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What will you do when the worst happens?

What will you do when the worst happens?

Arena’s Operations Manager, Neil Maude, has been musing on crisis recovery of late, following news of widespread UK floods. Here he provides his thoughts on how businesses can prepare for the failure of key suppliers and infrastructure.

What’s the worst that could happen?

Not all businesses are so reliant on IT and many could continue without some part of their systems.  But technology is there for a reason – efficiency, customer service etc – and in today’s “hypercompetitive” marketplace it’s a sure thing that if you don’t look after your customers really well, then there’s someone else ready to take that business.  So it’s a wise move to make sure that you have disaster recovery plans in place and consider what you’re going to do when a key system fails.

Further, we’re now all working in an increasingly interconnected world, whether we like it or not.  This brings a reliance on systems that are outside our control.  Failure of your systems may affect not just your customers but also their trading partners and customers.

Interconnectedness of systems is something to think about in terms of the resilience of your business.  If some other part of your environment fails or is unavailable; e.g. power, phones and travel infrastructure – then what impact does this have?  It’s really worth considering these wider aspects of disaster recovery.

What to do when life gives you lemons – A simple 5 Step Business Continuity Plan


The examples above cover a wide range of woes which might affect a business – human errors, system failures, natural disasters and so on. Clearly, not all risks can be mitigated at a practical cost – some are acknowledged and accepted. However, you can do a great deal to plan ahead.  The following are some simple steps that any business can take to cover the basics.

  1.  Nominate a senior manager to take ownership of business continuity and disaster planning.  This is not so you can point a finger at someone if it goes wrong – it’s to make sure that the responsibility is clearly defined and that the issue has senior sponsorship

  2.  Conduct a risk analysis to look at the following things. Determine which are critical and which you can live without:

    Systems: 

    What IT do you have in place and what would you do without it?

    People: 

    Who are your key employees and for each, what would you do if that person didn’t arrive for work tomorrow?

    Processes: 

    For each critical process undertaken by each business unit, where does it ‘touch’ other organisations and what will you do if failure strikes?

    Physical assets:

    How would you cope without a particular building, piece of machinery, stock of paper records or other asset if you suffered a fire or flood, for example?

  3.  Using the results of this analysis, write a disaster recovery plan and publish it to the people who are likely to need it – the line managers in charge of each element.

  4.  Consider your PR response to a public crisis, what you will tell the media if they come knocking, who will be your spokesperson and do they need some specialist training?

  5.  Test your plan – at least once annually and whenever there is a sufficiently large change in the business to warrant a review.

Whilst the pervasive nature of IT brings with it a whole range of issues when it doesn’t work, technology also brings the tools to work around many problems.  Data can be secured for guaranteed availability even if a primary location is damaged, and remote working can address access issues or bad weather, whilst robust processes should mitigate the risk of human error.

About Neil Maude

Electronic Document Management General Manager
Tel: 0800 863 8000 | Email: neilM@arenagroup.net

Neil joined the Arena Group in 2006 and has almost 20 years of experience in the electronic document management industry, working with both private and public sector customers.  Neil sits on Arena’s board of directors and manages the delivery operations of Arena’s EDM business.  His team spend their time developing software, implementing solutions for customers and providing after-sales software support services, both in the UK and internationally.

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