Plan B for Businesses
New Business Continuity Planning certificate program addresses the growing need for professionals to manage natural and man-made disasters.
Creating an effective business continuity plan requires plenty of foresight, strategizing and painstaking preparation, putting multiple resources in place to keep the wheels turning and employees safe in the event of every possible emergency scenario — even those you might never see coming.
Many organizations fortified their efforts to deal with increasingly destructive weather events like a hurricane or flooding. And in California, the possibility of The Big One rocking 8.0 destruction is always looming. But an unknown virus literally shutting down the entire world?
Not surprisingly, businesses with the most foresight fared far better than those without during the height of the pandemic. The stakes were exceedingly high, affecting commerce and supply chains as well as lives and livelihoods. Businesses large and small closed or filed for bankruptcy, putting millions out of work.
But there’s an upside, if you could even call it that. Consider it a stress test like no other that exposed flaws in even the best-prepared organizations.
“The pandemic exercised the existing plans and forced those that did not have plans to react in real-time for business survival,” said Joe Layman, advisory committee member for the new UCI Division of Continuing Education (DCE) Business Continuity Planning certificate program. “It exposed gaps in business continuity planning that a tabletop exercise or IT disaster recovery test would not. Going remote exposed possible IT security challenges, employee internet speed issues, work area issues, operational policy and procedures, and more.”
“It was a loud wake-up call for anyone who had been taking continuity planning lightly. Every business is waking up to the realization that they will likely be faced with a risk at some point,” Layman said. Insurance companies, regulatory sectors and vendor partnerships are just a few areas requiring business continuity management programs to lower insurance costs and protect investments.
Many have reacted by strengthening preparation plans and beefing up response and mitigation resources. Suddenly, business continuity planning is front and center. And that means a wealth of new opportunities for anyone looking to enter this field.
“Due to natural and man-made disasters increasing the past several years, the need for business continuity managers has opened the eyes of organizational leaders in all sectors,” Layman said. “The pandemic has heightened the awareness. In speaking with recruiters, they have not seen this level of interest previously. The posted positions begin at the intern level up to VP.”
“The program will provide the foundation… for building a business continuity and IT disaster recovery plan, pandemic response and methodology on incident management.”
Joe Layman, Advisory Committee Member
Manager, Disaster Recovery & Business Continuity, Bright Horizons
Investing in preparation
On a personal level, implementing a strong plan is similar to signing up for an auto insurance policy or roadside service, Layman said. You make the investment, hope that it never has to be used, but it’s a good and essential Plan B to have just in case. And chances are good it will be used at some point.
Business continuity planning is all about paying heed to FEMA’s five basic foundations of emergency management: planning, prevention, mitigation, response, and recovery. When disaster strikes and disruption occurs, there must be a plan in place to relocate employees and resources, while keeping essential business running. And every scenario must be considered, even historically devastating events.
The two hurricanes that leveled Puerto Rico in 2017, Irma and Maria, stand out as a good teaching example, Layman said. He was director of business continuity for a major healthcare provider that had multiple offices across the island territory as well as throughout the continental U.S. All of the locations had continuity plans in place.
If an interruption occurred in Puerto Rico, the work would be completed manually or transferred by use of technology to alternate offices, maintaining continuity of operations. The prospect of storms powerful enough to level the entire island was considered far-fetched, but Puerto Rico was left in ruins, entirely without power and nearly all of its cellphone towers destroyed.
“Puerto Rico is prepared for hurricanes,” Layman said. “However, the thought of a hurricane leveling the island was considered unlikely, similar to not thinking a pandemic would have an impact across the world. The devastation not only impacted the offices, it more importantly impacted employees and families. The lessons learned included updating our plan for business to be conducted in the U.S. and Puerto Rico. Operational staff were cross-trained to support each other during an incident.”
Saving businesses and jobs
The Business Continuity Planning certificate program takes a deep dive into the foundational principles of the job, with an eye to recognizing potential threats and developing a strong Risk Assessment and Business Impact Analysis plan. Students learn how to support employees during an emergency and develop an incident response structure. The program is offered fully online and can be completed in 9-12 months.
It’s intended for a wide range of candidates, including IT and cybersecurity experts. Professionals working in human resources, finance, insurance, supply chain management, legal and more can earn a certificate in this challenging and rewarding field. It can be especially beneficial for government agency employees, as well.
“The DCE Business Continuity Planning certificate program will provide the foundation for companies of all sizes for building a business continuity and IT disaster recovery plan, pandemic response and methodology on incident management,” said Layman, manager, disaster recovery & business continuity for Bright Horizons.
Curriculum stresses the need for building relationships with business leaders in your region, as well as local, state, and federal officials that could supply needed resources and assistance during an emergency.
The program also underlines the importance of including the entire organization in a continuity plan, Layman said. “That includes legal, human resources, risk management, facilities, IT, safety, physical security and more. The certificate program will address each of the disciplines to guide the student to build a business continuity management plan for their sector.”