IT strategy and tactics should align with business strategy and tactics. If you have made a plan for IT to support the business, you should have scheduled replacements for hardware and software. You should also have support and training for your people. It doesn’t matter if people are digital natives, if everything is in the cloud, or if your needs are simple. You need a road map for what should be done to support IT needs, and have daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual tasks that you perform.
We are amazed at the number of companies that are simply reactive to IT needs and failures, thinking that this is the least costly way to operate. Again, think about your down-time costs. How much does it cost your organization per hour when staff can’t work? What factors are beyond your control where you can take actions to prevent outages?
Let’s illustrate this approach to planning with one simple safety net approach. Let’s say you are hosting QuickBooks from one of the many reputable hosting providers. How difficult would it be for you to have a local weekly or monthly backup of every QuickBooks file that is hosted? Note that if communication lines don’t work or the hosting company has an infection and can’t operate for a period of time, having a copy of the QuickBooks file could allow you to continue to operate, run a payroll, or perform some other mission critical task. Doesn’t this safety net seem worthwhile?
Note the thinking: Plan to be self-sufficient!
We mitigate risk by purchasing insurance. When was the last time you reviewed your overall insurance strategy? Today, businesses need insurance for CyberSecurity breaches, business continuity, theft, and large-scale disasters. What is included or excluded in your current policies? What documentation is needed to file claims? Should you have a current hardware and software list? Can your rates be lowered by taking certain actions? Do you have enough coverage? With today’s risks, Cyber Insurance is no longer optional.
Note the thinking: Review your insurance coverage before you need it!
Oh, la, la! Training of users is frequently ignored as too expensive or too ineffective. But you can fix that! Determine the topics that need to be covered with your users. We know time is wasted in the productivity applications of email, spreadsheets, and word processing — as well as in vertical accounting applications. Consider other topics such as security, incident response, and business continuity. What about business development, client service, and other mission-critical areas? If you start a training program, you’ll realize quickly that ignorance costs and training pays!
Note the thinking: Training done right always pays!
You have probably noted that there is no “silver bullet” for business continuity. The closest thing to a silver bullet is the backup appliance noted above. Some people believe that cloud computing is a silver bullet, but based on the costs and performance for most organizations, it seems more like a gold bullet. Cloud computing can certainly help with business continuity, but it is rarely the lowest cost approach, it is not always reliable, and rarely is it the fastest option available. Furthermore, when there is a failure, you have no control on remediation or recovery.
Your business continuity plan should include what to do with your people when no work can be completed on computers. In other words, how do you operate on full manual procedures?
Our thinking on business continuity is that you should have a plan that makes your business operational in less than 15 minutes, and that you should have performed enough planning that the emergency remediation is largely under your control. If the situation is particularly bad, you may have to declare a disaster and put your disaster plan into full use. However, for day-to-day business continuity needs, you should be able to operate without anyone from the outside being able to determine that you are having operational issues. If you can continue running, no matter what, you will have a handle on business continuity.
Note: Have you had any down time in the past year? Have you taken any action to make sure that doesn’t happen again? If your firm needs guidance on business continuity, Accountex can connect you with resources to help you make the right decisions.