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Business continuity plans for the midmarket: Overcoming the challenge

Will your business survive after a disaster? Learn what it takes to develop a business continuity plan -- and how to get everyone on board.

Hi I'm Kristen Caretta, the associate editor for SearchCIO-Midmarket.com. Arnel Ticsay, the senior director of IT and online technologies at the Outdoor Channel, is here to talk about the challenges of developing a business continuity plan in a smaller-size business.

:17: Arnel, can you please begin by telling us about the Outdoor Channel and how many employees you have?
Arnel Ticsay: The Outdoor Channel's been in business for about 13, 14 years. Currently we have about 125 employees. I have four employees in my IT staff, and we support mostly employees at our corporate facilities in Temecula, Calif.

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Hunting business continuity plans, the Outdoor Channel way

:37: Now, you said you had an informal business continuity plan. Can you explain that?
Ticsay: Yeah, about two years ago, our director of engineering and facilities kind of kick-started the project with business continuity; this is before I got involved in the IT side. But when he left and subsequently returned, we've now been opening up the discussion about business continuity again and trying to get a formal plan. So we have an emergency plan where if something happened, people know what numbers to call, who to go to, what the chain of command is. But it's not a structured plan. It's not one that all the departments have bought into. Its not one that management supports and invests a lot of money in. What I'd like to be able to do is take what we already have and enhance that so it becomes a formal plan, something that we can have people in each of the different departments commit to and be able to carry out in the event that we have a disaster.

1:35: What are the first steps that you take to formalize a business continuity plan?
Ticsay: I think the first steps are some basic meetings with the senior team and some of the management and the department heads. To get them to buy into the project; that first of all, that we have a need for continuing the business if something happens. We need to be able to continue outside the Temecula area if there's anything that ever happens -- if it's an earthquake, or if it's a fire that happens.

2:04: Getting all those stakeholders around the table and talking with them and preparing them for this -- do you think that's easier within a smaller company like yours, or does that present more challenges?
Ticsay: Yeah I think in a smaller company because we have different people wearing multiple hats, a lot of times you don't have somebody that's dedicated just to facilities or emergency notification, or in our case, I do not only IT but also all of our Web entities. So it's not one that you have a dedicated person or persons that manage that project.

So in a smaller company, we not only have the people issue, but we also have funding. There's not a lot of money to go around to do those tasks, and oftentimes we end up having to take money out of one area that we might need just as importantly in order to fulfill our business continuity plan.

2:54: While at the CIO Decisions Conference, you attended a roundtable discussion on business continuity. What do you think was the most important topic covered, or the most interesting thing you learned while you were there?
Ticsay: I think it's just trying to keep it simple. A lot of times we want to make things so formal and complicated, we get a lot of outside consultants come in, we spend a ton of money and nothing really ever happens -- you don't get the support and buy-in.

I think my approach will probably be taking it in small pieces. Get the buy-in initially, get maybe a portion of funding this year, but a majority of what we need maybe next year, in 2009. To be able to move forward. It has to be an ongoing discussion; it can't just be something we talk about now, and then we don't discuss again until an emergency happens. So it's got to be pretty much, having the awareness, bringing that up to the senior team and to all the management involved and being able to get them to understand that there is a bigger picture than fighting the fires and being able to just respond in an emergency. We have to have that planned ahead of time, so that in the chaos and in the emergency people know what steps they need to do to continue the business beyond that emergency.

Let us know what you think about the interview; email: Kristen Caretta, Associate Editor

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