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What 5 skills should a disaster recovery team leader have?

Is the right person in charge of your disaster recovery planning? Look for a DR team leader who has the knowledge to run the show and the accessibility needed from a good manager.

It may be hard to believe, but your organization's entire future, perhaps even its very existence, could lie in the hands of a single individual: the one leading your disaster recovery team. This point person is not only in charge of heading up planning for recovery, but also consolidating the efforts of colleagues and resources to efficiently recover following a disaster.

Unfortunately, the DR planning process is frequently underestimated and may be delegated to someone not equipped for the job. All too often, the major qualification when selecting a DR planner is finding someone who has the time available to work on the project.

Has your organization selected the right person to develop and execute its DR plan? Here are the five basic attributes a successful disaster recovery leader and planner should possess.

Knowledge of IT systems

DR planning isn't a task for newcomers. The disaster recovery team leader should have an intimate understanding of internal business and IT systems, as well as the best ways of continuing essential activities with minimal disruption should a disaster strike. The leader should also be familiar with DR-related technologies and practices and know how to use these tools to meet your organization's specific needs.

Insight into potential threats

Knowledge isn't enough. A DR planner must also be insightful and perceptive, capable of looking forward in time and anticipating potential threats to business and IT operations. The manager must also understand human behavior and how employees, customers and business partners will likely react in a crisis situation.

Communication skills

Strong leadership shouldn't be confused with dictatorial behavior. The lead planner must be able to get along with colleagues at all levels in the organization, as well as key external partners. The planner should have an open mind and be willing to consider suggestions presented by other disaster recovery team members.

Attention to detail

DR plans are packed with detailed information and complex instructions. Plans typically fail on execution when an important detail is either overlooked or incorrectly addressed. Look for a lead planner who has experience paying close attention to documentation fine points yet doesn't get bogged down by them.

Accessibility

Someone who routinely works from home or a satellite office, takes frequent lengthy business trips or is otherwise disengaged from routine business activities is usually a poor choice for a DR planner. The role requires someone who can be immediately present on-site during an emergency and can provide suggestions and fixes to the disaster recovery team as issues unfold.

By looking for these five qualities, you can ensure your organization's DR planning is in the right hands. Heading up a successful disaster recovery team is not a matter of finding the time to do it. Instead, you should approach the process with the mindset that DR planning and execution require their own unique skill sets.

This was last published in October 2018

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What do you look for in a disaster recovery planning leader?
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The missing skill? Understanding how the business operates - including its critical products, services and customers. Only by understanding what processes/functions are critical to the organization's health can a DR leader truly understand priorities for IT recovery.
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