This standard is the successor of the Publically Available Specification (PAS) 56 on BC and consists of two parts: BS 25999-1 and BS 25999-2. The first part is an accompanying document and only gives best practices like the GPG. The second part specifies requirements for implementing, operating and improving a BCM system. A company needs to be in compliance with these requirements to achieve the certification the BSI on BC.

The BS 25999 is based on the GPG which is, however, much more detailed. Also people can achieve a BSI certification on BC but this is still not very popular in Belgium.

3.       Guidelines in the USA

Next to Great Britain, the USA also has its own standards and regulations but most of them focus on the banking sector. The most important BC institute in the USA is the Disaster Recovery Institute. They never published guidelines or standards like the BSI or BCI did, but they train, inform and certify people and businesses on BC. Initially the organization focused on disaster recovery but they widened their field to BC. There are some guidelines in the USA however. There is the ‘BC Planning Committee Best Practice Guidelines’ or the ‘NYSE rule 446: BC and Contingency Planning’ which states that every member of the NYSE needs to have and maintain a Business Continuity Plan.

4.       ISO Standards

The last few years the International Standardization Organization also started focusing on BC. This resulted in two standards on BC, the ISO 22301 and ISO 22313 created in 2012. Before these two, the ISO only had a standard on risk management (ISO 31000). Now, what about the content of both standards? The ISO 22301 actually blends the requirements from several national standards like Japan, USA, Australia,… It is very similar to the BS 25999-2 standard, as a consequence the BSI has withdrawn the second part of their standard.  The ISO 22313 mainly clarifies ISO’s other standard on BC by giving some examples.

Conclusion

Keep in mind that the standards mentioned in this text are not exhaustive. We could probably write an entire book on different national standards on BC so we just targeted the most important ones. When we take a look at this short overview of BC standards, it becomes clear that Great-Britain is a very important country in the creation of BC standards in Europe. It laid the basis for the creation of an international standard on business continuity together with other great BC countries like the USA. Like always, it’s not clear what the future will bring, but now the ISO starts creating standards on BC, national standards might disappear and the situation on the standards in BC will become clearer.

What should we say when everything goes wrong?

Good communication is a key aspect of the recovery of your business after a crisis. All parties involved, internally as well as externally, should be addressed on the crisis and the events that follow on it. In this short article we first discuss the most important aspects of communicating in a crisis, so what you should do, and we end with a short overview of what you certainly shouldn’t do. Most of the aspects that will be addressed in this article are extensively discussed in the ISO 22313 standard.

A first important aspect of crisis communication is communicating internally.  You need to make sure that you know on beforehand who you need to contact when a crisis occurs. Because of the different types of crises, there will be different persons that should be contacted.. For example, when an entire plant collapses you will have to contact a larger and/or different team than when a server breaks down.

Second, in times of a crisis, you’ll also need to communicate externally to customers, vendors and other stakeholders. It is important that everybody in the company is informed about what should be communicated to the involved parties. Anyone who is unsatisfied with that story should be directed to management. Also important is that all the employees who have contact with stakeholders are updated on the recent developments regarding the crisis. Bear in mind that you can also update your website or social media to communicate on the crisis (cf. How Twitter and Facebook can save my business). For example, you can post a statement so every interested party is informed on the event and it might be interesting to provide visitors of the website with the opportunity to post questions on the crisis and how it develops. If you do so, make sure you can answer them quickly and correctly.

A last aspect is communication with the media. They can make or break your reputation because they decide how the incident is portrayed towards the general public. This can be managed in two ways.  First of all you can hire a professional who has experience in communicating with the media and knows how the handle any form of media attention. Second, you can also handle the media internally. In that case you’ll need to prepare for any confrontation with the media. For example, some of the managers will need to get media trained and in case of a crisis one, and only one of them, will handle the media. This to make sure that the same information is communicated. If no immediate response is required it is preferable to avoid speaking to the press in the first hours after the event. In that way you can prepare a good media plan. Do not wait too long with this of course or people might start thinking you just do not care. When it comes to speaking with the media, remember that one bad story in the media can result in severe reputational damage. On the other hand, when media is handled well it can strengthen the confidence in the company.

After a short introduction of what you should do in times of a crisis, we end this article by giving an overview on what you certainly shouldn’t do when it comes to crisis communication. One of the biggest mistakes is probably doing nothing or acting too late. In that case people and the media will start speculating on what has happened and how the story will end. Another thing to avoid is to be put in a reactive position. You want that others react on what you say and not the other way around. In that way you stay in the driver’s seat. Lastly, always keep in mind that perception and reality are two different things. Even though you know you have the facts on your side. Do not hope that the public will realize this and eventually will learn about the truth. By the time they do, it might be too late.

This short article handled a few important aspects of crisis communication. Of course there is much more to keep in mind that isn’t mentioned here. This text only gave an overview on what you absolutely should and shouldn’t do in a crisis.

AfbeeldingAlways keep the following questions in mind.

Sources:

Bernstein, J. (1996). Making a Crisis Worse: The Biggest Mistakes in Crisis Communications. Retrieved August 26, 2013, from http://www.bernsteincrisismanagement.com/articles/biggest-mistakes-in-crisis-communications.html

Okolita, K. (2010). Building an Enterprise-Wide Business Continuity Program. Broken Sound Parkway NW: Auerbach Publications.

