'Ostrich approach' to planning puts organisations at risk

Poor planning is putting over half of UK organisations at risk, according to new report 

This is despite 93 per cent being affected by snow in recent months and it suggests that the majority of UK businesses are dangerously under-prepared for any crisis.  

Ruth Spellman, CMI chief executive, said: “Some business leaders have taken an ostrich approach to planning, simply burying their heads in the sand and hoping that they do not have to deal with the worst.  Neglecting business planning is reckless in the extreme and it represents a huge failure of management in the UK. Just ask Eurostar, who were found to have no plans in place for the tunnel breakdown in December, which led to travel chaos for customers and a disaster for their reputation. 

“Despite the pressures of the economic downturn, UK businesses have to appreciate that Business Continuity Management is not a ‘nice to have’ – it is crucial to business survival.  Until UK managers have the time and skills they need to write, test and update these plans, and leaders give them the priority they deserve, this will remain a severe risk for the UK economy.”

The “Disruption and Resilience” report makes it clear that adequate contingency planning is hugely beneficial to business. 79 per cent of those managers who had plans and were forced to activate them last year, admitted that the impact of unusual circumstances was reduced as a result. Despite this, CMI’s research indicates that UK managers’ approach to planning is somewhat haphazard and in some cases, doesn’t match perceived threats.

Nearly all the organisations questioned (93 per cent) were affected by last December’s heavy snowfall, yet extreme weather is cited as a significant threat by just 48 per cent of managers surveyed, with loss of IT (69 per cent), loss of telecommunications (62 per cent) and loss of access to site (56 per cent) being the three crises that managers fear the most. In addition, fewer than half of all organisations with a plan (48 per cent) test them on an annual basis and, worryingly, where shortcomings are identified, 9 per cent of organisations still fail to take action to remedy them.

To help managers tackle their business continuity planning more effectively, and provide practical advice and support, the CMI has launched a free ‘Ask the Expert’ service. By visiting www.managers.org.uk/askbcm individuals will be able to consult a business continuity planning expert.  Access will also be given to a free checklist which gives managers and employers practical tips on preparing for some of the most common business risks.

Ruth Spellman continued: “It is imperative that UK managers work with every department within their organisation to address any gaps in their planning. Traditionally, IT has been the major consideration when it comes to crisis planning, but you only have to go back to January this year to prove that, in the event of extreme weather or a major health scare, it is loss of people and skills that has the potential to cause the most damage. Organisations need to be more switched on to potential threats. In the current economic climate, organisations cannot afford to risk any loss of revenue.”

Stuart Sterling, Civil Contingencies Secretariat in the Cabinet Office, said; “It is understandable that the pressures of the recession mean that, for some organisations, business continuity planning moved down the priority list. However, as we saw with the snowfall at the end of December last year, the potential for lost revenue as a result of inadequate planning cannot be ignored. If organisations fail to prepare then they must, in turn, be prepared to fail.”

The full report can be read at www.managers.org.uk/bcm2010.

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