Disaster Recovery and Risk Management

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25 Apr 2016

Disaster Recovery and Risk Management

Be Prepared not Scared when it comes to Disaster Recovery and Risk Management

A well-defined and effective project will be underscored by innovation and will drive towards a dynamic and shifting goal. Said simply, in the world of project management risks are necessary, and unexpected developments are inevitable.

While risks are inherent in projects, they can be disastrous if not properly analysed and handled. An unexpected development won’t just impact your quality, but your budget, your timeline, your stakeholder relationships and potentially every other aspect of your project.

This reality, and the critical scope-management balance that every project must strike, makes rigorous risk management strategies essential for success. More than this, it highlights the importance of a tried and test, ready-to-go disaster recovery plan, for when things go badly wrong.

Organisations and projects simply don’t stop for the unexpected, highlighting the requirement for proactive not reactive risk management and disaster recovery. These project plans should integrate with the company’s broader Business Continuity and Risk Management Plans where appropriate.

Risk Management – Why and How

Risk management isn’t about being risk averse. On the contrary, embracing risks and navigating the unexpected often helps projects to meet deadlines, fulfil objectives and balance budgets. Depending on the appetite of stakeholders, taking risks might dominate much of a projects lifespan.

Risk management then, is not about removing risk altogether but knowing how and when to tackle these events when they occur.

Risks have always been everywhere but in an increasingly complex economy and globalised world the scope of projects are getting larger, making the impacts of risks more profound.

Larger, more disparate chains of command are more likely to lead to internal breakdowns, and that’s without considering the external factors that come from borrowers, customers, and the wider market.

Risks can also become opportunities though, and just as negative impacts are becoming larger, so too are positive effects. 

How do you implement a risk management plan to maximise the positive and minimise the negative? You do it by embedding your risk management strategy in your project, rather than viewing it as an external factor to be denied and avoided until it rears its ugly head.

Potential responses and implementation plans need to be mapped out from a project’s infancy, giving you the agility to make decisions about how you approach each risk. Relevant stakeholders should be engaged from the outset to assess risks and determine risk management strategies to ensure they are fit for purpose and to identify the most appropriate resource to allocate responsibility for each given risk. This also promotes shared responsibility and teamwork, rather than ‘all care but no responsibility’ attitudes. All too often risk management plans are made in isolation by top-down hierarchies. This approach can produce sound-looking documents but not necessarily robust plans. This is not a weakness you want to find when the waters get rough.

Threats and benefits not only need to be identified early, but also need to be talked about, analysed and owned by different team members, without laying blame. This streamlines your process and leads to a faster more informed response. But what happens when disaster does strike?

Disaster Recovery

Whether you’ve experienced project disaster as a manager or you want to avoid it at all costs, you need a disaster recovery plan.

Your disaster may have been caused by technical failures or operational oversights, internal or external factors out of your control. At the point of disaster this has diminished importance, as your priority becomes determining how your project will respond, and whether or not it can continue.

Disaster recovery outlines the steps you will take when the unthinkable occurs on your project, making its importance immediately evident. Beyond this though, transparent disaster recovery plans identify your organisation as responsible, and attempt to remove or reduce danger or risk in the short term and re-establish processes, services or plans like building blocks henceforth.

A strong disaster recovery plan will carve a clear roadmap that highlights potential threats and consequences, as well as preventative and corrective measures. It will also be thoroughly tested to increase the chance of successful implementation.

Along with the ability to detect or predict these events, disaster recovery can reduce the possibility of disaster and provide fast, tested and implementable measures to restore normality after an event. 

At every level of management, including as project managers, we must remain vigilant in acquiring the skills that can help us to recognise, avoid and – if necessary – recover from disaster. You cannot prevent the unknown from occurring, but you can prepare for it. If you need to learn more, our in-house training and courses at Elemental Projects are a great place to start.