Monday, 29 September 2014

Outside Now: A Business Continuity Exercise

Just over a month ago I was talking to an experienced BC consultant about exercising ideas for a BCP that had never been tested. One of my main concerns was to facilitate an exercise that each team would remember. This is when I remembered a concept I was told about called ‘Outside Now’.  

This was one of the first times I was running a solo BC exercise based on an entirely new, never thought of BCP. It was really more about ensuring the team realised the need and true value for business continuity rather an exercise I was making everyone do because ‘I have nothing else to do’. (Admit it, there must be once in your lifetime when someone in the Risk department asked you do to something and this thought vaguely came into your mind. Don’t worry I won’t be offended).
Before I digress further, it was time to put the concept of Outside Now to practice.
The scene: Participants arrived at meeting room and got comfortable sitting around a table ready to discuss /test their BCP per the objectives previously agreed.
I thanked all for coming and asked everyone to pretend a fake alarm goes off. I asked ‘what do you do now?’ This first met by a silence and then a participant saying we need to go to the fire assembly point. It was quickly established that few participants thought the emergency evacuation point were at different locations. The best reaction was when I said ‘Ok, let’s go there right now’. On reflection I think they thought I was joking, but excitement soon set in as we walked down the steps to exit the building.
What happened next?  
·         I then gave the scenario of a fire at the office was in fact real and said ‘go’.

·         At the time of the fake incident a participant forgot their mobile.

·         I had one member who came to the meeting with a hot lunch.

·        One action was to send staff to work from home, however those who had a spare laptop at home had realised their citrix fob was locked in their desk.

·        By this time, 40mins in the sharp September breeze was starting to pace up, and with everyone outside with no coats, a hand full of paper, lunch  and shivering cold, the exercise concluded with agreement that the sets of actions written in the plan, based on the scenario were partially different to what actions/decisions being made during the exercise.

After the exercise?
The next day when I came into the office I got a message thanking me to help that team test their plan. They said ‘it was a great way of making us practically think about what we would do if a real emergency took place. It made us think about what would be logistically possible during an emergency situation and as a result our BCP will now be shaped by our practical responses to the situation rather than theory.’
Now that’s a great first exercise I’d say!

                                                                 RISKercizing until next time..