UK organisations ill prepared for continuity risks

New report finds business longevity, reputation and ability to succeed hampered by lack of information availability and business continuity planning.

A new report has found that the majority of UK organisations are ill prepared to ensure business continuity (BC) and information availability in the event of a disaster or pandemic, like avian flu.

The report, due out next Monday (12 Nov), found just 41 per cent of FTSE 250 companies are fully prepared for forced relocation from their offices, despite the fact that nearly half (47 per cent) of the 30 risk management representatives interviewed for it said more than 24-hours' downtime could seriously jeopardise their entire business's survival.

Business continuity experts today gathered to discuss the report's findings and agreed keeping the balance between people, technology and process management and governance was key to having an effective BC plan in place. Colin Davis, deputy operations director for the British Medical Journal, spoke from personal experience, as one of the 7 July London bus bombs exploded in close proximity to the specialist publisher's headquarter. "Our business continuity planning is represented by IT and operational people," he said. "Product and HR [human resources] teams work with IT to make sure plans are constantly updated and we have always had a direct line through to the board."

In terms of technology, the report points out that the latest trend towards virtualising and consolidating data centre resource can, on one hand, introduce more points of failure but, on the other hand, also increase the business criticality of the resource. Peter Thomson, director of the Henley Management College Future Work Forum, said: "The whole technology supply chain can be seen as vulnerable to all sorts of discontinuities. Organisations must source their IT in a way that enables flexible working and more resilience."

Ian Houghton, continuity and technology manager for insurance giant Royal & SunAlliance, said the British Standards Institute (BSI) code of practice business continuity management standard 25999 would be key to providing a minimum standard for organisations to adhere to when it is published in the New Year. "BSI 25999 represents a clear benchmark, guidelines and directions for companies to assure their business continuity preparedness," said Houghton.

The report points out the new standard is currently the most downloaded BSI standard to date.

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