September 11 taught us many things, among them that worst-case scenarios can actually come to pass. Companies large and small now understand the need to prepare for sudden and unpredictable events. During the past year, most organizations have solidified and updated their business continuity plans, and many have established backup systems and emergency response teams, expanded remote connectivity and relocated data centers. Most companies now see e-mail and emergency contact information as "mission critical," and have accepted instant messaging and Web-mail as legitimate alternatives when corporate systems are disabled. Executives know that their companies' intellectual assets need to be archived, that backup systems cannot keep companies in business without careful planning and verification, and that contingency plans can only be effective if they are thorough, current, well-communicated and well-rehearsed.

This month's research study showed that 71 percent of IT executives feel confident that they could continue operations in the event of an attack. But no company can address the potential risks for everything and everyone, multiplied by thousands of systems and processes. It is every CIO's responsibility to rethink the risks his or her company faces on a regular basis.

This month's five-phase whiteboard, developed by Lisa Stambaugh and Stuart Robbins, provides a management tool for tackling the problem of business continuity planning. It focuses on the difficult process of prioritizing systems and processes in terms of their importance in keeping your business operating smoothly and safely, rather than on the broader and ultimately weightier human and institutional issues. IT executives and their teams can use the whiteboard to evaluate and improve their existing business continuity plans or simply jump-start their first one.

Lisa Stambaugh is principal of Collective Discovery Inc., a Fremont, Calif.-based consultancy specializing in business process modeling and analysis (www.collectivediscovery.com). Stuart Robbins is the founder and executive director of the CIO Collective (www.cio-collective.com), and founder and managing partner of KMERA Corporation (www.kmera.com). The authors and editors also wish to thank Kim Hoover, the former CIO of Ziff Davis Media, for his help in developing this whiteboard.

This article was originally published on 09-16-2002
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