How to gather data for a business impact analysis

RiskRewardIf you’ve tried to do a business impact analysis, you’ve likely run up against one of the most significant challenges—gathering and assembling the mountain of data a BIA seems to require.

You’re not imagining things. Performing a BIA—or, more accurately, properly performing a BIA—requires a ton of data, including:

  • A catalog of the business processes performed by each and every department in your organization
  • A list of the resources required by each process to function properly
  • An understanding of the interdependencies between various processes
  • A sense of the financial and operational impacts to the organization if each process were to be disrupted.
  • RTO targets for each process.
  • RPO targets for processes involving data

If you’ve tried to collect it all and have given up, perhaps you haven’t tried one or more of these methods.

Questionnaires

The humble questionnaire is the most common method for gathering BIA data.

Best-used when you need information from many people, a questionnaire can provide a useful alternative to real-time interviews.

Like all surveys, however, a BIA questionnaire needs to ask the right questions and be clear enough that it can be easily understood.

A questionnaire should only complement other data-gathering methods, though—not replace them. If you’re using one, be sure to plan to spend some face-to-face time clarifying answers.

Remember, too, that a questionnaire takes time to fill out—and when people are busy they tend to be more hesitant to do so. Even 15 minutes can feel like an unmanageable chunk of time to many of your respondents; you may find that procrastination runs high and your data-gathering suffers as a result.

One-on-one interviews

Interviews let you more actively engage respondents, and give you an opportunity to probe various answers in real time. Depending on the size or structure of your organization, however, one-on-ones may simply be unfeasible.

Group sessions

Group sessions can be an excellent way to engage staff members and gather information more quickly than one-on-one interviews. Group sessions, like one-on-ones, can also encourage respondents to take more ownership in the results of the BIA.

On the downside, people can often submit to group-think in an effort to appease dominant personalities in a group; you might get more homogenous data or lower-quality answers from group sessions than you would if you did individual interviews.

If you decide to move ahead with group sessions, though, here are some tips to get the most from them:

  • Involve as many people as possible. Aim for participation from every department and function, and encourage everyone to contribute their opinions.
  • Include both line-of-business staff and IT. Technology staff will get a clearer picture of the expectations of their in-the-business counterparts, while the others will better understand the capabilities and limitations of your current IT infrastructure and adjust their expectations accordingly.
  • Keep things short. In most cases there’s no need for more than an hour-and-a-half. If you can’t find out what you need to know in that time, you’re asking too much.
  • Be consistent. Conduct each session the same way so you can be sure each participant is working within the same frame of reference.
    Identify processes, not procedures. You need to find out about what the organization does, not how it does it. This will make it easier to identify alternative procedures to speed recovery.

Persistence is key

Gathering all the data you need for a proper BIA is an arduous task, but the information is out there—and you can get it if you’re both patient and resourceful.

Learn more about BC management with The Definitive Guide to Business Continuity Planning. Learn more about emergency notification with 10 Tips to Improve Notification Response Rates.