IT service continuity management – 5 key factors for disaster preparation

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Service continuity management, along with IT security, is top of the critical list for IT today – not least in the current global situation caused by Covid-19.

If you don’t have service continuity management and something major happens, it could ruin your business and – clearly – it’s something you will regret not thinking through.

Developing resilience and an effective response at a time of disaster means you are safeguarding stakeholder interests, protecting business reputation and your value-creating activities.

You might think it obvious that IT teams would ensure availability and performance of a service in case of a disaster. However, many IT people are more focused on putting out daily “fires”. Or, if they have put together a continuity plan, how often have they gone back to it?

So, what are the five important factors IT organizations should be thinking about to prepare? ITIL 4’s service continuity management guidance lays out the approach:

  1. What are central services you need to keep up and running? In hospitality, for example, this could be the ability to charge customers and be paid.
  2. What is your continuity of operations plan for different scenarios such as network outages, natural disasters – from hurricanes to pandemics? If employees can’t access IT in the workplace, what then?
  3. What are the core functions you need and where is the infrastructure (with cloud computing, a server isn’t on site which gives you more chance to gain access)? Do you need a secondary help desk or a “call tree” for distributing calls to service desks in other locations? 
  4. Do you have elasticity if there is an anomaly in demand? For example, people in the USA currently filing for re-employment assistance created a demand large enough to crash certain websites. Having cloud-based services gives you the ability to scale when demand increases.
  5. Have you devised a service continuity plan and when was the last time you tested to see if it works?  Test this a couple of times per year to be sure. Recognize there are things you can’t plan for, though you want to limit this level of risk and limit how much of the “aeroplane” you need to build while it’s “in the air”.

Service continuity management and the ITIL 4 value chain

For the plan value chain activity as outlined in ITIL 4, service continuity management’s contribution begins with putting a plan in writing, reviewing it and dissecting it.

This is about shaping an approach: understanding what a plan might look like and then identifying what you haven’t thought about.

IT teams have to force themselves to plan for the “what ifs”. If they claim to be too busy to plan for what might happen, this is storing up trouble.

Organizations need to be prepared to keep IT services going in the event of a disaster and understand how long they can operate under new and difficult circumstances. This needs tough questions, inevitably tough answers and being transparent to people across the business.

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