Last month we began this three-part series with tips on how to "sell" management on endorsing and funding a disaster recovery plan. This month, we continue on the same track with other techniques for securing approval and funding.
Disaster recovery planning isn’t always a slam-dunk because people differ from one another in their perception of what constitutes a risk. Consider the following example.
In 1991, I was asked by an Israeli company to come to Tel Aviv, Israel to teach a seminar about disaster recovery planning based on one of my books. (My first reaction was that the Israelis should be teaching me, but the prospect of going to the Holy Land was intriguing.) I arrived three months after the first Gulf War, only days after they stopped passing out gas masks to all persons at Ben Gurion Airport. I was greeted that day by a number of highly educated and technically savvy Israeli nationals who had sponsored my trip. These people believed that the recent war would be the ticket to a most profitable seminar. After all, what could be more compelling to the Israeli financial community than having just been through a war? Disaster recovery for the office would only partially cover the topic. Weeks before, these folks had been taping off rooms of their homes against poison gas attacks! They had actually watched Scud missiles falling on their city. I was just there to witness the aftermath. Suffice it to say that seeing a crater where an apartment building used to be is a most compelling advertisement for contingency planning.
So how did it go? Personally, I had the time of my life and made many lifelong friendships. As far as the seminar, the sponsors told me that when they telemarketed the seminar, the most common response they got was "Oh, that will never happen to me!" Wow, what does that tell you about perception of risk?
What I’ve described isn’t limited to Israel. Consider that in the U.S., even after a series of recent disasters (Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Rita, the Virginia Tech shootings, etc.), trying to "sell" disaster recovery planning is as challenging as ever. Granted, from time to time there are opportunities to advance the cause due to an event headlining the news, such as the September 11 attacks or the Oklahoma City bombing. Yet even these catastrophes are fleeting. Companies quickly get back to business as usual after these events, forgetting what happened or what they were going to do about it. For example, right after Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita, management was receptive to the idea of disaster recovery plans. It was fairly easy to get a meeting "upstairs" to discuss the topic. As the months passed, however, management’s interest began to wane. This is typical of human nature and illustrates why it’s important to execute when the concept of business resumption planning is still a focus of attention.
In summary, I realized a long time ago that, to survive in this business, I really needed to refine my pitch to management and technologists. Having made my point, the remainder of this article is devoted to refining your pitch and communicating the need.