UW Emergency Management

March 8, 2018

Build your Husky Ready Plan in a Year: Month 3

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.

This month we start the process of identifying your unit’s critical functions. This has been split into a three month process because it makes up the bulk of your continuity planning, it will be the most taxing, and it will likely require checking in with co-workers and others on your team.

The way we have set up this process, you identify all your critical functions and name them, then you come back next month to consider dependencies and how to cope, and then you return the following month with fresh eyes (and perhaps key information from others on your team) to think about actions you can take to mitigate risks to your critical functions.

TIP: Not sure what makes a “good” critical function? Data! The more information you can include, the more useful it will be for you when you have to use your plan because you will understand better which risks you’re trying to avoid and what is at stake. There are many opportunities in this system to do the bare minimum, but the more you put into it, the more you can take out of it. This is a long-term process, with a review every year; if you don’t have the knowledge or capacity to go in depth this time, make that a goal for next year!

This method has you working on multiple critical functions simultaneously, with the idea that there will be dependencies and solutions shared by multiple functions. If you would prefer to do one critical function at a time, focus on only a single critical function this month and next, then transition into working on your other critical functions for months two and three of the critical function section.

Note: timing in this section may vary depending on how many critical functions exist in your organization.

First, what is a critical function?

Simply put: it is the work you do every day; the work you will want to return to after a major disruption. The system has you assign a level of criticality to each function. This helps you to prioritize your critical functions, so you know what to tackle first for recovery.

Is everything you do a critical function? Probably not! Plan writers may take two approaches with non-critical unit functions. They may omit them from the plan, or they may include them in the plan but list them as deferrable. Why would you do the work just to call it deferrable? Because eventually you will want to return operations to 100% normal and doing planning and decision making ahead of time will make this easier.

Month 3: Identifying your Critical Functions

Total estimated time: 6 Hours

Step 1 — Identifying and prioritizing your responsibilities (1 hour)

  • Start by just making a list of everything your unit does. What are your key responsibilities? What do you have to do to meet your mission? What things do you do daily? Weekly? Monthly? Annually? Capture as many of these as possible. Review your list–are there functions you do to support items on this list that are not already? Add these.
  • Now let’s measure criticality. Below we list each of the measures and the system definition. But you are welcome to assign as makes sense for YOUR unit. You may not have anything that would be considered a life safety issue, but you may have processes that if not restored within 24-hours present major financial or reputational risk.
  • Before you assign criticality, navigate Husky Ready to the pages where you will input this information. Better to do the work in the system then have to duplicate it later.
    • Under “Critical Functions” select “Manage Critical Functions.”
    • In the right side bar, select “edit page” if not already in edit mode.
    • At the top of the page, select “add critical function.”
    • Name the function–something short but easy to understand. You will have the opportunity to add further description later.
    • Assign a level of criticality:
      • Critical 1: must be continued at normal or increased service load. Cannot pause. Necessary to life, health, security. Think functions that cannot stop, not for a short while
      • Critical 2: must be continued if at all possible, perhaps in reduced mode. Pausing completely will have grave consequences. Think functions that can pause for a short time (12-72 hours) but must resume as quickly as possible.
      • Critical 3: may pause if forced to do so, but must resume in 30 days or sooner.
      • Deferrable: may pause; resume when conditions permit.
        • As noted above, you may choose to omit deferrable tasks from your plan
    • Do this for all items on your list you wish to include in your plan
TIP: Would it help to see a completed plan in the system? Email our BARC manager Megan Levy and ask for view permissions to a completed plan.

Step 2 — Describe. That. Function! (4 hours)

  • First a reminder: Always “save” using the button in your right navigation bar before leaving a page!
  • Now that you have populated your critical functions, you will see them in your left navigation bar. Click on the first function, and see additional options drop down. Select “description”
    • Provide a description of the critical function. Make this descriptive enough that someone who does not perform this function regularly or at all can understand the purpose and process of the function.
    • Identify the people responsible for this function. This can be the single person who has ownership of the program, or everyone who works on it. Just remember–everyone named in the plan should read and buy off on their portion of the plan. When you’re trying to recover from an event, you don’t want anyone to be surprised that they are responsible for part of the plan
  • Now select “peak periods”
    • Are there months where the workload for this function is higher than normal? Or months where a delay in the function might causes greater harm then if it happened during the slow season?
    • Do your peak periods not fall in specific months, but a specific day, like the 10th of every month? Note this in the description
    • Include a explanation of your peak periods in the description box. It may seem unnecessary, but remember, you may not be the one who is there to implement the plan. The person using the plan should understand the intention behind what is included in it.
  • Identify the consequences under “consequences”
    • If you have already filled out the consequences for another critical function that apply to this function as well, you can quick populate by selecting the critical function from which you want to borrow from the drop-down menu and clicking “populate consequences”
    • Otherwise, review the list of potential consequences to short, medium, and long-term outages to this critical function. Use the check box to indicate those areas where there is a risk. Wherever you can, provide details on the potential reputation, financial, life safety or other risks.
  • Proceed through the steps again from the top for each of your critical functions

Step 3 — Action Items (1 hour)

  • 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:
    • Are there potential opportunities for cross-training? If a function is critical, but only one person knows how to do it, this is a significant risk
    • Do you work with other teams to complete this work? We will look more at dependencies next month, but this is a good time to start thinking about the potential of another department or team to take on this work temporarily in the event a disaster disrupts your unit but not others are the university.
    • Still not sure you know everything you need to about your business or critical functions? Maybe it’s time to set up a meeting for everyone in your unit, or individually with team members to get a better sense of the critical functions of the organization?
    • Are there any forms, documents you need to perform this critical function. Upload them if you have them available under “documents.” Otherwise, create an action item directing you to compile or create needed documentation.

Remember, we will be returning to critical functions over the next two months, and this plan is an ever evolving, living document. Don’t let the complexity of what is being asked stop you. Jot down what seems right, and move on. You will have the opportunity through this process to review, edit, perform gut checks, and exercise the plan with your team. Don’t stop because you don’t think it’s perfect. Don’t let be perfect be the enemy of good.