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BLOG: Does my company need business continuity software?

Stieven Weidner | March 9, 2012
We have all seen the question of whether or not our organization needs business continuity software come up many times over the last several years, and it is a question worth seriously considering.

What did our company do? Well, we really had few alternatives. Everyone using the software tool--myself included--despised it, and we had no additional money in the budget to purchase another tool. We were thus forced to make the best of our office suite (i.e., word processor, spreadsheets, flowcharts, etc.) to develop our business continuity (BC) and disaster recovery (DR) plans.

At first, this seemed like a great idea. Many of the departments already had some or all of their plans developed using word processor or spreadsheet programs, and those that did not aligned quickly with the program. Then, at about six months into the development process, we initiated a plan maintenance review. While initially it was easy to build plans in a word processor or spreadsheet, it became apparent very quickly that plan maintenance would be challenging. We were now close to seven months into the process and in reality no farther along than we were using the software tool.

The crossroads

Since healthcare is a regulated industry, it was imperative for us to have BC plans and DR plans, also known as IT recovery plans, in place. Should I continue developing our plans using our office suite, knowing its limitations, or look at another BCP software package? My business leaders and I had a brief discussion about my dilemma; their response went something along the lines of:

"As long as we have something that works, it really shouldn't matter what we use. In fact, we've already purchased the best software package available--why would we spend more money just for a similar outcome?"

I have to admit, if I were in their position, I would have given the exact same answer.

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However, as a Business Continuity Manager, it was my job to make our BC/DR program work. I already knew I couldn't go back to what we had; the users and I simply could not work with the software, and relying on our office suite, though easy to use and without cost, just was not meeting the needs of our multi-state, multi-facility environment.

As mentioned above, there are really two avenues to consider when creating BC/DR plans. You can use a pre-packaged software product or rely upon your company's standard office suite. Each has its advantages and disadvantages.

Office suite: The main advantage of using your company's office suite is that everyone is already familiar with the software, so training is generally not an issue --and it is budget-friendly, with no additional cost associated.

The main disadvantages are that this solution is unable to generate reports (e.g., Plan A is XX% complete), your plans may not look uniform, and maintenance can be a serious challenge. In my opinion, plan maintenance is the office suite's Achilles' heel. In the case of the healthcare organization I was working for, a single name change had the potential to affect thirty-plus plans - a very inefficient process when updating manually.


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