Business Continuity management (BCM) has become a very important aspect of good corporate governance and has become a part of best practice recommendations in various countries. However, in Africa, BCM is still in its infancy, and is nonexistent in a few African countries.
It is crucial to separate Africa from the rest of the world because the continent has its unique set of challenges that could disrupt business at any time. Think of draught, poor supply chain infrastructure, political instability, bureaucracy and industrial actions. Furthermore, power disruption and pandemics such as HIV/AIDS also have impacts on workers, is a real concern in Africa.
Many organisation leave BCM until a crisis. BCM is simply the ability to maintain operations and services during a disruptive event. It provides a framework for building organisational resilience with the capacity for an effective response that safeguards the interest of key stakeholders, reputation, brand and value creating activities.
Remember the Blackberry outage in October 2011? That is a good example of poor Business Continuity Management. It appears that the most recent service outage will no doubt have a long term impact on Research in Motion (RIM). The poor crisis response contributed to the drop of its Smartphone market share from 19% year earlier to 12% in 2011.
The lack of BCM is not a story about Africa unwilling to follow the rest of the world, but the story of how Africa lacks awareness, leadership and standardisation. Some central banks on the continent are beginning to take matters in their own hands by creating their own BCM guidelines for the banking community in their country. Countries like Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania and Ghana have all developed a set of standards that can be applied in the African Context.
The next few points will discuss some of the challenges Africa needs to overcome before BCM can become a norm in the private and public sector.
1. Lack of Skills
There are not enough skilled people to meet the continent’s need. The continent needs to promote and invest more on developing graduates and encourage more professionals to learn about the business discipline.
Another challenge Africa is to overcome is the lack of awareness. There is a need for standardisation in the continent that is globally recognised and acceptable. The region as a whole is to be aware of these standards and how important it is to implement effectively.
The successful establishment of BCM has to be embedded in national and organisational cultures by training and education.
With awareness comes understanding of what BCM really is. There are some misconceptions of what BCM is. Many managers think BCM is all about backing up data. No, it not just about backing up data in a remote location. It is a holistic process that identifies potential threats to an organisation and the impact to business operations that those threats, if realised, might cause. BCM is critical to ‘Business As Usual’ it is a benchmark for a resilient organisation.
4. Long term management and maintenance
Even when awareness and understanding is improved through the educational effort of professional BCM companies, the lack of skills limits the effective implementations and maintenance of plans. Consultants often engaged by organisations develop and roll out BCM plans, design an efficient system for them. However the problems occur once the consultants have left. BCM is a continual process that needs to be tested and updated regularly, so training people in BCM skills is crucial for an effective strategy.
Every company is concerned about costs and Business Continuity can be an expensive affair, especially if solutions are created in-house. In many instances, Business Continuity is put on the backburner simply because of the costs involved in setting up a programme. This is the wrong approach to take. If executives consider the expenses involved in creating their Business Continuity plan and then compare it to the amount of money it would take to recover from a serious disaster without such a plan, they would realise that the initial costs are quite reasonable. The Information Warfare Site states that fires permanently close 44 per cent of businesses affected, while after the 1993 World Trade Centre bombing, 150 businesses out of 350 affected (that did not prepare BCM plans) failed to survive the event.
Finally, business continuity process is a necessary sustainability tool for maintaining successful business operations and securing more Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Africa. We have to cultivate the sprit of getting things done, planning for, anticipating and minimising disruptive event. Let us protect our stakeholder.
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