Shortfall in government business continuity plans

23 Sep 2005

The government sector is more aware of the need for business continuity management (BCM) than any other sector but is poor at acting on the strategy, a survey has found.

When researching its IT Trends and Expenditure in Ireland 2005 report, the market research firm IDC asked several questions to gauge the levels of awareness and readiness around business continuity — the ability to keep an organisation functioning in the event of a disaster or unforeseen event.

The survey found that 84pc of government departments knew of the need to have business continuity plans in place – a figure that compares favourably with sectors such as finance where BCM principles are already well established.

However, more than a third of the government organisations interviewed for the report admitted that the level of testing of their business continuity strategy was inadequate. One in 10 said that their BCM strategy would be unlikely to support their operation in the event of a major interruption and only 17pc of organisations expect their BCM would fully support their operations.

The government sector featured strongly in the survey as willing to consider outsourcing their BCM. It was also open to external benchmarking on BCM recovery. The number of public sector respondents who believed their testing to be totally inadequate was amongst the highest from all sectors participating in the research. However, this group was also highest in identifying a complete failure of a recovery test as a likely outcome.

The IT security firm Renaissance Contingency Services sponsored this section of the IDC survey. Director Michael Conway said the research findings raised alarming issues that needed to be addressed.

John Gilsenan, author of the report, added. “The type of scenario that comes to mind, for example, is the prospect of a major government department, or agency, closed down for an extended period with all the implications this would have for public services.”

In a statement issued with the findings, Renaissance noted that compliance and high-level commitment ranked amongst the lowest for the government sector. It said this was a worrying development as it suggests that although individual departments are aware of the requirements and issues of BCM, senior management does not share the same commitment – or possibly the same understanding.

“The Government needs to take steps straight away to implement a state-of-the-art business continuity strategy for all its departments and agencies,” Gilsenan stated. “IT staff in these organisations are already aware of how deficient their strategies are so it is up to the senior decision makers at these organisations to listen to this message. If something did go wrong and it was shown that the Government neglected to implement international standard contingency plans, I don’t think the public would be very forgiving.”

By Gordon Smith