The true test for a business continuity manager comes when an invocation occurs and all their plans and strategising is finally put into action.
The time when this first happens can be tense, with business continuity managers under intense pressure to ensure everything goes to plan. This was no different for Colin Lawrence, IT Manager at London based insurance group, Cathedral Capital. When his 5th floor offices in the City were evacuated due to a flood, it was down to him and his business continuity partner Phoenix to make sure everything went to plan.
One morning in November 2007, a burst water main flooded the building and the Cathedral Capital staff had to vacate the premises in the interests of health and safety.
"It was just after 9am", explains Colin Lawrence. "Some of our underwriters had already headed over to Lloyds and people had just settled into their desks, so it was not the best time to have to leave!" At this stage it was unclear how long the building would be out of bounds and Cathedral Capital had to decide whether to sit out the evacuation and hope to be allowed back in soon, or move to a Phoenix centre.
Working with Phoenix, Cathedral Capital gathered up its tapes and two of its 10 servers and headed to Phoenix's London City North Centre at Old Street. They were delighted to find that Phoenix had done a lot of the groundwork already, with necessary communications equipment activated and spaces for staff immediately available for them to move into. The Cathedral Capital team was free to establish contact with the Lloyds market through their Lloyds Insurance Network, and ensure the firm was only out of contact with market data and movements for a minimal period.
"This decision to relocate or not is often tricky for our clients," commented Mike Osborne, Managing Director of Business Continuity at Phoenix.
"Very often, such as with Cathedral Capital, it's not clear just for how long premises will be inoperable, and deciding whether to put staff through the inconvenience of an office move potentially for a short period is a difficult call to make. Business continuity managers need to look at the situation holistically - the inconvenience to staff of a short-term move to a business continuity centre needs to be weighed against the business impact of your company being out of action for a longer period. Indecision could easily prove very damaging to your business."
It turned out that Colin and his colleagues had made the right decision. The firm's building was out of action for three working days, as well as over the weekend, with Cathedral Capital not allowed back until the Tuesday morning.
In another smart move, Phoenix and Cathedral decided to keep the firm's lines at Old Street open until the firm was settled back into its offices, not wanting to leave the company with no communication lines whilst one site wound down and the other was yet to be switched on!
Preparation is Key
"For Cathedral Capital, disaster recovery has always been important," Colin commented. "The firm tests its BCM strategy every year with Phoenix and sees its business continuity planning as an evolving and changing entity. There is a requirement for company wide involvement to ensure that, should something happen, the firm knows what to do."
As its first invocation, Colin was surprised at what actually interrupted the business, "This was definitely unexpected - being flooded out from our 5th floor office! It goes to show however that you never know what could impact on your business running smoothly and the speedy, successful move, relocation and outcome all vindicated our programme of regular testing.
To move or not to move?
For the business, re-establishing links with the Lloyds market was key, and should the office not be habitable again for some time the impact on the firms business and its reputation would be significant - so the decision was made to move. "Essentially we had no idea how long it would take the water board to fix the problem, our underwriters over at Lloyds were working with no back-office support and we were in danger of wasting more time procrastinating and hoping!"
Overview of the case study
London based insurance group Cathedral Capital has 50 staff on the 5th floor of an office block in the heart of the City.
A burst water main leads to the evacuation of Cathedral Capital's 5th floor offices and the need to implement the firm's business continuity plan for the first time.
A work area recovery solution from Phoenix's purpose-built centre. A comprehensive testing programme ensures a smooth invocation and
Phoenix's expert team leaves Cathedral Capital free to focus on the business, not the recovery.
Cathedral Capital continues operating while its offices are uninhabitable, saving three working days. The success of the invocation validates the company's business continuity planning and proves the value of its testing programme
Established in 1979, Phoenix is one of the UK's leading Cloud and hosting providers, delivering IT infrastructure services through a compelling portfolio of end-to-end IT solutions focused on optimised availability for both Cloud solutions and more traditional environments.
Phoenix delivers services to over 3,600 organisations in the UK across a number of sectors. Customers include Accenture, Atos, Barclaycard, BT, Capgemini, Capita, Commerzbank, Costain, Diageo, Experian, First Choice, HP, Jaguar Land Rover, Marston's, Nomura, Stobart Group and Wipro.
Fully listed on the London Stock Exchange, Phoenix has a turnover of £264m and employs over 2,300 people. For more information, please see: http://www.phoenix.co.uk/
Rob Jessel / Nick Bird
Spreckley Partners Ltd
Tel: +44 (0)20 7388 9988