In the fast-paced, volatile world of financial services, constantly maintaining normal business operations is crucial – even in the event of an unexpected disaster. Even just a few moments of downtime could be extremely costly, so it is essential that firms implement sound business continuity procedures.
Since we frequently work with our hedge fund and alternative investment clients on developing comprehensive business continuity plans (BCPs), we feel it is important to review and test our own BCP procedures on a regular basis to ensure they will meet our most current business needs in the event of a disaster. To this end, Lisa Smith - one of our certified business continuity professionals - and her team recently conducted a BCP table top exercise with our management team here at Eze Castle. After this successful meeting, we thought it would be valuable to share some insights on the BCP table top exercise process with our readers to spotlight the importance of this activity.
Short on time? Read our complete Manager's Guide to DR and BCP for a comprehensive overview on hedge fund business continuty best practices.
What is a BCP table top exercise?
A BCP table top exercise is an informal brainstorming session used to encourage participation from business leaders and other key employees. Typically, a business continuity consultant leads the executive team through a discussion, which is focused on the steps that the business’s leaders would carry out together in order to activate the firm’s BCP procedures during a disaster. The group covers all of the actions necessary to ensure employees are safe and accounted for and the business can continue to operate.
How are they conducted and what is covered?
Gather the firm’s executive team (and any other individuals within the organization that play a leadership role in the BCP activation process) in a conference room-type setting that is conducive to open discussion and interaction.
To begin, the consultant or group leader should develop a hypothetical disaster scenario to use as an example. Scenarios may include a regional electricity outage, building fire, terrorist attack, violent storm, or the like. Be sure to hash out all of the details of the scenario, including a hypothetical date and time, an assessment of the immediate impact of the event and how employees are being affected.
Once the scenario has been established, the members of the management team will break down what steps need to be taken (and in what order) to ensure all employees are safe and accounted for, communications are made to all necessary parties and the business remains operational. The group should identify realistic and unrealistic expectations and work together to bridge any gaps between leadership and the established BCP plans. Other items that should be covered include: Who needs to be contacted or alerted about the disaster (i.e. employees, vendors, investors, etc.)? What potential road blocks may arise and how can they be averted? What residual effects may occur as a result of the disruption?
Why are these exercises important?
A company’s ability to recover quickly from an unexpected disruption is directly associated with the quality of the preparations that have been completed prior to the event. BCP table top exercises are conducted to provide an example of how the management team would work together to get the organization through a disaster. These exercises are important for businesses to undertake so that the “kinks” in the written BCP plans can be worked out before a disruption occurs. They also serve as a reminder that these events can happen at any time and often occur rapidly and without warning.
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Editor's Note: This article has been updated and was originally published in March 2012 by Dina Ferriero (Eze Castle Integration).
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