Operations and Management

Time to Brush off Your Disaster Recovery Plan?

By TMCnet Special Guest
Elaine Cascio
  |  March 01, 2012

This article originally appeared in the March issue of Customer Interaction Solutions

As I write this, the top news story is about a cruise ship that ran aground in the Mediterranean. Reports are that the captain and officers did little to help passengers get off the ship safely. Hearing about this type of tragedy gets me thinking about how well any of us are prepared to deal with disruptions of smaller magnitudes. 

Whether it’s an Amazon cloud outage that brought down numerous websites or instability created by the Missoni launch at Target (News - Alert), are companies effectively prepared to recover and continue with business as (nearly) usual?

Based on just the few very public examples above, I’d argue that many of us are woefully unprepared. But there’s never a better time to take out, dust off and test your business continuity/disaster recovery plan – or put a new one together.

Disaster recovery and business continuity are two major components for ensuring that your contact center will continue to operate. Disaster recoveryprovides for the restoration of critical facilities and IT services such as hardware, software and telecommunications following a significant event. Business continuity enables you to protect your employees and continue the most critical business functions during periods in which facilities, people, or business functions are interrupted. What’s important in any case is the safety of your employees and continuing to provide service seamlessly to your customers.

 A DR/BC plan involves lots of moving parts, and there are often set processes in each organization. Here are some key steps to consider:

 Identify possible scenarios.

These may run from cataclysmic events like an earthquake or hurricane to less disastrous network hiccups.

They can be categorized in a number of ways, including:

  •   technical failures such as loss of network, switch, LAN, voice self service, website, software or mainframe;
  •   physical site disasters including power failures, earthquakes, floods, tornadoes or fires;
  •   staffing issues resulting from snow storms, illness or building evacuations; and
  •   volume increases that result from product issues, other site shutdowns or disasters.

For each scenario, assess the potential business impacts and risks in order to prioritize your plan.

For example, loss of chat functionality is less critical and risky than having to evacuate a building for hours because of a bomb threat.

  • Identify points of failure and loss scenarios.
  • Identify criticality, impact, and potential duration of each scenario. Define tolerance timeframes.
  • Focus on mitigating short-term issues using technology and well-defined action plans.
  • Focus on recovery (reroute, mobilize) for long-term disasters.

Next, develop your risk reduction and recovery measures.

 These may include:

  •    rerouting contacts;
  •    system redundancy and backups;
  •    multiple geographically diverse sites;  
  •    home agents and remote offices; and
  •    hosted service providers for systems or even agents.

Define what to do and when – a true action plan – for the various scenarios.

This includes technology, people and processes. For example, you may need to have agents log into different systems or use different tools to perform their jobs. Be sure to define processes and test them with agents.

Document and test plans and procedures.

Be sure to communicate plans to everyone involved – inside and outside of your company. Identify who owns each task. Then test them, and revise as needed.

As you add or replace technologies, expand offices or change support vendors, update plans and test.  

Review your DR/BC plans at least annually.

For many companies with redundancy and distributed systems in place, risks may seem low. However, we’ve often seen that understanding all potential scenarios helps not only to refine DR/BC plans, but helps in building better technology roadmaps and contact center growth plans. 

Elaine Cascio is a vice president at Vanguard Communications Corp. (www.vanguard.net), a consulting firm specializing in customer experience, self service, contact center processes, operations and technology. 

Edited by Stefania Viscusi