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Preparing Your IT Team for Crisis and Building Resilience

IT team

Solutions Review’s Contributed Content Series is a collection of contributed articles written by thought leaders in enterprise software categories. Josh Stephens of BackBox walks us through some best practices to train and prepare your IT team for crisis situations.

In today’s rapidly changing world, organizations face various crises that can disrupt their operations, from natural disasters to human-created incidents. For an IT team, being prepared for such crises is crucial to ensure business continuity and mitigate the skyrocketing costs of outages. Last year, a staggering 25 percent of organizations reported that their most recent outage cost them over $1 million, with an additional 45 percent indicating costs between $100,000 and $1 million. With more than two-thirds of all outages costing more than $100,000, the business case for robust IT resilience is becoming increasingly compelling.

In this article, I will explore the best practices for preparing an IT team for crisis situations and highlight the key considerations that often go overlooked.

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Preparing Your IT Team for Crisis and Building Resilience

Embrace Fire Drills for Effective Preparation

The most effective way to prepare an IT team for a crisis is through simulated fire drills or, as we call them in the military, Operational Readiness Exercises (OREs). I got my first taste of this while serving in the U.S. military, where operational exercises often include simulating bombing attacks and other large-scale disasters. By simulating crisis situations and going through the motions of service restoration and recovery, organizations can identify gaps and areas that need improvement.

In many ways, OREs sound like common sense, but the reality is that many organizations have elaborate resilience plans collecting dust on a shelf. Theoretically, they look good on paper, but an untested plan is about as good as having no plan when a real crisis hits. Periodic, realistic OREs allow IT teams to refine their response processes, document lessons learned, and enhance their crisis management strategies. Continuously repeating OREs will help teams stay prepared and agile.

Appoint a Disaster Recovery (DR) Leader

To ensure effective planning and execution, it is vital to appoint a Disaster Recovery (DR) leader. This individual should possess a solid IT background, understand the challenges involved, and have strong project management skills, as they are responsible for coordinating the recovery of the organization’s critical systems and data. Additionally, the DR leader should possess business acumen, as the ultimate goal is to maintain business continuity rather than simply focusing on technical recovery.

Engage Key Stakeholders

While the DR leader plays a crucial role, it is equally important to involve representatives from each IT team or discipline, as well as key stakeholders from critical business units. Collaborating with these individuals ensures that the disaster recovery plans are comprehensive, align with business needs, and address the specific requirements of various departments. Continue to reinforce that the ultimate objective is not just to get back to “business as usual”, but to ensure “business continuity”. This collaborative effort fosters a shared understanding of the recovery process and enhances overall preparedness.

Tailor Plans for Different Crises

Different crises require specific approaches and strategies. For example, some outages may only affect the data network, but other outages may kill power and/or your water supply. Understanding and documenting which of these scenarios you’ll be equipped for, and which will be out of scope, is an important part of the disaster recovery planning process.

It is also essential to develop separate plans for different potential crises and store them in separate physical folders, in addition to electronic copies. While electronic access is crucial, physical documentation provides a tangible backup and is easily accessible in situations where digital systems may be compromised. Prioritize the importance of these plans by recognizing the value of having physical copies for critical times.

Addressing the Human Element

While IT professionals often excel at the technical aspects of disaster recovery planning, they sometimes overlook the human side of the equation. During a crisis, it is improbable to have the entire IT team available to assist with recovery efforts. Recognizing this limitation and planning accordingly is critical. Document knowledge gaps, cross-train team members, and develop contingency plans to ensure continuity even when resources are limited. As employee turnover happens, ensure new resources are brought in to join the team and that they receive the proper training. Investing in the development of a resilient team will bolster your organization’s crisis response capabilities.

Document Performance Evaluation Metrics

Incorporate scorecards as part of the disaster planning process to evaluate performance during OREs. These metrics should focus on key areas such as response time, accuracy, and adherence to established procedures. By regularly assessing performance, organizations can identify strengths and weaknesses, make informed adjustments, and continuously improve their crisis response capabilities. Embrace an agile mindset that allows for ongoing refinements to achieve optimal preparedness.

Final Thoughts

Preparing an IT team for crisis situations is essential for ensuring business continuity and minimizing the impact of disruptions. By embracing OREs, appointing a DR leader, involving key stakeholders, tailoring plans for different crises, addressing the human element, and documenting performance evaluation metrics, organizations can fortify their IT teams and enhance their readiness to overcome unexpected challenges. Remember, the journey to resilience is an ongoing process of improvement, adaptation, and collaboration.

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