Are you struggling to get leadership support for your continuity plans?
When you need approval, don’t assume that just because [your idea is] brilliant, others will see it that way — convince them. – Harvard Business Review
But we’re not talking about pet projects, company purchases, or office hacks.
Business continuity plans (BCP) play an essential role in the safety and security of any organization. In a world where public institutions of higher education receive nearly half of their funding from the students who attend them, it is essential for an institution to be able to carry out critical functions, regardless of unplanned circumstances.
An institution can combat unplanned circumstances by developing a continuity plan. A continuity plan prepares an institution to restore critical functions promptly following an emergency. Unfortunately, BCPs are often pushed to the back-burner for too long. The National Center for Campus Public Safety (NCCPS) sponsored a 2016 report on the needs of emergency managers (EMs) at institutions of higher education (IHEs). They found that only 150 (36%) of more than 420 institutions had an existing BCP. They also found that emergency and continuity planners needed more engagement from their institutions to improve and increase plan creation.
Why is Institutional Engagement Important to a BCP?
Institutional engagement makes all the difference in a BCP. Business continuity planners know most of the questions that need to be asked and the caliber that needs to be met in a business continuity plan. But department head and faculty involvement is necessary to accurately complete a plan.
Each department is responsible for contributing information to complete a continuity plan. Department heads and faculty understand the unique circumstances of their unit and are better equipped to complete their BCP. Lauren Gunter, emergency manager at East Carolina University, found that the planning phase is most valuable to faculty. “I really am a believer that the process of planning is more beneficial than actually having a plan itself,” she stated.
It is clear that getting an institution engaged in continuity and emergency planning is ideal. Achieving that ideal is challenging.
What can I do to Increase Institutional Engagement?
According to the NCCPS report, leadership support could help increase institutional engagement. Kuali researched the effects of leadership support, sending out their own survey and creating an infographic to display their findings. In the survey, one respondent stated, “The importance of leadership support cannot be stressed enough.” Another said, “We are struggling with [leadership support].” The best way to improve institutional engagement was made obvious in our research: leadership support.
Why is Leadership Support a Challenge?
The NCCPS report suggested that institutional leaders’ support, a critical element to increasing continuity planning, is often absent at even the most distinguished universities.
At Kuali, leadership support was not an unfamiliar topic. Earlier this year, Kuali held a webinar with Tufts University’s Matthew Hart, and later with Eastern Carolina University’s Lauren Gunter. Both of these individuals manage business continuity plans at their respective institutions. Hart and Gunter mentioned leadership support as an asset to a BCP. They also mentioned how challenging it is to obtain.
Priorities are set by senior leaders. And if [a BCP] isn’t on their radar then it won’t be on the radar of those that report to them. – Matthew Hart
Kuali sensed a trend.
There seemed to be a gap in the business continuity space. Continuity planners needed institutional engagement to complete a useful and worthwhile continuity plan. They need leadership involvement to help them overcome a “that will never happen here” attitude among faculty. Continuity planners can lobby for leadership support but in some situations, leaders will not, or cannot, provide the budget a continuity planner needs to improve their plans.
How can I use Leaders to Increase Engagement?
At some institutions, continuity planners may be able to get leadership support in a non-conventional way. There are a number of approaches a campus leader can use to show advocacy for BCP efforts. While financial support is what most of NCCPS respondents (75%) identified as a major need, there are other beneficial methods that leaders can use to provide support. An interviewee from the NCCPS report said it best:
Institutional commitment can come in a variety of ways. Certainly there’s financial support. But that’s not the be all end all. Policies that reinforce the importance of emergency planning [and] continuity planning […] are also important.
After completing research and finding a significant need, Kuali created a guide for business continuity planners. The purpose of the guide is to help continuity planners in higher education obtain leadership support. The guide contains exercises and ideas that will help to improve institutional engagement. All exercises and ideas presented in the guide have been patterned after, or taken directly from, suggested exercises by professional researchers and/or active business continuity planners.
You can use this guide to improve institutional engagement at your institution. Expand your institution’s resilience today.
Kuali Ready is a cloud-based continuity planning solution designed specifically by higher education for higher education. It provides colleges and universities with a guided planning process and central access point to create, manage, and evaluate readiness plans for all departments.
The NCCPS is a government-funded clearinghouse that exists to support emergency planners and build safe campus communities. This center works closely with other groups that work to increase campus safety, including emergency planners, law enforcement, advocacy groups and more.