Gartner critical of current business continuity plans

Organizations need to improve the management of their business continuity-of-operations plans, a Gartner analyst said today.

Regional planning continues to be weak, said Roberta Witty, vice president of research at Gartner Research’s information security and privacy group, at the 2006 Gartner IT Summit in Washington, D.C.

“You’re not in charge of a regional event,” Witty said. Organizations must notify all levels of government and establish a dialogue with them before any event occurs, she added.

She cited a recent Gartner survey that found nearly three out of four respondents – 72 percent – said they did not include federal, state and local authorities in their 2005 planning efforts, an increase from 65 percent in 2004.

More respondents are putting business continuity management under the control of their chief operating officers: 12 percent in 2005, an increase from 11 percent in 2004, the survey found. More organizations are making their chief information officers responsible: 30 percent in 2005, an increase from 28 percent in 2004.

Gartner is a little concerned about the CIO trend, Witty said; its analysts recommend COOs oversee business continuity management because they are responsible for daily operations.

The Gartner survey found that only half of the respondents use business continuity management software. More respondents are using automated software for business continuity management planning — as much as 36 percent in 2005, an increase from 27 percent in 2004.

Organizations can use automated emergency communications tools that reach out to employees via phone, pager, e-mail, fax and personal digital assistant, Witty said. The better tools allow employees to respond electronically so organizations can tell which of them can respond.

Two main vendors, ESI and NC4, offer incident management tools, Witty said. Most of their customers are government agencies, with a few flagship private-sector facilities such as Disney World, she added.

Organizations must also plan for a potential pandemic, Witty said. Preparations to deal with as much as 50 percent of an organization’s workforce that is out of the office or nonactive during a pandemic is different from planning what to do if a facility is offline or destroyed, she said.

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