by David Rosenbaum

Business Continuity: Be Prepared for a Bad Moment

Jul 31, 20073 mins
IT LeadershipSecurity

If you wait to plan for disaster, chances are you'll be too late.

In Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon, detective Sam Spade takes a moment to tell a story that has very little to do with the black bird, the Fat Man or, really, anything else in the novel.

A man, Spade relates, walking down the street, is almost killed by a brick falling from a building. Reflecting on his narrow escape, the man decides to change his life. He leaves his wife, moves to another city, gets another job. In a few years, Spade says, the man marries a woman very much like his first wife, finds a job very much like the one he left and is in all ways living a life indistinguishable from the one he was so determined to change.

The point, Spade said, is that the man responded to a world that included bricks falling from the sky and then got used to a world in which they did not.

Which brings me (in an admittedly roundabout way) to Associate Staff Writer C.G. Lynch’s excellent story, “Smash-Up: How a Violent Car Crash Provided Lessons in Business Continuity and Succession Planning.”

Alan Boehme, CIO of Juniper Networks, had a business continuity and succession plan that was probably just as good as the one you have now. Then, on a California highway, his car was hit by a drunk driver. In the aftermath, the shortcomings of his plan—which are probably similar to your plan’s shortcomings—were revealed.

Today, disaster and succession planning have moved way up the list of Boehme’s priorities, and he’s incorporating many of the lessons he learned a very hard way.

He’s optimizing and automating what was largely a paper-based system; he’s making sure that his lower-level IT employees make connections in other areas of the business; and perhaps most important, he’s fostering management training beneath the managerial ranks. As Forrester analyst Sam Bright says, “When attrition occurs, you can’t take the time to catch people up.”

“When you think of business continuity and disaster recovery, you tend to think of earthquakes and tornadoes,” Boehme says. Today, he thinks about what can happen to a person in a bad moment. It’s likely that Boehme, who is now reacting to a world that includes personal disasters, will not revert to thinking about a world that does not. CIOs owe it to their organizations to budget for the fragility of existence before they’re forced to confront it. A way to start is to check out “ABC: An Introduction to Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Planning.”