Regulatory hurdles. Severe weather threats. Ransomware. Brexit. These are just a few of the challenges facing businesses today. Add to that the fact that around 78 percent of cloud users have formally adopted two or more cloud services, and you get an increasingly complicated business continuity landscape to navigate.

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As businesses become aware of these threats and the importance of maintaining business continuity, the business continuity manager is assuming a more central role in business strategy.

To help business continuity managers identify what skills they need in their toolboxes to keep pace with the business world through 2017, Yusuf Ukaye, business continuity specialist at IT Specialists (ITS), will be at the BCI World event participating on the “Professional development: New skills for a changing landscape” panel. These tips are also helpful for business leaders wondering what qualification to look for in an effective business continuity manager. Ukaye recommends that business continuity managers have the following skills:

An understanding of the power of the cloud

From software as a service (SaaS) to disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS), there are a plethora of cloud-based tools on the market. It’s critical for a business continuity manager to be skilled at understanding the implications of using cloud solutions, including data management and compliance challenges. Sometimes outsourcing is a must, especially for SMEs or larger enterprises that don’t have endless budgets, and the business continuity manager must be able to ascertain when working with a third party, such as a managed service provider (MSP), is beneficial for your business.

DRaaS is a commonly outsourced cloud technology component, as it’s extremely important to keep your business systems online and operational. Many businesses take advantage of hybrid cloud infrastructure so that critical business data is backed up not only in the cloud (thus mitigating local incidents, both technical and physical) but also on local dedicated hardware, so restoring data doesn’t need to be downloaded from the cloud. Strategic use of hybrid clouds can provide the certainty that your data and IT environment are protected without draining your IT resources. Of course, managing hybrid infrastructure requires significant time and expertise, which is why some businesses choose to have an MSP manage their DRaaS infrastructure.

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The ability to discern the business’s overall risk profile

It’s important for a business continuity manager to be familiar with best practices for cloud management, but they must also understand how these functions fit into the business’s overall risk profile. To do so, the business continuity manager needs to know their colleagues and the business well.

This process starts by working with each business unit to identify how soon each department and function must be up and running in the event of a disaster. The business continuity manager must also work with the IT department to determine the feasibility of meeting the required recovery time frames. For example, if the business needs email to be up and running within four hours, can the IT department support this requirement with their current resources?

All businesses are dynamic and quickly changing, so it’s essential for the business continuity manager to consult the various departments before, during and after the initial planning phase. Business continuity is an active, ongoing process – it’s not about writing a plan that then collects dust.

Knowledge of what makes people tick 

Truly effective business continuity managers are able to get the whole organisation involved in business continuity planning by knowing what’s important to the business units. Inspiring internal stakeholders to engage in the planning process and respond to any incident appropriately involves the business continuity manager being empathetic and proactively building relationships with those people.

Motivating individuals with the appropriate skills and knowledge required to perform business activities and maintain the confidence of the supply chain is important since external factors such as supply chain vulnerabilities are especially easy to overlook or understate in the planning phase.

Business continuity testing experience

Once you’ve created a business continuity plan, it’s time to establish a regular business continuity testing schedule to ensure the plan can be implemented in the real world. Testing under real-world conditions for a variety of scenarios, such as a flooding incident or a power outage, will help prove – or disprove – the effectiveness of the plan. Throughout the testing process, employees should gain familiarity with business continuity protocol such as deciding when it’s unsafe to commute, communicating with coworkers and customers, and accessing critical applications. Ultimately, testing increases employees’ awareness of the threat landscape that exists.

A successful business continuity manager will be skilled at constructing tests, documenting results and creating follow-up action items based on the results of the test.

Of course, your business might require your business continuity manager to have additional skills, but these are a good starting point.

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Yusuf Ukaye, Business Continuity/Disaster Recovery Specialist, IT Specialists (ITS) UK Since 2011, Yusuf Ukaye, DBCI, has been speaking to businesses globally about business continuity issues, including BS 25999, ISO 22301, business continuity software, work area recovery and disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS). He is currently the business continuity product specialist for IT Specialists (ITS). There, he has built strategic channel partnerships and grown the business continuity product portfolio. Among his contributions is his role in the successful strategic planning, implementation and testing of the BlackVault Managed Recovery Platform. The platform consists of core service components that can run via ITS’ private secure cloud, BlackCloud, or a local BlackVault data storage appliance, providing both faster local area recovery and comprehensive off-site disaster recovery capabilities. Additionally, Ukaye has project managed the business continuity programme at the ITS office in Northfield and is driving the organisation’s maturity in business continuity. An active member in the profession, Ukaye regularly attends BCI North Midlands forum meetings and has participated in the 2016 BCI mentorship programme.