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Nine skills business continuity managers need to succeed

If you're looking to become a business continuity manager, having a range of areas of expertise can improve your standing in the constantly evolving profession.

As the business continuity and disaster recovery professions progress through their fifth decade, they have slowly...

and steadily evolved. Today, formal standards and practices for BC/DR activities are in place, training programs exist to address all aspects of the professions, and a large variety of software and systems are available to provide assistance.

In the early days, many business continuity managers and disaster recovery professionals had no formal training, mostly learning by doing. No specific education or knowledge was needed, although many of the early practitioners had IT backgrounds.

Today, it is possible to obtain certifications, undergraduate degrees and even graduate degrees in business continuity and disaster recovery. If you are considering a change in your profession and business continuity (BC) is on the radar, here are some skills you may already have that will make your transition into the profession easier.

Communication. Speaking and writing skills are essential in preparing a variety of documentation (policies, plans, procedures, standards), developing and delivering training programs, preparing awareness activities, and communicating the BC/DR program to all levels of the company, especially senior management.

Business analysis. This skill enables business continuity managers to determine how the business operates, how different elements interact and how the organization implements strategies.

Project management. Since a BC program is a major activity, it is helpful to understand how to organize and manage fairly complex projects.

IT knowledge and experience. Disaster recovery (DR) and business continuity managers traditionally came from the IT world. The more knowledge and experience you have in these areas, the easier it will be for you to relate to other employees and their concerns.

Risk-based skills. BC/DR activities have a risk focus. A risk analysis is one of the key initial activities in this area, along with conducting a business impact analysis (BIA).

Auditing. These skills are useful, in that auditors -- especially IT auditors -- focus on management and operational controls, as well as procedures that ensure the business functions are in alignment with recognized process controls and metrics. These skills are important when examining BC/DR plans, BC management systems, BC/DR exercises, BC/DR training and awareness programs, and other activities regarding compliance with standards and good practices.

Financial analysis. This skill is useful for business continuity managers when performing a BIA, particularly when identifying the financial impact of specific disruptive events. It is also helpful when evaluating proposals from vendors.

Emergency management. Recognizing that a BC/DR event is probably also an emergency necessitating a coordinated response, emergency management skills can be very useful when formulating incident response plans and other activities for the early stages of an event.

Selling. While not all of us are natural salespeople, the ability to sell the benefits of a BC/DR program to senior management cannot be understated. The key here is to understand what must be sold, and to then develop and deliver the message in a compelling and professional manner. The ability to handle objections and convince management of the benefits of the proposed program is also useful. When coupled with good communication, business continuity managers can create a strong one-two punch for success.

The more skills a prospective BC/DR professional has, the better. However, communications skills are at the top of the list because, at some point in time, you will have to communicate your information, program and overall message to everyone in your organization. You will quickly find that good writing and speaking skills are major attributes for your success.

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