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Building public sector resilience through a low cost continuous improvement model

John Ball, MBCI, describes how taking business continuity training in-house can pay dividends for public sector organizations.

I would like to take a few moments to consider how most organizations, particularly the public sector, approach the training of business continuity, and offer up a low cost, continuous improvement model to push that training further into the organization.
Generally speaking many public sector organizations develop or employ one expert, who is trained to a recognised standard and responsible for business continuity across the organization. In some cases business continuity is combined with emergency planning and risk under the title of ‘resilience manager’. Personally I think that putting three jobs into one is not ideal, however I understand that organizations have to ‘cut their cloth’ according to the pressures they face.

Whatever the setup, and depending on the budget, the business continuity programme will be delivered via a project team, a single manager, or a manager guiding a number of business continuity representatives (in addition to the day job) that receive training as they go along. These are all tried and tested processes, the result of which sees us where we are today. Many organizations aspire to align with ISO 22301 and, consequently, the business continuity programme is driven along those lines.

It is important that business continuity managers should be trained to a high level of expertise. This is a necessary, yet expensive process, but brings with it a measurable return on investment in the form of continued service delivery.

In addition, I think that those members of staff who are given the business continuity plan to develop or update should also be given some formal training to assist them. In my own organization this training took the form of a two day fundamentals course, which was delivered by an outside trainer. This was very successful and properly equipped staff (with some guidance) to produce business continuity plans for their area of work.

This approach worked well, but because of staff moving posts, we found that the following year we had to repeat the process. Again, no bad thing, because those that had moved on took with them a basic knowledge of business continuity into the organization. At year three, we decided that the training costs were becoming prohibitive, but still necessary. Consequently, I gained a teacher training qualification at night school and wrote a fundamentals and plan development course aligned to ISO 22301, which I now deliver to our staff annually.

Senior and middle managers that have attended this course have found that it has improved their knowledge and understanding of business continuity, allowing them to give the correct level of support to staff that are tasked with developing their plan.
The costs associated with this course are minimal, and break down as follows; in house training venue, ‘on costs’, staff salary, two days away from the day job and the price of two business continuity text books given to each student.

The benefits to the organization include:

  • Huge cost savings on outside training;
  • Staff trained to a consistent standard in business continuity;
  • Understanding of the organization’s core values and objectives;
  • Improved awareness of business continuity within the organization;
  • Identifies future experts in business continuity who understand the organization and how it works.

The best time to deliver training of this kind, particularly if you need a working budget to buy books for example, is between January and March. I have found over the years that almost all departments have money that they are looking to spend before the end of March, or face losing it from the following year's budget. Spending some of this money on in house staff business continuity training is a low cost option that will develop staff, and produce long term benefits for the organization.

The author

John Ball, MBCI, is BC Coordinator, Surrey and Sussex Police. He was the winner of the CIR Public Sector BC Manager of the Year 2015. Contact: john.ball@sussex.pnn.police.uk



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Business continuity?

Business continuity can be defined as 'the processes, procedures, decisions and activities to ensure that an organization can continue to function through an operational interruption'. Read more about the basics of business continuity here.

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