 

How Twitter and Facebook can save my business

The last ten years social media has had a huge impact on the way we communicate these days. Also in crisis communication, social media are playing a greater role than ever. This creates a lot of opportunities but also leads to dangerous pitfalls. We from RESCO help you with what you should do.

1.       Be there and be ready

When disaster strikes it has become a natural response of people to use social media to communicate. So if you are present on a social network site people will always find you. Be prepared for this, make sure you are ready to respond to them because when your organization handles the social media crowd in a wrong way, it can create a social media firestorm.

2.       Use a multichannel approach

Communicating through social media is an easy way to reach many people but don’t forget that still half of the Belgian population hasn’t a Facebook account and only one out of 20 Belgians is on Twitter. Social networks are just one of the many channels you can use to communicate, it is certainly not the only one.

3.       Update regularly

Be aware that the art of waiting is not practiced by social media users. They want immediate updates on what is happening so make sure you update regularly without overdoing it (cf. #9). Luckily this is relatively easy on social media and every message is automatically spread immediately because of a networking effect.

4.       Use its benefits

After an incident has occurred, people with specific skills are often required. Don’t hesitate to ask for them through social media. In the best case scenario they will even come to you on social media.  Also, next to experts look at what other members of the local affected communities have to say. They can create a clearer view on what has happened to them. This is interesting when the organization doesn’t operate at the place of the incident but is somehow affected or responsible for the incident.

5.       Think of the general rules on crisis communication

You don’t need to write a different crisis communication plan for social media. The general rules of crisis communication also apply on social media. The most important ones are to keep the crowd up to date and to be honest.

6.       Use it internally

Social media is an easy way to keep everyone in the organization up to date. This can be done without notifying third parties by creating private groups on social media. Again, this shouldn’t be the only channel for communication and messages that are strictly confidential should never be shared on social media, even in a private group.

7.       Appoint one person to lead communication   

Make sure not everyone in the company starts tweeting and posting whatever they want on social media. Appoint one person who updates tweets and statuses and who makes clear what can and cannot be posted. In that way the rest of the team responsible for social media communication knows how to react on the inflow of reactions.

8.       Use hashtags

Sometimes it is in the details. For example, if you use Twitter, use hashtags so people can categorize tweets.

9.       Limit communications

We said you needed to keep the crowd informed and up-to-date but don’t tweet and post too much. At all cost, avoid starting discussions on social media. If necessary, ask the person(s) involved to continue the discussion offline.

10.   Do not delete

After an incident that is your responsibility you might receive some post and tweets that damage the reputation of your organization. It might be tempting to simply delete those but DON’T! On the internet everything can be seen, so also the things that all of the sudden disappear. When people start noticing you delete their comments you will only make things worse.

It is clear that social media offer an entire new way to communicate in a crisis. Although the general rules of crisis communication also apply on this new channel, an organization should profoundly think about how they will approach social media. If handled well, social media can be your best friend in crisis communication. If not, it can be your worst enemy.

Bibliography

Dance , S. (n.d.). Social Media and Mobile Convergence: New Paradigms for Incident Communications.

Masjedi, Y. (2013, November 14). 5 Reactions to Avoid During Social Media Crisis Communications. Retrieved November 19, 2013, from http://smallbiztrends.com/2013/11/social-media-crisis-communications-avoid.html

When things go terribly wrong…

Hi!

Did you ever wonder what your business, school, organization,… would do when things go terribly wrong? Probably not. No worries, many business leaders haven’t either. Still bad stuff happen every day and affects businesses around the world, even in Belgium. Just open your favorite newspaper or news website, I guarantee you’ll read that somewhere something went terribly wrong in the last 24 hours. Still many businesses suffer from the “It won’t happen to us – syndrome”. My cure: Business Continuity Management (BCM).

The first thing you’ll probably want to do right now is open Wikipedia and try to figure out what business continuity (BC) is. Let me spare you the effort, Wikipedia defines BC as:

“Business continuity encompasses a loosely-defined set of planning, preparatory and related activities which are intended to ensure that an organization’s critical business functions will either continue to operate despite serious incidents or disasters that might otherwise have interrupted them, or will be recovered to an operational state within a reasonably short period.”

A good definition in my opinion but maybe not that clear for some. Simply put, BC is planning for the worst thing that can happen. By reading this blog you’ll soon figure out that doing so is not so easy.

It has only been a few months since I was introduced to the concept of BC by RESCO Belgium but in that time I have learned that its importance cannot be overestimated. I believe that the business people of today and tomorrow need to be aware that not every day will be “business as usual”. That’s the beauty of the BC field, it is about focusing on the day that business will not go as planned by keeping in touch with “business as usual”.

On this Blog I’ll describe to you the most interesting developments in the BC field. I won’t bore you with theoretical frameworks but will use real life cases to make sure you’ll get acquainted with the basics of BC.

For professionals: You realized that your organization needs professional business continuity services? Don’t hesitate to contact RESCO Belgium or visit the website: http://rescobelgium.com/nl/home

Bert Cuyt – Junior business continuity consultant at RESCO Belgium.