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Incident management and strong disaster response (DR) plans are critical components of your overall business continuity (BC) program success.

But how do you ensure your incident management exercises will help your organization be prepared and not just one-more-thing-to-do for your team members?

In our 2019 Business Continuity Benchmark Study, more than half of respondents—63%—said minimizing reputational damage as result of an incident is a high priority for their organization.

In this three-part series, we take a close look at incident management exercises and the important role they play in your overall business continuity program and operational resiliency.

In part one, we’ll discuss the three preliminary preparation steps you should take to improve your incident management exercises and overall organizational preparedness. Let’s get started:


Plan and Prepare

Before scheduling your next incident management exercise, focus on planning and preparation. This should start with communication to your executive team and key stakeholders.

  • Begin with a brief recap of your business continuity program goals.
  • Explain how incident management exercises help your team better prepare to respond to incidents when they happen in real time.
  • Explain potential ramifications of what not doing these exercises may mean for your organization.
  • Share a high-level overview of what your exercise might look like, what you hope to accomplish, and an estimated timeline.

Once you get executive buy-in and support, it’s time to dive into planning and preparation, so gather your team members who will help you plan this exercise.

Draw from a cross-departmental pool of employees. You may find it beneficial to include some of your mid-level managers at this stage. Getting their involvement and input early may help your more easily facilitate the exercise.

Define the Scope

Successful incident management exercises have a defined scope. This scope will help you set some key parameters.

Here are a few things to consider:

  • What will you include in this exercise?
  • What do you consider out of scope?
  • What type of exercise do you want to do? A tabletop exercise? A full simulation? Other?
  • Where will you conduct the exercise?
  • Are there specific plans or processes you expect your team members to follow?
    • Do your team members know what those plans are and how to access them?
  • Are there specific forms, app, policies, or compliance regulations they should use?
    • Do your team members know what those are and how to access them?
    • What will the impact be on your operations if they can’t access this needed information?

Set Objectives

What are the objectives for your exercise? You should design your exercise to fit these objectives:

  • What’s your Recovery Time Objective (RTO)?
  • What targets do you need to put in place to prioritize your recovery processes?

Once you’ve set these objectives, which should be within your exercise scope, make sure they’re easily accessible for all team members.

Consider posting these objectives somewhere prominent during the exercise, like on the wall or on board, or provide them digitally, such as through email or an app.

Also, when thinking about your scope and objectives, it may be good to select a facilitator for your exercise.

The facilitator won’t take part directly in your activities, but can be available to keep your exercise focused, ensuring you stay within scope and noting milestones as you meet your objectives.

If your exercise starts to go astray, your facilitator can pause activities and help your team adjust to get back on track.

These are ideas are great starting points for improving your incident management exercises. The stronger and more effective your exercises are, the more confidence your organization will have in recoverability.

Keep an eye out for part two of this three-part series where we’ll explore four additional recommendations for improving your incident management processes.


Topics: Incident Management

Assurance Software

Written by Assurance Software

Assurance Software takes your company’s enterprise-wide business continuity and resiliency program to the next level. With Assurance as your go-to partner for continuity and resilience, you can confidently mitigate risk, manage recovery, and safeguard your employees, customers, operations and brands.

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