How to Turn Data Into Gold with Business Continuity

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. I hope you enjoy the chapter and my book.

How to Turn Data Into Gold with Business Continuity – I have done it and will show you how.

This story describes a perfect example of how your business resilience team can go beyond core business continuity responsibility and add revenue generation or expense reduction value to your company in non-BC areas. Management loves these extra credit efforts!

Always look for these types of golden hidden opportunities to shine. Be curious. Your normal resilience and BC functions will provide you with a unique view of your organization which will open these goldmine opportunities up to you for the taking. You can ultimately be seen as a profit center!

You never know when an opportunity will present itself, so ‘always be ready ‘. I draw a parallel to when really smart athletes make it to the professional level. Even if they are third or fourth on the depth chart, for the first time in their lives, the smart athletes ‘practice with a purpose’ every day just as if they are in the starting lineup. When the opportunity presents itself, and it will, they will be ready! That must be your mindset as well.

Here is an example how with a little out-of-the-box thinking an opportunity presented itself to me. I found that by going the extra yard and digging a little deeper I was able help my company save hundreds of thousands of dollars. This one ‘stretch project’ rewarded me in many ways. By the way, I LOVE ‘stretch projects’. You should consider challenging yourself with stretch projects in your professional and personal life.

It all started when I was implementing a recovery strategy for customer service toll free numbers for a Fortune 500 Company. Building a resilient customer facing toll free number recovery strategy is critical and fortunately it is one of my specialties. It intersects technology and aggressive business process needs which is a challenge I really enjoy. I get to express my tech, resilience, BC skills and have a ton of fun doing it! Don’t tell my employer but I would do this stuff for free!

The customer service process I was focused on would need to recover approximately 60 customer facing toll free lines during a disruptive event. Many of the lines had numerous sub-prompts which enabled the callers to reach employees with the exact skill-sets needed to answer their specific questions. I had implemented this type of call re-routing recovery strategy many times in the past so it was smooth sailing.

  • I went through the process of meeting with the customer service process owner to review the customer facing numbers and the time sensitivity of each line. They had some documented in their business continuity plans but it is important to double check to make sure you have all the customer facing numbers in scope and all are accounted for in the telecom provider’s routing tables.
  • Next, I worked with our in-house telecom expert and the process owners to build the routing tables. I set up and hosted the meetings. Getting these conversations going with the right people is invaluable. Know your resources and plug them in where required.
  • Next, I partnered with our third-party recovery vendor to square away routing the calls to the alternate recovery site and to the proper skill set recovery personnel wherever they happened to be sitting in the work area recovery room. The beauty of the routing tables is that once the number is set up, it can be sent to any location – vendor location, mobile trailer, your in-house sister-site or work-from-home.
  • I was also able to implement features at the vendor work area recovery site such as call forwarding, conferencing, call recording and many other cool features the business required. It entailed working with their telecom team and our telecom team.
  • We then did a great deal of testing. We started with simple tests and later got quite complex while thoroughly testing each feature. We ’embraced’ each issue we encountered in testing, fixed them and re-tested.

Tip – The first few times you go through this type of project it can be tricky but you will do a great job and you will learn a lot. Subsequent implementations will be much easier.

Tip – Make sure you create a detailed project plan or a checklist so you do not miss any steps in the process. Make certain you have listed the people accountable for completing each task. It is important to document realistic deliverable dates for each task.

Tip – Don’t worry, you do not have to be a telecom expert, just pull the right partners together and you will be fine. There is no way I could have successfully completed this type of project without knowledgeable partners.

The value of the resilient toll free re-routing strategy was critical during the Great Northeast Blackout of 2003 (next chapter in the book) when 50,000,000 people on the east coast of the United States were without power. New York City was severely impacted and our company had to ‘declare’ and enact our business continuity plans. Everything worked well for us. Now let’s get back to the focus of this chapter, which is finding golden opportunities in your business continuity travels.

Discovering the gold in the data:

While reviewing the toll-free numbers in scope for the customer service toll free numbers I started thinking – if this department had upwards of 60 toll free numbers and within other department business continuity plans including other customer service departments we had an additional 300-350 toll free numbers documented, might there be additional toll free numbers throughout our 85,000 employee organization that we had not accounted for and have strategies built to recovery? Might some of them be time-sensitive?  I became really curious and soon it became an obsession to uncover ALL the toll-free numbers in our huge organization.

So I had to figure out a way to dig deeper into locating toll free numbers on an enterprise level instead of just the ones directly involved in this project or the ones we had accounted for in the business continuity plans.  Fortunately, I am a ‘data rat’. Working with big data is another passion of mine. I know it sounds funny but I love data and I feel very comfortable being immersed in even terabytes of data. My hope is someday to have the opportunity to analyze a zettabyte of data!

During my career, I have discovered that where there is a lot of data – there is often opportunity to make money, save money and improve an organization in many ways.  Big data is changing our world. A very creative use of big data is how Jawbone(R) and Fitbit(R) are using data from their wearable personal health devices. One example is the analysis Jawbone did on sleepers during an early morning Napa, California earthquake.  Surely directional analysis could be layered on top of the metrics and perhaps someday this could help us with early warnings provided personal information were not used. Just an idea of mine.

Sometimes big data ideas come to me in the strangest places – when I am sleeping, in the shower or on a long run. I suggest you keep a note pad with you at all times to jot ideas down or they will ‘flitter’ as described in the ‘Ideas Flittering Away‘ chapter in the book. You can also voice record notes in your smart phone if you prefer.

If you have ever worked for an enormous global organization with 85,000 employees, you can appreciate the scope of this project and the sleuthing necessary to get to the gold – the big toll free list(s) – if such a list or lists even existed.

The key to my detective work was the many great relationships I had built over the years. Building corporate and industry relationships is valuable social capital. Sometimes half the battle in a big corporation is knowing the ‘players’ and having an open door to contact them. It can take years to build this social capital. If you build these types of relationships, they will benefit you immensely. Network, network, network!

I systematically contacted people in my corporation I thought might be able to get me closer to the golden list(s). One connection led to another and to another until finally after digging ten people deep I finally discovered the ‘keeper of the toll-free list’. I was so excited!

She was very helpful and sent me a list with 5,387 toll free numbers. Seriously!  5,376 toll free numbers! I still get excited just thinking about it. I pulled the list into a simple spreadsheet and methodically began analyzing it. Next, I started randomly calling and testing some of the numbers. Interestingly, many of the numbers ‘busied-out’ or were dead. Yikes!

I dug a bit deeper. Many of these numbers were assigned to sales-people that had long ago left the organization. Hmmm. On a hunch, I contacted accounts payable. I learned we were still paying for many of these useless numbers that had been changed or abandoned over the years. Often, they simply fell through the cracks and were still on our books! Believe it or not there is a whole industry built around telecom auditing.

I calculated the lost revenue and turned the results over to upper management. The potential cost saving on these numbers was in the six figures. Ka-ching! In addition to current savings, a process was implemented so we could automatically identify future toll frees that were not actively in use. Future savings would also be significant. Ka-ching!

Management was thrilled and they showed their appreciation.

Being a resilience / continuity professional provides you with a unique opportunity to see the organization holistically. You will see the big picture. Bring value and it will make you unique and indispensable. Dig into the data and the process, think outside the box, be creative, go that extra mile and provide value beyond core business continuity expectations. I share additional revenue generation and cost reduction opportunities throughout the book.