Prepare for the worse

According to a survey published by the Chartered Management Institute, many engineering businesses are failing to prepare for disruption, despite evidence outlining the business benefits of disaster planning.


Many engineering businesses are failing to prepare for disruption, despite evidence outlining the business benefits of disaster planning, according to a survey published by the Chartered Management Institute.



The 2006 Business Continuity Management Survey highlights the impact of disasters at home and abroad, including a potential influenza pandemic, and is said to uncover signs of inactivity and complacency.
Although 66 per cent of managers in the engineering sector believe business continuity is viewed as important by their senior management teams, 39 per cent said their organisation has a business continuity plan (BCP) in place.



Organisations in the sector are also failing to rehearse plans as often as they should – only 37 per cent of those with plans test them at least once a year, compared to 52 per cent in 2005. Where rehearsals have taken place, 79 per cent have revealed shortcomings in their plans.


Inanimate objects still dominate business continuity management (IT is covered by 67 per cent of plans) despite organisations admitting a fear of losing people and skills. For example, 91 per cent believe they would suffer disruption caused by higher levels of absenteeism and illness in an influenza pandemic, yet 93 per cent do not have robust plans to cope with this absence.



Forty six per cent perceive terrorist damage as a major threat to business and 25 per cent focus on environmental incidents. This is despite one third of engineering organisations experiencing disruption after the London bombings in July 2005, 11 per cent facing problems as a result of the Buncefield oil explosion and five per cent feeling the impact of the Asian Tsunami.


Only 1 in 10 with plans share these with suppliers and shareholders, while just 1 in 5 communicate this information to customers – despite being cited as key drivers for creating BCPs. And only seven per cent require all suppliers to have a BCP with 37 per cent of organisations requiring only business-critical suppliers to have plans.


Jo Causon, Director, Marketing and Corporate Affairs, Chartered Management Institute, said: “We are now in the seventh year of conducting this research and it is disappointing to see that organisations still fail to manage business continuity effectively. There appears to be a mismatch between perception of the need for business continuity and the reality of little action to prepare and plan. Unless appropriate and effective business continuity processes are thoroughly considered, organisations leave themselves wide open to a variety of threats and potential disruption.”

The research suggests that managers would particularly benefit from guidance on creating a plan, case studies illustrating others’ experiences and guidance on the potential disruptions they face. The Cabinet Office websites, www.pfe.gov.uk and www.ukresilience.info , provide resources for organisations wanting this sort of advice.