Those who have been in business continuity management for at least 20 years may have noticed a new generation of professionals joining their ranks. Millennials have discovered the profession, as well as its importance to businesses and the government.
What will be the profile of the next generation of business continuity managers? Before we get to that, we need to look at how the current generation of BC and disaster recovery (DR) professionals has evolved.
A brief history of the BC/DR profession
In the 1970s, most BC practitioners came from an IT background, as it was critically important to ensure that information systems and data could be recovered quickly after a disruption.
In the 1980s, the idea of protecting the entire organization, not just its technology infrastructure, emerged. Thus, the term business continuity became part of the profession's jargon. Since then, we have seen the development of the term resilience, which some suggest is the evolution of BC. Another area often associated with BC is risk management, as business continuity has close ties to managing risks in an organization.
In the 1990s, the internet became the primary vehicle for new advances in technology. Violations of and threats to network security began to appear and became perhaps the No. 1 concern of technology professionals. Business continuity management gradually became more accepted by organizations, but it hadn't really cracked the C-level suite yet.
Throughout the 21st century, the profession has become an important part of corporate stewardship. In certain market segments, such as banking and finance, it's an essential -- and auditable -- activity.
Profile of a next-generation BC manager
In the mid-21st century, IT experience could still be an important factor in the credentials of business continuity managers, but it won't be the primary one. Academic institutions currently offering coursework, certificates and degrees in BC now combine business, technology, risk management, strategic planning, operational analysis, security and emergency management elements into their programs. This means the BC professional of today and of the future will likely have a multidisciplinary education that reflects the broad variety of skills needed to manage business continuity and resiliency activities.
The Business Continuity Institute, for example, has increasingly focused its attention on this new generation of BC professionals. The BCI offers educational programs, mentoring, white papers, conferences and other materials that make it easier for new business continuity managers to become acclimated to and productive in their organizations.
Looking toward the future
The impact of cloud-based technologies, remote teleworking and virtualization on the BC profession cannot be overlooked. Organizations may need less real estate to support their business operations. Disruptions may be more along the lines of a cybersecurity event, as employees will have the option -- as many do today -- of working remotely. If this future working world materializes, it could spell the end of BC and related activities simply because businesses will no longer be concentrated in brick-and-mortar locations.
Assuming this future comes to be, business continuity managers will still provide value to organizations, as their backgrounds will include experience in many different areas. They will also have the ability to adapt to new and changing situations quickly.
Having spent 30 years in BC/DR, I believe the profession will likely remain viable and accepted by corporate management for another 10 to 15 years. Advancements in technology, plus complementary activities such as cybersecurity management and emergency management, imply that a process will still be needed to ensure that business operations can be recovered and restored following a disruptive incident. While the BC field may evolve into a sub-practice of other disciplines, business continuity and resiliency management will still play a key role.
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