We all have habits that help us make sense of the world and get us through the challenges of our hectic, information-rich, time-poor lives. For me, an important habit is following a pre-defined path from the produce section to the dairy aisle at the grocery store that helps me get in and out efficiently during my weekly shopping ritual. More regularly, I peek at Facebook while grabbing a sandwich to get glimpses of what my friends are talking about and doing as a primary way of keeping in touch.
An interview with New York Times reporter and student of habits, Charles Duhigg, suggested that 40 percent to 45 percent of “what we do feels like a decision but is really a habit.” With so much of our days taken up by such habitual “decisions,” it’s natural to ponder if organizations — which after all are just collections of individuals — have their own habits, especially when it comes to key business issues like keeping their operations up and running. The simple answer is that they do, and understanding these “habits” can be valuable for all organizations seeking to improve their resiliency in the face of increasing service disruptions.
Disaster recovery habits identified
A recent study of 310 North American business continuity and disaster recovery (DR) professionals by the IBM Center for Applied Insights found that an elite group (31 percent) of organizations called Masters have adopted a set of “resiliency habits” that differentiate them from the rest.
Before delving into Masters’ differentiating behaviors, it’s important to understand why they are worth emulating in the first place. The study found that in an always-on environment, organizations are having to juggle more mission-critical workloads, increasing cyber-security risks and more potential points of disruption due to greater IT integration. In this context, understanding how leading organizations are approaching good DR habits is critical.
Digging deeper, the study noted that Masters excel on key DR metrics compared to two peer groups: Specialists (44 percent of organizations) are fairly well-rounded testers but siloed planners, and Tacticians (26 percent) are less frequent testers whose DR planning is IT-led rather than integrated between business and technology leaders. More than three-quarters of Masters report that they are able to ensure rapid recovery of revenue-generating processes compared to less than half of Tacticians, suggesting that Masters are better able to get back to business quickly when disruptions happen. Also, Masters are 2.5 times more likely than Tacticians to report that they are lowering their recovery costs, which is crucial because 38 percent of all organizations are challenged to demonstrate a strong return on investment for DR investments.
So what are they doing differently? The study found that Masters have five key “plan, test and execute” resiliency habits:
- They include senior business stakeholders and partners inside and outside the enterprise in the DR planning process.
Masters recognize the importance of an integrated approach to DR planning. Nearly three-fourths of Masters involve the board in DR planning compared to one-third of Tacticians. Masters are also twice as likely to involve external DR expertise across the planning, executing and evaluation stages of the DR life cycle, suggesting that they partner for expertise to meet new challenges.
- They take a risk-based approach to DR planning.
As part of their integrated approach to DR planning, Masters prepare for service disruptions by making sure the full spectrum of enterprise risks are considered. Masters are 3.5 times more likely than Tacticians to involve the Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) in DR planning and five times more likely to incorporate the Chief Risk Officer (CRO). More than half integrate enterprise security and risk management in DR processes which helps to focus their DR actions on addressing key enterprise risks.
- They test their DR plans at least annually, and often more frequently.
Testing is second nature to Masters. Nearly 90 percent test at least annually, with many reporting that they test smaller workloads and applications several times a month. When they test, Masters are four times more likely than Tacticians to focus on maintaining consistency between their DR test and production environments so that they are better prepared for real recovery challenges.
- They incorporate lessons from testing to improve their overall DR processes.
Beyond just testing more regularly, Masters strive to take what they are discovering in their testing exercises and directly apply this learning to their DR processes, creating a continuous improvement loop. Surprisingly however, only about half of Masters are directly adapting future DR plans based on testing results, suggesting that there is still significant room for improvement, especially as new DR tools begin to provide more data and better insights.
- They embrace new technologies to predict, diagnose and recover from disruptions in real time.
Finally, the study found that Masters are making use of new technologies a key habit to help them manage – and even anticipate – service disruptions. Masters are three times more likely than Tacticians to enable real-time updates during disruptions and nearly a quarter of Masters are leveraging predictive analytics to anticipate service disruptions compared to no use at all by Tacticians. Given their penchant for new technologies, some Masters are likely exploring emerging technologies like cognitive systems because they can offer even stronger predictive and prescriptive capabilities. Just think about the resiliency upside of being able to anticipate uncontrollable disruptive forces like the weather, predict equipment failures, or thoroughly analyze processes to identify potential points of disruption.
While these are key habits that Masters have adopted, the message is clear: Good, consistent habits that encourage collaboration inside and outside the enterprise, a risk based-approach to DR, a focus on effectively leveraging technology and robust testing that is directly tied to continuously improving the DR plan can help all organizations become more resilient.
Interested in seeing how your resiliency organization compares to the Masters? Try out our online self-assessment tool that allows you to quickly see how your organization stacks up and points to resources to learn more.