In this episode of the Managing Uncertainty Podcast, Bryghtpath Principal & Chief Executive Bryan Strawser discusses making the case for your business continuity program with your senior executives.
Topics discussed include: bridging the gap from aspiration to action as a business continuity leader in your organization, positioning your argument, using metrics and benefits to bolster your argument for investment, aligning your program against organizational objectives, and overcoming objections in the discussion.
Related Episodes & Blog Posts
- Blog Post: How to sell your business continuity program to senior executives
- Blog Post: Making the Case for your Business Continuity Program
- Episode #81: When to bring in a consultant and use them effectively
- Episode #84: Making the case to Leadership
Hello, and Welcome to the Managing Uncertainty podcast. This is Bryan Strawser, Principal and Chief Executive here at Bryghtpath. I want to talk, in today’s episode, about making the case for your business continuity program. You may not know this, but by 2025, 70% of CEOs, according to Gartner, are predicted to place organizational resilience as a top priority for their company’s strategic basic objectives. That means your CEO is likely, in the next few years, going to place organizational resilience as a top priority for your company. So with resiliency being thrust in the limelight in the way that it is, many business continuity professionals see their next step … might see their next step to sit back and wait for budget money just to rain down on the program, because that’s how it works, right? I think your wait might take longer than you may expect.
I can’t deny it excites me to see our profession gain a new level of visibility and traction as resiliency becomes more important to CEOs. But having spent 21 years in the trenches of corporate America, I know there’s a lot of work to be done to get from the idea of a resiliency mandate like this, to building a business ecosystem that’s prepared to respond to tomorrow’s next issue, your next disruption. A lot of work, a lot of that work centers around convincing the people at the top, your C-suite executives, your top management, as the ISO standards call it, and your board of directors to invest money where it’s needed. Your board knows what they want strategically, but are they really ready to make that spend in support of your program? So it’s your job as a business continuity leader, to help them bridge the gap from aspiration to action.
I want to talk about exactly how to do that. Let’s talk about perspective. If you talk to any marketer, they will tell you the key to making the sale is to get deep into the mind of your target audience. What keeps them up at night? What particular challenges and concerns are facing them at the moment? If they could just press an easy button, the Staples Easy Button, what does it do? If you can answer those questions, you’ll have the insight you need to perfectly position your program, your product, or service as the answer to their woes. It’s not any different, as we think about that when it comes to selling your business continuity program to your executive leaders and board in your organization.
The first step is to get buy-in for your business continuity program strategy is to ensure that it ladders up to the organization’s overall business objectives. So four questions to think about. Do you, as the leader of your program, understand your company’s mission, vision, and strategic objectives? What specific initiatives are most important to your company right now? What are the external drivers, contracts, regulatory requirements, impacts to customers and suppliers that most influence your operations? What products and services are you really trying to protect, and what are the likely impacts of a disruption to your company’s ability to deliver upon those things?
As the business continuity subject matter expert in your organization, it’s really easy to get caught up in the nuances of your work and fail to appreciate that big picture. But by engaging with other stakeholders in your organization and taking the time to understand the risks and the vulnerabilities that they’re facing, you can grow your perspective to better align your business continuity program efforts with your business’s overarching objectives. So how do we do that? How do we position the ask?
We start by anticipating objections. There are rarely quantifiable benefits from a cost of revenue standpoint to investing in a quality business continuity program, right? You’re not going to make the company money necessarily by investing in business continuity. There are competing needs of other revenue-generating activities in your organization that only make it more difficult to secure resources for your business continuity program. That’s why a lot of us may find our pitch shut down with questions like, well, why invest in business continuity versus this revenue-generating capability or technology that we want to fund? Why do we even need to do this? How will this help us achieve our strategic objectives as an organization, and how does this help our bottom line? Or my personal favorite, what’s the chance of this thing really happening? Do we really need to prepare for this?
