I remember when data centers were not the multipowered, multitelecommunication, hardware, software and people buildings they are today. My first was on the fifth floor of a parking lot and the cars drove around us. The importance of IT, while seemingly crucial to the business functioning of the third largest bank in the great state of Texas, was not deemed significant enough to have a modern data center.
Texas is in the hurricane belt, so five to seven months a year we play hurricane roulette. One year our city was enveloped by a Force 4 hurricane, which we survived. Our competitors, already hit by various economic factors, did not escape. But the good news was that the bank allowed us to build a proper data center.
Business continuity management (BCM), or keeping the business in business, is not just about disaster recovery. BCM is governance on risk, management of what happens if you are in the news the wrong way, employee-handling, decision-making … well, everywhere, really that keeps a business in business. Beyond people and buildings, technology is the main ingredient of enabling a business and should strongly contribute to any BCM effort.
DevOps and BCM
The concepts of DevOps are not new: How do you best manage the technology (people, processes and the fun stuff) that enables a business or mitigates obstacles? By blending the practices from Agile, Lean and ITSM, you create a better, faster, safer way of working across the organization.
If technology sustains and improves business processes and customer products, then it stands to reason that DevOps and business continuity work hand in hand.
DevOps encourages you to think in terms of the entire value chain of events. Release management, for instance, is the chain of events that ensures what is being created is delivered for use as soon as possible and with high quality, and is able to be supported. Sometimes, processes work together such as budgeting (how to use money and other resources) and funding (using money or other resources).
If you use Agile practices, then you already have the basics of release, deploy, test, change and support processes integrated. Why not add an aspect of BCM to your functional requirements and user stories, or to your “what happens if” scenarios? In this way, from the beginning of the chain to the end, everyone involved can look for, design against, test and be ready to support those occasions.
Ranger4’s favorite metrics are cost of delay to help prioritize and meant time to recovery (MTTR) to ensure that the response, review, repair, recovery and return are as quick as possible. Great metrics impact decision-making immediately and drive change in behavior.
BCM can help to underpin these metrics by asking:
- Events will happen, so are we ready?
- Where is our code? What is our plan for infrastructure/cloud?
- How long can we be down and how long to recover?
- Where are our suppliers? What happens if they cannot respond?
- What if our data center is down but the business is forced to evacuate?
- Where are our documentation checklists? Remember that plane that landed in a river at New York seconds after lift-off? Not a long time to read a manual, so we need an easy and automated checklist.
- How will employees service their staff and customers in the event of an event? I know from firsthand knowledge that the first thing taken away from companies in a major crisis is mobile service, as almost all bandwidth goes to emergency services. So what will you use?
- What happens if a political event occurs, such as Britain leaving the EU, for example?
- How will customers contact us? How will we respond?
Answering these questions will keep the flow of technology able to service the business with the right level of feedback and response. If you continually look for ways to improve business processes using technology, then you have started to mature DevOps and the use of the three ways—and, more importantly, you have impacted the culture, automation use, customer-employee focus, ways to measure and the sharing of knowledge to make you better, faster, safer.
Being able to prove that you can survive is a great way to impress current and future clients. Every day there’s news about a company that lost a component of its technology or was impacted by an event. How often do you ask yourself: Where was their BCM strategy?
About the Author / Daniel Breston
Daniel Breston is the Chief of DevOps Transformation for Ranger4. Daniel has 30+years leading IT Service, Operations, Applications, Data Center and service partners in management of technology enabling business processes and functions. He has also spent 15 years of consulting and coaching leadership teams across the EU and UK in developing their people, processes and use of technology to deliver technology services better, faster, safer. Daniel has qualifications in IT Service Management (ITIL, COBIT,etc.), Lean and DevOps.