Global View: Ready to React

By  Alana Okun — July 27, 2006

With a staff of more than 60,000 employees stationed at headquarters and nearly 200 store locations throughout the UK, the John Lewis Partnership understands the importance of maintaining consistent business operations. The company is investing in a new business continuity management (BCM) strategy, which will help it communicate with key partners to minimize risk, ensure safety and keep business operations running smoothly.

Historically, plans were based on perceived risk rather than on actual business impact analysis, says Russell Husband, assistant general inspector, John Lewis Partnership. The lack of a coherent business continuity planning approach and costly maintenance procedures led us to reevaluate existing processes and implement new technology.

During the evaluation of the companys business processes and the implementation of its long-term BCM system, the retailer identified several vulnerabilities. One of the most critical areas that required improvement was the companys emergency communications structure, according to Husband. The range of possible crisis situations for John Lewis could power outages, a fire at a store or headquarters, a product recall or a natural disaster. It is essential for the retailer to be able to communicate with key personnel throughout its many locations in order to minimize the impact of these incidents.

Enterprise-Wide Acceptance

Two of the primary considerations for John Lewis in selecting a system were its ease of use and administration, and powerful data management capability. It also was important that the crisis management system integrate with the companys existing RecoveryPAC business continuity/disaster recovery planning software from CPACS and also that it could grow with the organization. After a pilot project John Lewis began rolling out MessageOnes AlertFind communication tool and the internally developed Crisis Commsuite, which is now being commercially marketed by CPA Software in the UK. The retailer also recently implemented IBM XRC Performance Monitor, which operates in real time between its datacenter and backup site via a dedicated private network.

The centralized direction of the system has helped its acceptance enterprise-wide. We could more easily encourage users if all business continuity plans were automated, Web-based, on a common platform and operated with user-friendly tools, says Husband. We knew that committed plan owners would have more confidence in online plans rather than hardcopy shelf ware and therefore would have a vested interest in the systems accuracy, maintenance and testing.

The systems flexibility makes it accessible and easy to understand for all users. A rigid system could provoke users into not using the continuity planning system at all, says Husband. It is important for everyone to be on board because disasters dont necessarily confine themselves to theoretical divisions or areas of responsibility, and all parts of the business must be protected.

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