Learning Business Continuity Can Improve Information Technology Professional Skills

BrandPost By Seema Sheth-Voss
Apr 16, 20154 mins
Disaster Recovery

As an information technology professional, learning business continuity could help improve your professional skills.

I meet with clients across a variety of infrastructure, operations and security roles. They tell me that leaders are expected to achieve perfection in one particular domain – say database administration or application security. But that’s just the table stakes! Information technology leaders struggle with the touchy-feely organizational issues – how to grow individuals to become organizational problem solvers and strategic partners to the business. They would never guess how learning business continuity (BC) could actually help develop their professional skills.

I just returned from our BC regional user group sessions and it struck me that BC is a great place to gain some of these soft skills. The scope of the BC role has increased dramatically over the past few years. While it’s true that compliance is the primary driver, BC now touches critical aspects of the business and risk management.

So here are three reasons why aspiring IT infrastructure, operations and security professionals should consider a stint in BC.

Gain breadth and build your network Effective strategy and plan development requires considerable engagement with the business and IT leaders across your organization – every division, department, and even subsidiaries or partners. BC provides a great opportunity to learn a lot about every part of your organization – marketing, sales, finance, product development, services, and support — and to understand how IT enhances these functions.

Of course, getting these groups to actively engage in your efforts is the number one challenge BC program managers face. Still, the rewards of having the patience to truly understand the motivations of your business counterparts are immense.

And it’s a two-way street. You need the business’s insight to run a robust resiliency program. But the line-of-business leaders also gain a trusted partner in IT who gets the big picture –a realistic understanding of the current IT and business architecture. BC pros often reluctantly end up being the “go-to person” because their data becomes the plan of record for a particular business process. Perhaps it’s time to lose that reluctance and think about how else we can help our businesses with the insights we do have.

Develop holistic insights about business processes BC and DR experts tend to concentrate on what could go terribly wrong. This gives them an interesting perspective on what ought to be right! Many company processes are plagued by the management-by-exception mindset!

For example, one manufacturing conglomerate had six variants of their supplier payables process. Exceptions hinder predictability and consistency in a recovery situation. Only the lone recovery expert was able to raise his hand and show how 85% of the tasks could be consolidated. The result was significant cost savings – not just for training and the DR program, but also for the business process as a whole. This process mind-set becomes helpful down the road when we take on broader initiatives at higher levels in the business.

Develop executive presence and negotiation skills: Have you ever conducted a risk assessment or business impact analysis with senior business line executives? Dealt with large egos or the “my business is special” mentality?

A stint in BC is an excellent place to hone managing-up skills and to learn the give and take of communication and negotiation. The underpinning of a resiliency program is ultimately risk management. Delivering not-so-great news, reprioritizing initiatives or, more importantly, pushing for mitigating actions is a part of the job.

At the same time, a security or IT pro can have the most crucial insight on say, a critical application outage that allows them to identify threats or security attacks and highlight risks to the business. But they’re not equipped to understand what the production environment needs to look like and how to resume IT operations. BC experts know how to get things done – how to make the phone calls, trade the favors, and perform all the urgent tasks that have to happen behind the scenes. BC experts thus are an excellent complement to the security and risk professionals in their business.

So there you have it – a stint in business continuity or your company’s resiliency center of excellence (if you have one) is an excellent way to understand the entire business, build your network and learn how to negotiate to get things done. I’d love to hear your comments and war stories!

This article was originally published on Forbes.