For those of you who are experienced in business continuity (BC) and disaster recovery (DR), a professional certification can be quite useful. If you are not already certified by one of several organizations, now is an excellent time to do it.
How can a business continuity certification help you?
1) It recognizes your work and professional status
2) Your company will probably like the fact that you are recognized among your peers
3) It could be useful to you if you change jobs in the future, or if you are currently looking for a job
But now what about those of you who are relatively new to the profession? When we say "new," we're talking about less than a year of experience. Like many of us in the profession, you probably didn't start out thinking of a career in BC/DR. It may have found you. So now that you are in the profession, how to you get up to speed on it?
Fortunately, there are numerous organizations that offer BC/DR training. Some of the leading firms in this country are DRI International, Institute for Business Continuity Training, International Consortium for Organizational Resilience, Business Continuity Institute and Sentryx. A very useful website for books and other reference materials is also available on the subject: Rothstein Catalog on Business Continuity.
Business continuity is essentially an analytical project-oriented activity. Several actions must be completed for your company to have an optimum level of BC readiness. These include risk assessments, business impact assessments, strategy analysis and development, plan development, team development, awareness and training, plan exercising, coordination with public authorities, emergency response, emergency communications (e.g., with employees, the media), and incident response. An introductory class can help you understand these activities, but will not necessarily prepare you to launch similar projects of your own.
Disaster recovery is also an analytical project-oriented activity. It's similar to business continuity except with more of a focus on your company's technology infrastructure that supports its business operations. It's possible you may have been working on DR-related tasks in your firm, such as network resilience, data backups, emergency power and backup hardware.
But suppose you took a course, followed by a certification exam. You completed the course and may have also obtained a certification. The good news is that certifications are increasingly recognized and accepted as evidence of your skills and readiness to pursue work in your area of expertise. If your work takes you overseas, certifications are widely accepted -- and preferred -- in many countries today. Just remember, though, that certification isn't everything. Experience really matters. But having a certification will certainly increase your chances of getting the experience you desire.
Academic options in the business continuity/disaster recovery field
From an academic perspective, you now have some interesting options. You can pursue advanced degrees in business continuity with Boston University and Norwich University, however, very little is available at an undergraduate level in business continuity to date.
An advanced degree in business continuity will better prepare you for your position, especially because of the amount of project work you'll be doing. Current undergrad and graduate programs emphasize how to conduct analyses, prepare plan documents and conduct exercises. Expect lots of project work and report writing, in addition to research into various aspects of the BC/DR profession, such as specialized data recovery systems, network resilience options, hot/cold sites and software that can simplify the BC/DR process. Many utilize web-based learning techniques, so you can do your coursework wherever you like, and at your own pace.
In reality, the options we have discussed can help prepare you for business continuity, but do not necessarily prepare you for a full-scale project. Participate in projects as much as possible. Apply the procedural activities you learned at the training programs. But don't assume that a single training course or book will totally prepare you to take on complex BC/DR projects.
Previous business and/or technology experience is very important, because you'll be analyzing business processes, identifying how technology supports them and gaining strategies for ensuring their uninterrupted operation. If you have managed projects in the past, you'll be well prepared for BC/DR projects. Good project management skills are a key success factor in BC/DR. Look for opportunities to participate in BC/DR projects. Even if you are not initially the project manager, you'll have the opportunity to apply your project management skills with your growing BC/DR knowledge.
Finally, build a library of BC/DR books, standards, tools, templates, publications and software. That way you'll be fully prepared to tackle BC/DR projects of virtually any size.
About this author: Paul F. Kirvan, FBCI, CBCP, CISSP, has more than 20 years experience in business continuity management as a consultant, author and educator. He is also secretary of the Business Continuity Institute USA Chapter.
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This was first published in January 2009