UW Emergency Management

February 7, 2018

Build your Husky Ready Plan in a Year: Month 2

This post is part of a 2018 series breaking the process of business continuity planning for University of Washington departments into monthly tasks to help build a plan in a year

Last month we compiled the key information on your staff, including skills, roles and emergency contact information. The work you do cannot be done without your staff. However, in order to get back to work, you likely rely on equipment, vendors, and other resources. This month, we will focus on these physical needs.

We have become so technologically driven that it can be easy to forget the non-IT resources we depend on, like other equipment, vehicles, and even paper forms. Will you be able to print these after an event? How many can you keep on hand?

Lastly, if you depend on a vendor to provide new equipment or service to existing equipment, you will want to include their contact information in your plan.

TIP: Give your vendors a call. If the event that disrupts your business is widespread, they might have business disruptions as well. Do they have continuity plans in place?  Where are you on their priority list as they get back to business? Is this clear in your contract or agreements?

As you populate your plan in Husky Ready, keep thinking about Action Items. You don’t have to make every decision now, or pause to fill your planning gaps–instead add them to your action items, and they will be an important part of updating and revising your plan throughout the year.

Month 2: Cataloging your equipment needs

Total estimated time: 3 hours

Step 1 – IT Physical Resources (45 minutes)

  • Tracking the physical IT assets you use will help you build your plan in a few ways.
    • Working through these steps, you may start to think about the networks, programs, and systems you need this equipment to access. That information will be part of our work in month 5, but make sure take notes!
    • Identifying what you have and use will help you to identify what you absolutely HAVE to have to do your work. There may be resources you rely on day to day that can be taken offline and managed using workarounds indefinitely, versus equipment that is essential to your work. The process of cataloging assets helps you to understand what assets are essential to operations and which are just nice to have.
  • Do you keep any of your own servers or DataCenter assets? If yes, input these in Husky Ready section “Servers” under “Information Technology”
  • Now we will focus on your workstations. But as noted above, we’re not listing every computer you use, but instead looking at how you support your workstations through back up processes. This will affect the data you have available when returning to operations.
    • Detail your automatic backups and workstation support in “Workstations” under “Information Technology”
TIP: Too often when assisting departments with the data backup planning of their business continuity planning, we hear “Oh, UW-IT does that.” Are you sure? Now is the time to ensure you have purchased back up services and have agreements in place. 

Step 2 – Detail Equipment and Supplies (45 minutes)

  • We will capture both what you already have and use, and what you MUST have to do your work. When capturing the essential equipment, the focus should be on equipment that would be hard or cost prohibitive to replace quickly. For example, a computer is likely something your staff each have at home and can use if they cannot use their desk computer. While you might note that you have six computers, your continuity planning wouldn’t focus on this easily replaceable asset.
  • In section  “Equipment & Supplies” under “Key Resources” identify how many of each type of equipment you require. In the comments capture key information. Some considerations:
    • Where is this equipment stored?
    • What is your process for product inventory? Do you allow yourself to run out/let something break down before you replace it? What do you do with old equipment? Do you keep it as a back-up or surplus it?
    • Are you able to acquire this equipment in an emergency? Sometimes equipment takes months to order and ship; is there a way to speed this? Who is the vendor? Under what budget? Under who’s authority?

Step 3 – Vendor information (1 Hour)

  • Focus on vendors who serve your unit specifically, not who support you through your overarching organization. However, note this dependence on your organization; we will come back to this in later months
  • You will store vendor information including contact names and information, the service they provide, key contract information, and budget information in “Stakeholders” under “Key Resources”
  • Do you have back up or secondary vendors for your most important equipment and supplies?
    • If yes, add these vendors to “stakeholders”
    • If no, should you? Some equipment may be easy to obtain from a store or another department without issue, while other equipment may be impossible to obtain any other way

Step 4 – Action Items (30 minutes)

  • In this step you will create action items to address any gaps or uncertainties you had as you worked through the previous three steps. Some possible questions/actions you might pursue:
    • Seeking alternate vendors
    • Identifying emergency purchasing policies: Do you have one? How can you make purchases to do your critical work in an emergency?
    • Reach out to your vendors to learn more about their continuity planning. Consider not only those you buy equipment through, but anyone who services your equipment, cloud providers, communications providers, etc depending on your essential work

With two months of planning down, you have now captured the essentials of your organization purpose, and the people and equipment that make your work possible. The next three months will start to drill into your purpose: together, we will identify and prioritize your critical functions and how long you can go without completing that function without major reputation or economic impacts. We will then explore the ways to keep those critical functions going despite loss of staff, facilities, and/or another interruption to business. This is the meat and potatoes of a business continuity plan.