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Key Learning Points from the Scottish Continuity Groups Seminar on the 4th February 2020

Author: Charlie Maclean Bristol, Training Director, FBCI, FEPS

Charlie discusses the key learning points he took away from the Scottish Continuity Groups Seminar he attended at Dynamic Earth in Edinburgh.

This week I attended the Scottish Continuity Groups Seminar at Dynamic Earth in Edinburgh and thought I would share a slightly random selection of the main points I took away from the event. As always, there was a good turnout, with 260 people booked to attend the event and a waiting list for those who couldn’t get a place.

So, my first point is that resilience/business continuity is in robust health in Scotland. The other points I learned are as follows:

1. Coronavirus – If you haven’t already, you need to put out some communications to your staff, to say that, as an organisation, you are monitoring the situation and they will be informed if any further precautions are required to be taken. I also suggest that in the background you should be preparing your organisation’s plans, so if there is a sudden increase in cases; you are prepared and have thought through the possible actions you should take in response to the virus. If there is a sudden call from your top management to ask what actions your organisation should be taking, you don’t want to be caught out and say you have done nothing because nobody told you to. So, get out there and start planning, there is tons of advice on the internet, so with a bit of reading you can become an ‘expert’ on coronavirus within a couple of days.

2. Coronavirus – David Hutcheson of Glen Abbott made a good point that there is a lot of rubbish out on the internet on coronavirus and there is a great deal of scaremongering carried out by the newspapers, so if you are doing your research make sure you use recognised sourced, such as the WHO, to get your information.

3. Coronavirus – (last point!) Have you taken into account your planning, your vulnerable staff or those with underlying health issues who may be much more susceptible to the virus? Do you know who they are and should you do something different for them, such as take additional precautions or send them home for the duration of any pandemic?

4. Crisis Communications - Jim Preen told us in his talk ‘The Medium is the Message’:
a. Nobody is as angry as they are on Twitter
b. No one is as happy as they appear on Facebook
c. Nobody is as successful as they say on Linked In

He also said that you need to take these points into account when responding using these different channels. I like this point, but I think he missed a bigger point on ‘The Medium is the Message’, that in crisis communication how you communicate with someone says as much about how you value them as the actual message you send. If you have an incident which stops you delivering your product or service to your most important client, a personal phone call to their CEO from your CEO conveys a lot more concern and care than a generic email sent to all those on your customer list.

5. Capability Assessment – I am not that familiar with the way Sky do their business continuity, but I have always known they do it slightly different to the rest. I missed half of Steve Parkinson’s (Head of Operational Resilience at Sky), presentation “People over plans…building a practical resilience approach”, but at the end of the talk he described the capability assessment he has developed and shared with senior managers. I have always believed that business continuity managers must be brutally honest with senior managers in terms of what is in place and the organisation’s ability to recover. Too often I think people are not honest about what the impact of a major incident would be and the organisation’s ability to continue to deliver its services. To tell the truth might lead to difficult questions and so being vague about capability suits all. As a consultant, I think telling it as it is, is a key part of your job. Only when senior managers know of their gaps can they decide to either invest in filling the gaps or make a managed risk decision by not doing anything further, on the understanding they know the consequences if a particular incident occurs. I really liked Steve’s idea of producing a ‘capability statement’ and focusing on protecting the customer experience and not focusing on a very granular level and looking at all the activities singularly in isolation. I feel I would like to see more and really understand how they do it. They also do an impressive amount of exercising with senior managers; I can’t remember how often exercises are conducted, but at least several times a year. Much better than the two/three hour annual exercise which many organisations carry out.

6. Cyber - Professor Bill Buchanan’s talk on “The Key Risks around IOT, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth” was as interactive as ever and consisted of views of his sitting room from his internet enabled cat feeder as he discussed the dangers of Bluetooth, internet enabled devices and facial recognition. Always brilliant, scary and entertaining!

Till next year!

You might be interested in the following stories

Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) - Should we panic?

Pandemic Planning - What is a Pandemic Operating Regime, and do I need one?

Crisis communications, a dark art?

You may be interested in the following course

BCI Incident Response and Crisis Management course

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