Data for the Sake of Data: Are You Loading Too Much Into Your BCP Platform?

As BCP professionals, we constantly struggle with organizing and displaying vast amounts of data from the organization in our BCP tool. Data feeds for Employees, Locations, Applications, and Servers are readily available from all corners of the organization and easy to import into most tools. But we need to stop and ask ourselves: is all that information relevant for a good BC and/or DR program? What guidelines should we use to determine which data to include?

Don’t get me wrong, having so much information readily available is a GREAT problem, but at the same time it can easily overwhelm our users. We should resist the temptation to shower our users with data that is neither relevant nor helpful. For example, how many fields do you have in your HR feed? Is it 10, 15, 150? If you answered the latter, ask yourself if your employees require all of that information during an incident or crisis. They likely only require barebones to make contact with essential personnel as quickly and efficiently as possible to put their plans in place.

It’s our job as BCP Professionals to make the right choice and narrow the focus of this “information overload”.  Including only the appropriate fields in our plans empowers our people to quickly achieve their goals. As an added bonus, the less information points you utilize, the easier it is to keep the information up to date.

I recently came across a great article by Tom Davenport of the Harvard Business Review: “Data is Worthless if You Don’t Communicate It.” While it doesn’t directly apply to BCP, but I’d suggest checking it out to help understand what it means to be “better consumers of data.”

To paraphrase Davenport: don’t let nitty gritty details get in the way of telling a good story with your data.


Effective Contact Management: ‘Hello is anyone there?’

Keeping in contact with personnel is one if not the most critical part of any business continuity or emergency response plan. Effective communications with personnel is a must whether it is an act of terrorism such as an active shooter in the building or an act of God such as severe weather like a hurricane or tornado. How effective your current communication methods are directly affected by your personnel’s contact information?

Many plans contain contact information for employees, but what personal information you have can be more critical than the amount of contact information in an employee’s record. Too many times over the years working with businesses, I have found that their HR data just does not suffice when building a truly effective communications plan.  A lot of the HR data contains an employee’s name and address and their work contact information, which will may not be useful during disruptions after business hours especially if employees are no longer physically in the building or have access to these communication devices.

This is why personal contact information is critical. Recent data shows that 56% of adults and nearly 80% of young adults have smartphones. This means if you have an employee’s personal cell and email address you have a much greater capability of reaching critical and non-critical personnel outside of business hours.  Smartphones are an integral part of most people’s lives as they are used for communications such as phone and email, but also for social media and just about everything else under the sun at this point.

I have often warned organizations that having a contact record for a person this does not mean it is an effective communication record. Take a home phone number for example. Like a lot of people, we have a packaged bundle that includes television, Internet, and phone. If you called my home phone, one of three things would happen:

  1. The phone number would appear on the TV screen and faster than a hummingbird’s wing could flap, my kids will hit the exit button to get if off the screen so they can continue watching their TV program.
  2. I will hit the exit button because I have a cell phone which is the only number I use and have never given my home phone number to a single person or business, so whomever is calling is either a solicitor or a person I do not wish to speak too because I have no idea how they got the number as I don’t even know what it is.
  3. We would not hear the phone ring because the single phone we have is cordless and is never used so it’s probably laying next to our bed in back of the nightstand with the battery dead. Don’t get me started on the voicemail for this line—lets just say the number of messages is probably close to the number of decimals in Pi.

I know a lot of people and HR departments are very apprehensive when it comes giving people access to employees’ personal information. In my opinion this information is critical and should be stressed to all parties that the information is only to be used during times of emergency for communication purposes. Keeping this information up to date is a whole other story.