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Guide: Convert Your Institution’s Leader to BCP

August 8, 2017

Are you struggling to get leadership support for your continuity plans?

Obtaining support from a leader, boss or supervisor is a common issue—so common that the Harvard Business Review, US News and Forbes wrote extensively about it.

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.

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