If you ask any Business Continuity practitioner what the purpose of completing a Business Impact Analysis is they will typically respond with something along the lines of ‘it identifies the criticality of the activities undertaken by the organisation.’ A common output is therefore the activities of the organisation listed in criticality order starting with the most critical at the top.

So here’s a thing. If the BIA identifies the most critical activities then by definition, it must also identify the least critical. Critical at the top, least critical at the bottom. Remember there are often two ways of looking at a situation.

It is logical then for practitioners to spend more time addressing strategies and solutions for the activities at the top of the list but one should also realise there is merit in spending time analysing those activities at the bottom of the BIA.

This is particularly relevant for organisations with multiple operational sites where it may be possible to implement a displacement strategy as part of the Business Continuity planning, in other words stop doing the least critical activities and let the more critical ones take over the space and resources vacated by removing the less critical ones.

For example a company has two offices in nearby cities. If one office becomes inoperable the strategy could be to free up space in the unaffected office so that staff required to perform critical activities can use the vacant desks and equipment at the second location. Displacement.

There are some advantages to this strategy:-
• it’s a cheap solution with little, if any, investment up front
• There is minimal ‘build time’ required to invoke
• Staff are potentially more familiar with the surroundings as part of the ‘corporate identity’
• The space is not syndicated with other organisations

But, there are also some disadvantages:-
• Even though activities have been identified as non-critical there never seems to be a good time to stop doing them and to vacate the required space when it is needed
• It doesn’t work for all scenarios – if the incident is due to an IT event both locations could be impacted simultaneously
• Large populations going into smaller locations may not work due to insufficient capacity
• Over time the less critical activities may also become critical and will need to be brought back on line

I have seen displacement work well as a strategy but it does need to be agreed and honoured by the host site when it is needed. We should also remember that it can and should be used in conjunction with other strategies such as working remotely.

Additionally, if a scenario limits the number of people available for a period of time, shutting down the identified non-critical activities could (subject to the usual caveats around skillsets) enable resources to be re-assigned to the critical activities.

So, having invested time and effort in completing your Business Impact Analysis, make sure you use the information completely. It’s not all about the ‘top of the list’, look more closely and see what else it is showing you.

As always if you need any help feel free to contact me so that I can help you.