Does specific sector experience matter to Business Continuity Management?

Does experience in a specific sector really make a difference when applying objective BCM?

This question may have more than one perspective, depending on which side of the fence you’re sitting: Are you the buyer of BCM services? Or the supplier?

Buyers seem to be automatically drawn towards a professional who has their specific sector experience. Although 90% of my consultancy experience is outside the healthcare sector, I also get selected for specific projects because of my healthcare background, for example. But why?

If the consultant has limited experience of working in that area, then their BCM knowledge may be limited?Is it because companies think that if the supplier (consultant) has no or limited experience of working in that area, then their BCM knowledge may be limited? – compared to someone who has worked in that field for ‘years’ and has a bagful of credentials to show for it.

I can see positives and negatives for that argument; regardless of the qualifications you have under your belt, experience is definitely a critical factor.

But – you knew there’d be a but, didn’t you? – there are some other considerations to take into account;

  1. Firstly, there’s the potential for ‘can’t see the risks for looking’. With a great deal of industry experience there is a danger that we see what we want to see rather than the something new
  2. Secondly, undoubtedly vast experience does give someone valuable insight into how that sector should and does operate. Along with the likely pressures, threats and impacts. This is a considerable advantage of course
  3. Thirdly however, if we (as the buying client) are looking for complete impartiality and true resilience, is there not a case to argue that it actually doesn’t matter a great deal if you are more experienced in one particular area than the rest; as long as you have the key elements of professional competence? By that I mean:
    • Qualifications
    • Credibility (resilience experience)
    • Up to date competence
    • Subject matter expertise
    • Confidence
    • Proven record of success and achievements

Different jobs

The customer is always right…

The bottom line of course is, the customer wants what they want.

Key things to consider include:

  • What is the project?
  • And what do they want the end effect to be?

A customer may start an initial enquiry for a fairly standard (but not off the shelf) audit and review of their business continuity arrangements. The question will then come up about other customer profiles; gauging if the supplier (consultant) is fully familiar with their area of industry.

Having a number of years in the field – and the full range of professional competences listed above – it’s my belief (and experience) that BCM is a fairly generic process, based around:

  • The consistent elements of what the business does
  • Its most urgent products and services
  • What it needs to achieve these (dependencies)
  • What could go wrong
  • The impact (threats and analysis)
  • What minimum products and services they could tolerate achieving during a disruption
  • For how long
  • How they will make that happen

Yes, it is helpful to know some information about how an industry operates but in my opinion, that is not always an essential factor to achieve a transparent BCM capability.

In fact, the more impartial the supplier is, the more objective the process can be… which would in turn assist the more complex details required of any organisation.

The proof is in the pudding

You’re with a man who has no shame to admit that he likes puddings.

The proof is in the puddingYes, the end results of BCM services should provide the very best effect for any customer; providing them with what they wanted and the end result is what we will all be judged upon.

There are –  as I mentioned earlier – two sides of opinion and as always, it becomes a choice of which ‘model’ you prefer.

The experienced professional with industry specific knowledge and experience?

Or the experienced resilience professional who doesn’t pretend to know about how the customer should operate, but who can demonstrate the qualities of being a motivated, successful achiever in the resilience world who applies standard principles in the most effective way?

It isn’t rocket science and it’s not always about what needs doing. It’s how it’s done that’s the proof in the pudding.

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