This information is from my new book, The Ultimate Business Continuity Success Guide: How to Build Real-World Resilience and Unleash Exciting New Value Streams. Happily it is now Amazon’s #1 searched business continuity book. I hope you enjoy the chapter. and the book.
Business Continuity Deliverables:
Let’s take a couple of minutes to dig into a really important subject that can impact your program and career in a positive or negative way – deliverable dates.
Deliverable dates are very important. Business resilience is a project driven business. Without deliverable dates and deadlines projects can go on forever. That is bad. I have seen many ‘forever projects’ in my career. As a former large scale project manager, I cannot stress enough that every project and the tasks that make up a project must have start and end dates.
- Achieving your deliverable dates is great. It means you have delivered value on or before expectations. This can result in positive feedback from management and users. Hopefully it can also result in more money in your pocket around bonus and raise time
- Missing deliverable dates, on the other hand, is very bad for you and your company
- Unfortunately, it is all too common in my experience, for projects to get kicked down the road as priorities change. Often failed projects begin with missed deliverable dates
In a minute, I will provide a few tips on attaining your deliverable dates but first, to set the tone, a true story that unfortunately happened to me years ago but still irks me to this day:
At the time, I was:
- ‘Carrying’ a Fortune 100 business continuity program (my VP’s words not mine)
- Implementing a global intelligent mass notification system (domestically and to 32 countries)
- Scheduling 2,000+ yearly exercises (yes 2,000+)
- Personally hosting twenty-five tabletops manually
- Supporting large work area relocation exercises throughout the United States with up to 150 participants in each exercise
- Supporting national and global day-to-day business continuity BIA, risk assessment, plan development, assessment and maintenance in 32 countries (14 hour workdays were a reality)
- AND automating our resilience program to a high level.
My boss actually told a fellow employee that I was a ‘work-horse’ which I consider a complement. Right?
I met all of my deliverables except one – and it was a minor one with zero impact on our business. I missed it by one day! Two days before Christmas! Because a critical business subject matter expert was on vacation.
I believe that one missed deliverable cost me my yearly bonus, at a time in my life when I needed it the most. My son was in college and I had bills galore. That was the only time I missed a bonus in my long career. Sad but true. I suppose it was a ‘lesson learned’. I do not blame anyone but myself. My advice to you – never miss deliverable dates unless you have a very good reason and you communicate the reason.
Here are some tips that may help you estimate realistic deliverable dates and deadlines. These originate from first-hand experience. I promise you not meeting them really hurts:
Tip – Do not over-estimate what you/we can get done – It’s mid-November or maybe December. Everyone is in a great mood as it is Holiday time and possibly bonus time. It is my favorite time of the year. It is time to have an off-site meeting to plan for next year and have some fun.
On the agenda is the list of projects we will complete the following year – all 31 new systems (true story when I was in IT). Well, we have 5 people in the department and we are going to build 31 new enterprise systems? Even the VP who is presenting this at our fancy-resort off-site meeting was apologizing for these upper management, you gotta be kidding me marching orders.
Or maybe you are the new business resilience / continuity director, manager or analyst. You want to impress management so you nod your head when they tell you they want to go from no BC Program to the highest level of maturity in three months – or maybe three weeks.
My advice is do not get caught up in the moment. Do not overestimate. It is better to be honest and to set realistic expectations. Maybe even set the bar a ‘teensy-weensy’ bit low and then work you butt off to over-deliver in a big way!
Tip – Do thorough research and planning. Perhaps you have a project such as implementing a major new BCM tool, maybe a situational alert system or an intelligent mass notification tool. Big systems all of them. You read an advisory report by Gartner or other service. It say’s so-and-so product is in the upper right quadrant. Cool. You set a production delivery date of 3 months out. You put it in writing to management that you will get it done. Hey, 3 months seems like a long time, right? A quarter of a year – wow – that is a long way off – it won’t come so soon – 90 days – a couple thousand hours – what could go wrong? Well everything can go wrong! Time flies!
Tip – We are in the ‘planning for what can go wrong business’ so we should know better. Even so, I have seen inadequate research and planning in both IT and in BC. Maybe, I have even been over-enthusiastic myself at times. Most IT system implementations in large companies fail due to poor planning and lack of communication. It is true. I come from IT and I have seen it first-hand. We in business continuity often rely heavily on IT for DR testing and help with system implementation so be careful.
Tip – Make sure IT has the resources to support your projects. You will need them. Make sure they are doing what they are supposed to be doing, when they are supposed to be doing it. Otherwise, it quickly can turn into finger pointing between internal IT and the vendor, with you in the middle. You DO NOT want to be there, I promise you. For those of you that have been there you are nodding your head right about now. If you are still in that situation you are not smiling. Am I right?
Tip – I have implemented many BC related system tools. It is my specialty. Establishing accurate deliverable dates means really doing your homework. Research as much as possible on what it will take to implement that process or end-to-end system solution. Identify any of the challenges that can delay the implementation.
Tip – Define the scope of the project early and have the deliverables signed off on. If the scope is a moving target once the development starts you will likely run into dreaded ‘scope creep’. I have seen scope creep first-hand from both sides of the table, when I was in IT and as a user. Scope creep is bad. Scope creep can turn into ‘forever projects’. I do not care if the development is being done in agile, waterfall or any other development process. Scope creep can occur regardless of the process so do not be fooled.
My suggestion is once the deliverables are set and signed-off on the new features become version 2, after version 1 is delivered.
Tip – When you understand the high level-components of implementing a solution, break it down into more detailed steps. For example, when implementing an intelligent mass notification tool, a major deliverable is getting accurate HR employee contact data into the system and building a process to insure it is kept up-to-date and accurate. That one step alone might entail multiple meetings with HR, Legal and IT. Then there is the long process of updating the employee information. Dealing with the integrity of employee data is critical to the success of the project. Unfortunately, employee contact data quality may never have been addressed prior to your project. It can take months just to get that right (more on HR data and data quality improvement ideas later in the book). The point is, you must factor in all facets of the project in your deliverable timeline.
Tip – Build a project plan. You can use a spreadsheet or a project tool such as Basecamp, Trello or Microsoft Project. Make sure you estimate dates, determine resources and tasks. If you have never done a project before you may want to do some Googling or get a book at the library or online that focuses on project planning 101. It does not have to be complicated.
The bottom line is before you commit to deliverable dates put thought and research into it. Once it is in writing you will be held accountable.