Editor's Note: Welcome to SmartAdvice, a weekly column by The Advisory Council (TAC), an advisory service firm. The feature answers two questions of core interest to you, ranging from career advice to enterprise strategies to how to deal with vendors. Submit questions directly to [email protected]
Question A: What should be included in a "state of the art" business-continuity plan?
Our advice: A comprehensive business-continuity plan must enable you to survive as a legal and financial entity in case of disaster. To do this, the plan must address all of the key assets that are necessary to continue operations -- people, process, information, and facilities, as well as technology.
At the executive level, lines of succession should be included in your corporate charter and board of directors meeting minutes, so that there's no question about who is empowered to make what decisions.
Finally, plans should include training and drills in the continuity plan itself.
All business processes should be documented. Should the need arise to train new employees, well-written processes will accelerate that training. If it should become necessary to outsource an operation while you're rebuilding your infrastructure, the processes can be used to train outsourced staff as well.
Much of the corporate information required to maintain the enterprise as a legal and financial entity is still paper based, requiring appropriate document-image backup technologies. If you have questions about the documents that may be vital to your recovery, you should discuss them with your corporate counsel or law department. This typical Records Retention Schedule [http://www.fileon.com/documents/records-retention-schedule.html] can be used as a starting point.
Computerized information generally protected includes customer and supplier databases, bills of material, financial databases, and human-resource databases. But key information some manufacturing companies forget includes engineering drawings, product specifications, and equipment specifications and settings.
The business-continuity plans of many enterprises deal with physical facility protection as just that -- protection. A state-of-the-art plan, however, should include having agreements in place for occupying other locations from which business can be conducted for an extended period of time.
Most businesses have plans in place to back-up essential data. And most, if not all, have installed firewalls to prevent unauthorized access to their systems. But recognizing the vulnerability of data centers to physical damage, businesses should establish relationships with outsourcers that provide disaster-recovery hot sites.
Backup facilities should be on different power and communications grids than your data center. To protect your day-to-day operations, you also should have redundant network connections, through different service providers. Authorized employees should have access through a virtual private network not only to E-mail, but to business applications.
A final word: Having any plan is better than having no plan at all. But no matter how simple or complex your plan may be, test it. That's the only way you will know if it meets your needs.
Question B: Which interpersonal skills are most important in an IT leader's career?
Our advice: The common denominator of all leaders, managers, and followers is working with people. It's those "soft skills" that you must master.
So, here's my "Top 10" list of interpersonal skills:
Developing these skills will draw upon your natural talents and will take constant practice. First, know yourself. Then, instead of judging others, try to understand them. Where there's mutual understanding, there are successful interpersonal relationships.
Ron Bleiberg, TAC Expert, has more than 25 years of increasingly senior responsibility and experience in the areas of consulting management and delivery, disaster-recovery planning, document-management systems, and total-quality management. His primary focus is working with clients to develop strategic business plans, identify opportunities for the use of state-of-the-art techniques to improve client-interaction capabilities, revenue and profitability, and the solutions associated with those efforts. He is VP of products and services at FileOn, a document-management vendor.
Bart Bolton, TAC Thought Leader, has more than 30 years experience leading the consulting arm of a major IT equipment manufacturer. He is recognized as one of the country's leading experts on building effective organizations. His specific areas of expertise include development and documentation of "Best Practices", individual and organizational development, and change management.