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Visuals that Communicate Disaster Recovery Concepts

Good consultants make extensive use of pictures and graphs to communicate abstract concepts, since executives often have very little time to do a lot of reading. Use tools like the suggested matrix in Figure 1 to gather and organize your data into a format that can be understood and absorbed quickly by a busy executive.

Figure 1

Figure 1. Disaster prevention matrix.

These steps help you fill in the blanks:

  1. Start by considering each of the nasty things that could befall your organization (fire, flood, disgruntled employee, lightning, power failure, and so on). List each of these items (or perhaps just the top 20, based on the results of your FMEA) in the EVENT column. For example, list "Water in the equipment room."
  2. Indicate the probability of the event. For example, what's the likelihood that a leak will occur in the equipment room? As we've stated in previous articles, you can't just dream up these figures. Consult reputable sources for credible information. For example, your organization's insurance provider undoubtedly has actuarial tables for such disasters.
  3. List the potential cost of the event. Assemble your figures from estimates provided by corporate staff and other people. For example, the VP of sales may have a commission incentive plan based on sales, and would be able to venture a reasonable estimate of lost sales due to equipment outage.
  4. Project how long the disaster would disrupt operations—1/2 day, three days, seven days? Management will automatically multiply the cost figure in the previous column by the time figure. This is by design. Rather than concentrating on the technology, management concentrates on the money. This is how it should be, and how it will be if you do a good job at substantiating your figures.
  5. Specify the money that you'll need in order to prevent or alleviate the problem. Notice that management can make a decision here without concentrating on the technology. It's possible that management won't even understand what equipment you're requesting. If you need fire extinguishers for the equipment room, that's one thing. But what if you're asking for route diversity on a dual-fed counter-rotating fiber-optic ring from the telco? Your management team probably won't know what that is—but referring back to the EVENT column, they'll see that you've listed "Telephone cable cut." That's enough information to make a decision.
  6. Finally, since you'll be asking for a lot of money in many different forms, indicate the financial benefit or the priority for each item. This helps everyone to understand that the lack of a fire prevention system in the equipment room is a higher priority than, for example, the failure of a small network workgroup.

Now that you've gone through this example, albeit a very modest example, ask yourself how the proposal to your executives would have gone if you just asked for money—skipping the other essential information! Yet this is exactly what many technologists do year after year, not because they don't know what they need but because they don't know how to communicate that need effectively to management, in terms that management can understand.

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