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Shape of things to come

Shape of things to come

Avian flu, terrorism and climate change are just a few of the disaster scenarios that will be discussed in London this week during Survive's 17th Annual Conference. Founded in 1989 and with more than 3,000 members, Survive is a leading forum for expertise and information exchange among business continuity management practitioners. BIE spoke with Survive's chief executive Lorraine Lane about the main issues affecting the profession.

Q: What are the business continuity risks of most concern at the moment?

A: The threat of a flu pandemic is a serious threat on the radar of most companies at the moment. Security of information and data is also becoming a hot issue. We have seen lots of security breaches in recent weeks, particularly concerning financial institutions. Globalization is also producing business continuity risks, particularly in relation to supply chain issues. Companies are now beginning to check that their suppliers also have business continuity plans.

Terrorism continues to be an issue. The events of July 7, 2005 (when a series of terrorist bombs exploded across London's transportation networks) made companies more aware of the impact of terrorism and the duty of care they owe employees. Employees have high expectations that their place of work will be safe.

Q: What has influenced the growth of business continuity planning?

A: Business continuity planning has its roots in information technology. The development of information technology was the first time companies started to think about backing up data. During the last few years, events which have made companies alert to the importance of business continuity plans include the threatened "Y2K" or "Millennium Computer Bug" and of course September 11, 2001 and July 7, 2005.

Interest in continuity planning and crisis management has increased dramatically in recent years, with pressure also coming from government and shareholders. Recent changes in financial and management reporting mean that companies have to include business continuity risks in their annual reports.

Q: Who in an organization is responsible for business continuity planning?

A: Large companies tend to have a manager specifically responsible for business continuity; some even have whole departments looking at the issue. In smaller companies, the person responsible can include the financial director, risk or insurance manager or company secretary.

Q: What future developments will impact business continuity planning?

A: One of the biggest developments will be the publication later this year of a new British Standards Institution standard in business continuity. Survive has been working closely with the BSI in the development of the new BS 25999, which will provide a business continuity benchmark for companies of all sizes. The standard will be one of the most thorough of standards available and could lead the way towards a commonly-recognized international standard.