Telework: Good policy, better practice

Ask a continuity-of-operations manager for the top three factors in business continuity success, and you’re likely get the answer: “Test, test, test.” However, some COOP veterans say that simulated run-throughs of recovery plans, although important, might not be enough to ensure smooth operations in a real emergency.

“Train the way you fight, and fight the way you train,” said Casey Coleman, chief information officer at the General Services Administration. Coleman said she sees a connection between GSA’s growing telework initiative, in which 20 percent of the agency’s employees regularly work outside the office, and real-world training to reinforce COOP procedures.

“People have begun routinely using [GSA-issued] laptops at home, and that has helped with understanding how to connect and work remotely in a crisis situation,” Coleman said. Widespread telework activity “has also given our IT staff and our help desk the ability to understand what kinds of glitches occur when people are connecting. So it has helped us to be better prepared to support a real emergency.”

New York’s Office of Cyber Security and Critical Infrastructure Coordination has adopted a similar approach to COOP training by staging regular mini-disruptions to augment full-blown tests. “We will have an exercise where even the staff won’t know” that a simulation is being staged, said William Pelgrin, the office’s director. “We’ll pretend that the network is down and [employees] have to go someplace remotely to start business again.”

About the Author

Alan Joch is a freelance writer based in New Hampshire.

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