Are you an executive leader wondering how you can more effectively champion your business continuity and crisis management program as an executive sponsor?
While many companies recognize that active executive sponsorship is a top driver of project or program success, they often do little to equip executive sponsors on how to do it well.
We frequently work with senior leaders to help bridge this gap—whether it’s finding new tactics for specific challenges or simply validating what they already know.
Here, we share with you our best insights gleaned from decades of collective experience in helping executive sponsors advocate more effectively for their business continuity and crisis management programs.
Why a Good Executive Sponsor is Crucial to Your Business Continuity and Crisis Management Program
Starting a business continuity and crisis management program involves a lot more than buying new software and filling in business continuity plan templates.
If you want your program to really work—and who doesn’t when the next boom hits—you need to have several things in place, including:
- A business impact analysis (BIA) to assess your company’s current resilience needs and capabilities
- Business continuity plans to instruct your recovery of critical business processes
- A crisis management framework to provide a unified approach to incident escalation, communication, and decision making
- A lifecycle process for growing and improving your program to full maturity
Still, your plans, assessments, and frameworks are only as effective as those people tasked with carrying them out. That’s why your program should also emphasize having clearly delineated roles and responsibilities for everyone from top management to frontline employees.
Among those roles and responsibilities, the executive sponsor and steering committee are two of the most important. They ensure that your business continuity and crisis management program is strategically aligned with and making progress towards your organization’s resilience objectives.
The executive sponsor, typically someone at the general counsel, COO, CIO, CTO, or equivalent level, plays an especially pivotal role. They have direct oversight of the continuity planning program and usually chair the business continuity steering committee. But more importantly, their direct and unfettered access to the C-Suite can help you win credibility for your program across organizational silos and get the buy-in and resources you need for program success.
Want to learn more about Business Continuity?
Our Ultimate Guide to Business Continuity contains everything you need to know about business continuity.
You’ll learn what it is, why it’s important to your organization, how to develop a business continuity program, how to establish roles & responsibilities for your program, how to get buy-in from your executives, how to execute your Business Impact Analysis (BIA) and Business Continuity Plans, and how to integrate with your Crisis Management strategy.
We’ll also provide some perspectives on how to get help with your program and where to go to learn more about Business Continuity.
How to be an Effective Business Continuity and Crisis Management Program Executive Sponsor
In addition to defining clear roles and responsibilities for your business continuity and crisis management program, it’s equally important that you select the right person for each role.
What makes for a good executive sponsor?
Contrary to what many business continuity professionals think when they are putting together their team, the executive sponsor’s depth of knowledge isn’t so important as it is that they “get it.” In other words, they should clearly grasp the importance of effective business continuity and crisis management to your organization’s success. And they should also have the skills and capacity to translate that important message across your organization.
If you’re an executive sponsor who has already made the cut, congratulations. You’ve got your work cut out for you. If you’re now wondering “what next” or “how can I do this better,” here are four highly practical ways to make sure you do the job well.
1. Continually look for opportunities to build the case for business continuity
Unlike the ability of a rotten tooth visual to convince your young kids to brush their teeth, demonstrating the value of business continuity and crisis management is admittedly hard.
How do you quantify the value of a crisis averted?
This can make it tough to sell your business continuity and crisis management program at any level, whether to the board, C-Suite, or boots-on-the-ground employees.
An effective executive sponsor takes on this challenge by looking for unexpected opportunities to showcase your business continuity and crisis management activities within the narrative of everyday happenings. For example, failing to meet requested recovery time objectives or RTOs during a crisis incident is the perfect opportunity to highlight how your program is leveraging its resources to close the gap in your IT disaster recovery plans.
2. Unapologetically forward your business continuity agenda
Boards and executives often see business continuity and crisis management as a second-tier concern behind profitability and shareholder objectives. As a result, resilience initiatives rarely make it to the top of the meeting agenda (if at all). At other times, your resilience plans might have a place at the table but instigate disagreement among senior executives. This can lead nowhere fast.
As an executive sponsor, it’s your job to exercise your influence and authority to ensure your program gets the time and consideration it deserves at governance meetings. Likewise, in the event of an executive stalemate, your team is trusting you to exercise your insider knowledge, political capital, and as a last resort, your direct line to the CEO, to force conversations and decisions that are critical to your program’s success.
3. Help your business continuity team anticipate strategic changes
Considering a shift in operating locations, a new acquisition, or another big strategic change? Your business continuity team needs to know.
But these types of strategic moves are usually close hold until made public or formally announced. As a result, they aren’t typically on the radar of the business continuity team with enough time to anticipate and prepare
Although you might not be able to alert your team to such developments outright, you can artfully ask questions of your team and raise their awareness to certain lines of thinking. This can help them anticipate needed adjustments to your business continuity and crisis management program to stay in step with new strategic developments.
4. Act as a mentor and trusted source of help
Above all else, some of the best executive sponsors we’ve worked with at Bryghtpath do this one thing really well.
They proactively look for opportunities to help, by:
- Encouraging honest and direct conversations with the business continuity program director
- Providing advice and mentoring where needed
- Continually asking questions like: “How can I help?” and “What issues or obstacles are your running into?”
You are the proverbial wingman to your business continuity and crisis management team. They need you to demonstrate an unwavering committed to your program’s success and demonstrate that you are prepared to leverage the full weight of their experience and authority to ensure it.
Whether you’re a business continuity professional looking to get more out of your relationship with your executive sponsor, or an executive sponsor looking to more effectively advocate for your business continuity and crisis management program, Bryghtpath can help.
Want to work with us or learn more about Business Continuity & Crisis Management?
- Our proprietary Resiliency Diagnosis process is the perfect way to advance your business continuity & crisis management program. Our thorough standards-based review culminates in a full report, maturity model scoring, and a clear set of recommendations for improvement.
- Our Business Continuity (including effective Business Continuity Governance) & Crisis Management services help you rapidly grow and mature your program to ensure your organization is prepared for the storms that lie ahead.
- Our Ultimate Guide to Business Continuity contains everything you need to know about Business Continuity while our Ultimate Guide to Crisis Management does the same for Crisis Management.
- Our free Business Continuity 101 Introductory Course and/or our Crisis Management 101 Introductory Course may help you with an introduction to the world of business continuity & crisis management – and help prepare your organization for your next disruption.
- Learn about our Free Resources, including articles, a resource library, white papers, reports, free introductory courses, webinars, and more.
- Set up an initial call with us to chat further about how we might be able to work together.