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Maintaining Institutional Knowledge: Building an Effective BCMP

Jul 12, 2019

Back to Veoci BlogMaintaining Institutional Knowledge: Building an Effective BCMP

In life, we don’t always do what we’re supposed to, but there are certain corners that should never be cut. One of these non-negotiables directly impacts the safety of your employees and the operational capabilities of your organization: developing a solid Business Continuity Management Program (BCMP). 

It can be detrimental to the recovery of your organization to be caught without a BCMP post incident or event, but it can also be dangerous to have a BCMP plan that isn’t grounded in communication and shared knowledge. 

With an established BCMP, an organization has a comprehensive list of the essential functions, the resources necessary to maintain the essential functions, and the people, places, and things needed to recover. 

DRII defines essential functions as “the critical activities performed by organizations, especially after a disruption of normal activities.” These might include public safety, facility operations, and disaster recovery. 

As employees come and go, the foundation of the essential functions of your business must be documented to build resilience and allow for the continued sharing of information. It is in the identification and documentation of essential functions, and the process of determining their impact if affected by an incident, that help establish institutional knowledge.

Institutional knowledge is generated when data is transformed into useful knowledge that can be shared to improve organizational practices. It is the key to establishing effective communication. It is also the key to building a business that is resilient in the face of crisis.  

BCMP and Institutional Knowledge

Regardless of staff turnover, change in focus of senior management, or staff training, the act of developing a successful BCMP preserves deep institutional knowledge because it gets to the core of the essential functions of an organization.  

In the article “How to Preserve Institutional Knowledge” published in the Harvard Business Review, Ron Ashkenas states, “Organizations spend a lot of time and resources developing knowledge and capability. While some of it gets translated into procedures and policies, most of it resides in the heads, hands, and hearts of individual managers and functional experts.” 

The real key to successfully establishing a BCMP that will sustain itself over time is to take this knowledge from the “heads, hands, and hearts” of business owners and find a way to capture it so others can learn from it. 

This sharing of knowledge creates resiliency in a business because essential functions aren’t just dependent on one person; multiple employees are able to react to a crisis and help the business maintain operations. This gives the organization a wider safety net to bounce back on. 

Considering Turnover Rates 

It can be easy to settle into a routine and set aside important tasks such as creating a BCMP. However, the workforce of today’s world can be fleeting, so mapping out essential functions and establishing institutional knowledge has never been more important.

Every employee plays a crucial role in the daily workings of an organization, so if they leave, it is important that the knowledge they possess can be transferred to a new employee seamlessly. The organization should be resilient enough to maintain essential functions even amidst staff turnover.

Work Institute’s 2018 Retention Report stated that, “33% of employees will leave their jobs each year by 2020 to go to work somewhere else.” With such a high turnover rate, employers have to be prepared to lose essential employees. 

In the planning process, BC planners and business owners conduct business impact analysis and assign criticality rating to these essential functions. In essence, determining how long they can be interrupted before they cause a significant impact to the business. Therefore, prioritizing these functions determine how important they are to the business. 

Utilizing your plan and the information gathered to help onboard staff will help ensure that knowledge is transferred from one hand to the other without much downtime and that employees truly understand how the organization operates. This alone may quicken the time it would take to engage new employees in becoming productive team members, therefore increasing the level of resilience of the business because new employees wouldn’t mean a lapse in essential functions. 

Tools of Institutional Knowledge 

Much of the strength behind a BCMP solution lies in the institutional knowledge it inherently establishes. There are many platforms out there that can help you build your BCMP components, but it is essential that you find one that also has the capacity to foster institutional knowledge. 

Some platforms possess the ability to store knowledge for you at every stage, from the activation of the recovery strategies, to the ability to fill in the RTO gap as your organization evolves and changes. Platforms such as these can transform the way your organization enstates your BCMP. They can also make you more resilient if a crisis hits.  

Now consider this scenario with two possible outcomes: 

A senior associate at a large organization announces their retirement. The senior associate has information about many of the mission critical functions their department performs at the organization.

Ideally, the BC manager would capture this information for the organization’s BCMP, but the system can’t facilitate their attempts to gather that knowledge from the retiring associate.

The BCMP is split between binders and specialized, stiff software that was never fully adopted. Between the busy schedules of the business continuity manager and the retiree-to-be, the two never catch up, and the knowledge transfer doesn’t occur.

If a disaster were to strike and the organization needed to activate a BCP, not having the information about the mission critical functions in the BCP would greatly extend the recovery and compound the losses. The new employee wouldn’t have the knowledge necessary to keep the essential functions running because that information was never transferred to them. 

Now, if this organization utilized a platform that was conducive for storing data, fostering communication, and building institutional knowledge in conjunction with their BCMP, the program would exist in a shared, collaborative space where tasks, forms, and a log of communication are easily accessible. 

In this scenario, when the senior associate announces their leave, the BC manager can push tasks to the associate, requesting they fill in certain BCPs. Any knowledge the associate has can be preserved through the BCPs and the overall program.

As you can see, placing your trust in the right tool is crucial when trying to develop a resilient business built upon the foundation of institutional knowledge. Look for a platform that relies on open communication where information is easily accessible so that anyone can learn from it, regardless of who originally held the data. 

Collaborate Without Boundaries

Not only does a solid foundation of institutional knowledge allow an organization to establish firm grounds of internal communication and an effective BCMP, but it enables said organization to collaborate efficiently with outside partners and transfer responsibility and information regarding essential functions to new staff. 

Once communication is streamlined in your organization, it becomes much simpler to direct that communication to other sources in productive channels. Your employees have an understanding of essential functions, making it easier to involve law enforcement, local businesses, volunteer groups, or first responders. 

Having the community as a part of your team also increases the resiliency of your organization because there are more people working to reinstate essential functions and daily operations. This allows you to return to normal in a more timely fashion. 

Communication is Key 

As you build your BCMP it is important to consider all of the factors that will make it successful, but primarily you should focus on communication. It is crucial that employees have the institutional knowledge necessary to make appropriate decisions for the BCMP in regards to essential functions and can communicate effectively as that plan is carried out. 

Having an effective BCMP means that your organization has a base of institutional knowledge grounded in an understanding of your essential functions. This strengthens communication and makes your organization more resilient in times of crisis or turnover. 

Ultimately, the transfer of knowledge is key, and with the right tool that is easily accomplished. 

Resilience in the Face of Crisis

BCMPs are key to your organization surviving a crisis because they identify essential functions. Keep that information readily available, as task tools now make easy to do. Enable your organization to preserve institutional knowledge and handle every crisis with resiliency.


Image: The Climate Reality Project via Unsplash

Image: Michael Barera via Wikimedia Commons

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