Some of the greatest challenges in incident management stem from the unpredictability of an ongoing situation and concurrent communication shortfalls. The ability to establish a quick and effective response through a real-time, transparent management process improves response time, reduces impacts, and provides the best opportunity for the implementation of a Business Continuity Plan (BCP).
An incident or emergency scenario that activates an Incident Management Plan can also spur the activation of a BCP. Both incident commanders and BCP team leaders need timely, yet accurate information to assess necessary response requirements. When incidental impacts and response scenarios are effectively communicated, the outcome can greatly support both incident management efforts and continuity of operations initiatives.
A BCP that is guided by a functional incident management process can provide the information to enact necessary continuity processes. In order to be effective to business continuity leaders, Incident Management Systems need to include a means to provide the following:
- Initial Response Statistics - Employees should be able to obtain essential information in real-time. This allows responders to provide swift and appropriate resolutions to the current or escalating scenario(s). Having the ability to establish an intuitive, customizable system is a key component of incident management.
- Reporting - To improve responses to an ongoing process, incident commanders must be able to quantify the response based on accurately reported information. In incident management, this means the process of providing and receiving current, real-time information and customizing an appropriate response. Necessary information that can assist in an effective response includes:
- Actual response times
- Initial response actions and resolutions
- Incident command position roles and responsibilities
- Incident planning /follow up assignments
- Action status (Assigned, Delayed, Overdue, Complete)
- Sustained response actions
- Review proceedings (Examine overall performances and processes.)
- Feedback - After an incident has been resolved, the company should solicit honest feedback from responders, regulators, and employees. This may highlight areas for improvement in your incident management process.
When multiple plans are concurrently enacted, communication failures, rumors, and speculation can escalate, affecting the functionality and effectiveness of the response. Real-time system mechanisms with automated dynamic workflows can greatly improve incident response, continuity opportunities, and corporate viability. Incident management information, considering existing incident response capabilities, response measures, and history can assist business continuity leaders in determining the best path towards continuity or restoration. This specific information includes, but is not limited to the following criteria:
- Incident Timing - If an interrupting incident occurs during high-output timeframes, continuity priorities and process implementation should be amplified in order to limit operational and financial impacts.
- Likelihood Level - Based on accurate and timely incident impact information, the business continuity team can decipher how likely the incident will affect each critical business unit, suppliers’ availability, or set deliverables.
- Duration and recovery time - Determine if the incident duration and demobilization efforts will impact and/or impair critical operational processes. Based on this information, processes and alternate facilities may be necessary to account for maximum allowable downtimes. This will allow for recovery time of specific critical processes under existing capabilities and, if possible, potentially altered conditions.
- Staffing minimums - Identify available staffing levels and whether the number meet minimum requirements to meet typical daily productivity goals, as well as recovery time objectives.
- Operational Impacts -Determine how the incident affects and will affect operations Functions that may be affected include, but are not limited to:
- Lost sales and income
- Negative cash flow resulting from delayed sales or income
- Increased expenses due to overtime, outsourcing or other operations that increase costs
- Regulatory fines and legal implications
- Contractual penalties or loss of contractual bonuses
- Customer dissatisfaction or withdrawal
- Delay of business plan execution or strategic initiative
Interoperable communication and coordination among incident commanders and business continuity leaders should be exercised for a swift recovery. If an incident has the potential to impact two or more business processes, it is critical that an effective BCP be enacted. An incident can become a multi-tiered business continuity event that extends beyond the facility borders, affecting personnel, multiple critical business processes, vendors or suppliers, and customers.