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17 January 2019
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Contingency plans; how robust are yours?

26 November 2012 

Risk management has been very prominent for me over the last week.

Meetings on the topic have led to a commission to deliver a risk management seminar early next year and I will be running a risk management course on the day you read this, so that alone should have been enough for me, but the fates had other ideas in store.

We rely on technology so much these days, with the internet and mobile communications as fundamental parts of our business that any loss of them having a significant impact, and so much of this technology is outsourced and we have no direct control over it.

Any loss of service can make life very difficult, and service interruptions are not always predictable, so have some form of backup plan is a very sensible approach.

Problems can come from a variety of angles too; last week this blog was suspended by the service provider; no warning, just a message that the blog was down but, whilst that was bad enough, the message displayed for anyone who tried to view it was that it was suspended due to a violation of the terms of service.

Not too good for my reputation, but the problem was due to an automated process and I was back up and running within 36 hours with an apology for the inconvenience.

We have contingency arrangements, and seven man hours were expended on putting them into place, time that should have been used on work that would bring in revenue. That is a micro example of the impact that things can have though. I have been involved in three employment tribunals over the years and can testify to the amount of resource that goes into defending these actions.

That we successfully defended all three is a testament to my teams having been on top of the processes we worked to, but the opportunity cost to us was horrendous and we could map when these had occurred for some time afterwards as their impact showed up on the performance figures.

You’ll note there that I say that we successfully defended these cases rather than that we won them, for there was no victory; we may not of lost the cases, but our customers, stakeholders and employees all lost out because of the distraction that these things bring.

They are a risk that you have to manage and, whilst you can’t predict when one might hit you, being prepared helps, and in our case the fact that we had robust processes, made sure that they were in place and understood and that everyone was working to them meant that when the call came we were as best prepared as we could be.

Loss of access to premises or the inability to use them is high on the agenda at the moment as we see major flooding here in the UK. Utilities and transport are badly affected already and the impact will take days to recover from and facilities teams around the affected areas will have a lot on their plates in helping that recovery.

Managing risk is a complex subject, but it is simple solutions that will help mitigate those risks. This is why assessing risks, having a risk register in place, practising drills and regularly reviewing plans is so important. Organisations that recognise this, and who seek outside assistance in pulling all of this together, are the ones that can come through incidents successfully.

So if you’re not bailing out and mopping up this week why not schedule time to have a look at your own risk register?

John Bowen is an FM consultant

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