Election Blues for Business Continuity


 The Continuity Forum asks "Will the election impact on Business Continuity?"


As we enter the final few days of the various political parties campaigning we asked the question are there any implications to the business continuity profession. Over the past 13 years we have seen our profession transform from a relatively small niche specialisation to a far more widely understood professional discipline. Much of this has been achieved with the support of central government, through the Cabinet office and its civil contingencies Secretariat a huge amounts of development and promotion has been undertaken. This has transformed the landscape for those businesses working within the field and certainly helped those working to promote business continuity significantly.


It is not just central government though that deserves our thanks, though their support has proved to be a powerful catalyst in generating a regional and more local spread of a positive message for Business Continuity Management. Across the country Local Authorities and other public sector bodies have been encouraged to work to boost the local resilience of their communities. The progress made over the past 10 years through these combined efforts should not be underestimated, the challenges faced have been difficult, but a simple review of the  capabilities  across the United Kingdom  shows the success achieved.


The U.K.’s has built a reputation in this field and we are clearly seeing as world leaders, but will this remain the case?


The British people will be deciding on their government in the next few days, whilst we have no particular political affiliation, we do have sincere concerns around the scale of potential cutbacks forecast in public funding for business continuity initiatives. In the Cabinet office’s own report published just last month its new director for civil contingencies reported that fewer than 50% of our largest business groups and organisations were prepared to cope with business interruption. The figures for small business was much worse.


Clearly the current levels of government debt require serious reduction and to achieve this there will be serious cutbacks in public spending, the Continuity Forum urges though great care should be exercised in how these cuts are applied to business continuity and resilience projects. The results may be that rather than developing our capability to weather the storms, we end up less able, and that this will ultimately end up costing us all significantly more.


In just over 12 months we have had two serious weather incidents that caused widespread disruption to the country. Many local services were strained and Highway Authorities had to carefully manage their salt stocks in order to keep main roads working, for many people getting to work became a serious challenge. Schools closed and many businesses struggled to operate.  A lot was leaned through the experience and we are sure that most public bodies would be looking to increase their capability to cope , but we certainly feel and are already getting indications  that cutbacks will impact on Local Authority planning and resources.


In 2009 we also saw the spectre of an influenza pandemic arise, whilst we were lucky this time as H1N1 has so far has proven to be far more mild than expected, there is no certainty at all that this will be the case in the future. Indeed, we may now see fewer resources invested in pandemic protection measures for the future. We would take this opportunity to remind people that the recent pandemic bears little relationship to the potential of Avian Influenza “H1N1” and there were certainly many reasons to be more than a little concerned at how quickly the UK (in certain areas) was affected by the ‘mild’ pandemic. Should a full-scale avian flu pandemic occur will we have the resources in place to cope? Will the quest of the public sector cuts select these types of investments? Well we will have to wait and see.


There are also questions to be asked to politicians about the role of legislation, the banking crisis was brought about by a failure to manage risk, how do the different parties see the connection between risk and business continuity? Is the relationship fully understood and is the value clear to those in business?


Well after 10 years of progress we still have less than 50% of our businesses having developed effective continuity planning, it seems that a significant number the choice could be said to be “jam today, but no protection for tomorrow”. Getting the correct balance between legislation, regulation, corporate responsibility and frankly a moral duty to stakeholders has been a difficult challenge and one that continues. Hopefully whoever comes to power in the next few days will realise that there is an opportunity, one that affects the business continuity sector directly, but also one that points to the well-being of our broader communities.


Investment in public sector continuity, the promotion of BCM to businesses and organisations of all types must be sustained, not to do so risks far more than just a little disruption. Momentum has been gained over a decade that has placed us at the forefront of continuity and resilience thinking, should this momentum be lost it may take us another 10 years to reclaim the ground we could so easily lose.


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