Need a Business Continuity Consultant?

If you're thinking of hiring a business continuity consultant, here are some things to consider.

Business Continuity Planning and Management

Many of the organizations that contact us about business continuity planning already have a BCP that (i) has no life yet, (ii) is on life support, or (iii) is not likely to survive. They desperately want help developing their plan and/or updating and maintaining it. Still often, they don't know where to begin. Over the years, we have worked with many organizations and have developed some insight to help companies figure out what they need and who can best provide it.

Define what you need from a consultant

The best way to get the answers you need from a business continuity consultant is to know what you want. We assume you know what business continuity consulting is but, if you don't, then do a little research to learn something about it. At that point, you may be able to determine what kind of assistance you need with your business continuity plan, risk assessment, or business impact analysis. Any consultant you hire should be able to provide the tools to help guide you toward your specific needs.

Decide whether you are looking for just expertise, an out-of-the-box software solution, or hybrid business continuity services. Then research consulting companies to find three to five that provide the services you think you need and that seem promising. Find out what you can about each consultant's tools and methodology. How will they create the plan? Will they use online tools only and provide little feedback? Or will they use online tools with feedback and support? Or perhaps, a hybrid service such as Plan-A-ware from Attainium, which combines online tools with ongoing consulting, support, and business continuity plan management.

You'll also have to decide how the process will work. Who will oversee selecting a consultant? Will it be a committee? What factors are most critical to your organization in making the final decision -- cost, speed, ease of implementation, etc.?

Making the decision: which business continuity consultant do I hire?

Business Continuity Consulting

After you have selected some consultants and conducted interviews, there are some key factors to consider before making your decision. The first thing: do you like them? I've worked with many different kinds of consultants and have learned to trust my instincts as to whether someone might be a good fit. You also have to consider whether he or she will fit in well with your company culture and can work with various people in the organization, including the C-suite.

Can the consultant provide a complete range of services, including training and mentoring for staff who will work on developing or updating the plan, as well as training for everyone in the organization who needs training? Do they offer ongoing follow up and support? It may not be helpful if they come in, develop a plan, and you never see them again. Are they flexible enough to work with you to customize plans? If they provide software to build a BCP, ask what companies might be using the software and whether you can talk with those who have it in place.

Do the consultants interviewed know your business sector and/or have experience in that type of business? If so, you should get names of some companies they've worked with so you can obtain references from a few of them. If the consultant cannot provide references, this should ring an alarm; why not? Have they done projects for these references that align with what you need? Were the companies satisfied with their work and any follow up that was done?

Does the consultant have education and certification in business continuity? In the US, the most prevalent credentialing organization is DRI International (drii.org). Although BCI (thebci.org) also does credentials, it is more common in the UK than in the US. Because both organizations have thorough credentialing processes, certification from either is a good indication that the consultant is knowledgeable and has the experience to do the job.

Cost and time are two other critical factors. What is the timeline for the completion of your project? Does this take into consideration the availability of your staff and how much of their time might be required? What is the cost estimate, and how does the billing process work? These considerations are similar to agreements you may have with other types and consultants.

Identifying risk and analyzing critical functions

The risk assessment helps you determine what threats and hazards are most likely to impact your business operations and help you focus the plan on preparing for those risks. Risks should be analyzed based on factors like your location, political situation, and the nature of your business. Concentrate on those risks with a likelihood of occurrence and potential consequences in the medium to high range. Any consequence that involves critical injury or loss of life should take precedence over less significant outcomes. It's necessary, therefore, to prioritize the risks as well as identifying the ones to focus on.

Risk & Business Continuity Planning

Conducting a business impact analysis is the first step in establishing those priorities. Your business continuity team (if you have one) has probably identified your company's key business functions. These are the business functions that allow you to remain viable to continue to operate. In other words, what apps and services must you absolutely have, and how quickly do you need them back? If you know that answer, you can more easily prioritize.

A risk assessment and business impact analysis can help determine both your needs and the type of consultant you want. Maybe this is work that has already been done by your organization. If not, any consultant you hire should be able to guide you in completing these processes as well as in developing your plan.

In closing, I'd like to reiterate that fit is essential. Do you comfortable with the consultant? Will they be compatible with your company culture? Do their methodology and process resonate with the way your company does things? Are the timelines reasonable? Will they be available to you on short notice if something comes up? How successful will they be dealing with and briefing the CEO and other executives? It's vital to get the right consultant on board. If you can't quite make up your mind about a consultant, perhaps you could try them out on a smaller piece of business (the risk assessment, maybe?) to see how that works out.

A consulting relationship, like any relationship, should benefit both parties and leave everyone feeling satisfied. Then you'll know you made the right decision


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