Now, hopefully, COVID has changed the minds of some CEOs, and we should take advantage of that temporary mind shift that’s going on. But these objections are all understandable from a business perspective. Why should your board invest $3 million preparing for something that might never happen, when they could spend that $3 million elsewhere and get a tangible return on investment, a positive financial return? Those are tough objections overcome, but it can be done. That brings me to my second point. You need to know your value. Most senior leaders understand that organizational resilience can be improved by a quality business continuity program, but they might not appreciate its value in… at a more granular level. But there are some unique ways to demonstrate that a tangible return on investment can happen with your business continuity program.
First are quantitative benefits. Are there direct financial benefits of your business continuity investment? We might not be able to say, “Yes, this is going to make us money,” but cost avoidance might be one example. For example, using technology for business continuity planning might show a 15% reduction in the labor required in your program while also improving your organizational resilience. From a qualitative standpoint, if your company is spendy with its marketing, they’ll well understand the importance of reputation and brand to their bottom line. That reputation and the resources poured into building it are all at stake at the hands of a PR-worthy disruption, a reputational crisis. Connect the dots between the two to make a stronger case for your continuity investment.
Benchmarking progress. If you don’t already have metrics related to process for evaluating your business continuity program, now’s the time to start. Do you have the insights that you need to understand the overall maturity of your program, whether your business continuity program is improving over time and in what areas, and how does your business continuity program compare to your peer companies in your industry? Having a proven system that tracks your business continuity program will help you chart your progress and demonstrate your value to others. Other intangible benefits of a good business continuity program are often underestimated. The process can improve transparency and communication amongst teams, strengthen your company’s ability to respond proactively and creatively to disruptions. So dig deep with your business continuity program and your team and your stakeholders, and look for those overlooked benefits that can help you quantify the value of your program to others.
Step three is to understand the process. Every company has got its own unique culture and unspoken set of rules that inform the communication process between business unit leaders and senior leaders and executive leaders. Before you painstakingly set about to prepare your pitch, it’s important to understand exactly how that process works in your particular organization. You should seek out other leaders who have been there, who have successfully gained investment in their programs, and learn how to understand your company’s budget proposal or capital proposal process. Learn from their successes and their mistakes, and then seek their guidance when you encounter particular roadblocks.
Step four, make it easy. As the subject matter expert in business continuity, it’s natural to want to use a lot of terminology specific to your field, BIA, BCP, MTO, RTO, RPO, etc., or you might want to drill down into a lot of graphic level of detail behind your program proposal. But the executive team that you’re pitching are not experts in business continuity. They don’t understand your jargon. So in the end, that confusion can result in inaction. If you want to get to yes, you need to make it easy for them, your board, and your top management, to understand the available options and the steps that you’re asking them to take.
The next is to think strategically. Even the most experienced business continuity planning leader can fail to get the resources that they ask for. Sometimes it’s just a case of bad timing, but more often it’s because your program may not be well-perceived within the company, and that can be your program and your team. As the leader of your program, do you think your company perceives you as a business partner? Are you the annoying person that comes around once a year and tells everyone they have to update their continuity plan? Are you there to help them, or are you there to hold their feet to the fire, to do the plan? Taking small steps over time to improve your credibility within your organization will improve your chances of success come budget time.
Of course, there’s no better way to raise your credibility among your peers than by making the case for a business continuity investment before the inevitable disruption actually happens, a power outage, a flood, a wildfire, a reputational crisis, a cyber attack. Because then you get the question, well, if only we had invested in those backup servers that you had requested funding for last year. That’s a hard argument to overcome the next time you come in asking for money as a line item. Understand your value, know how to communicate it, and always be prepared to take advantage of the chaos when your next boom or disruption occurs.
So again, anticipate objections, know your value, understand the process, make it easy, and ensure you’re thinking strategically. As the business continuity expert and leader in your organization, you know integrally the value of your program, but you might not know how to sell that to others. In the end, executives want a business continuity program that is aligned against the organization’s strategic objectives. It saves them money and time, and it proactively mitigates risk. If you want their support, you need to understand their perspective and align your continuity program against company-wide objectives.
I hope you found this helpful. That’s it for this edition of the Managing Uncertainty podcast. We’ll be back next week with another new episode. Be well.