The Department of Finance, supported by the World Bank, is focused on responding to the next hazard or threat to its operation by building resilience into its business continuity strategy.
The Business Continuity Cycle is an annual programme that ensures an organization’s preparedness for disruptions. The cycle can be linked to the fiscal year but is more often tied to a particular business need or threat. The Covid-19 pandemic has caused both the public and private sectors to make radical changes to their business continuity strategy to build resilience to natural, man-made, and health-related threats.
The Department of Finance recently held a Business Continuity Planning (BCP) workshop for various units in the department. Technical assistance was provided by the World Bank. Assistant Director for Financial Administration in the Department of Finance, Alison Griffith-Mc Diarmed said the Department of Finance is being used as a forerunner for this important training.
“It is absolutely important for us at building resiliency. The pandemic showed us that without having proper planning when a disaster happens, we are ill-equipped and so therefore we want to ensure that our operations continue. Of course, we will not be able to do that one hundred percent. You will want the critical components of government to be able to continue. We need to ensure that we have at least minimum operations to serve our stakeholders,” McDiarmed said.
The National Emergency Management Organisation (NEMO), the Department of Infrastructure, and the Department of Audit also participated in this training programme which is expected to be rolled out to other government agencies. The facilitator for the BCP training from the World Bank, Adam McCallister, noted that Business Continuity Plans must be routinely updated to include contacts, dependencies, lessons learned, and resource requirements for recovery.
“Business Continuity, like any other process in the workplace, takes time to develop expertise and we need to look at how we are developing and gaining experience so that we can apply lessons in real-time. So, in terms of what we are seeing here today from the Department of Finance, is a lot of energy and interest in making sure that their services are getting more resilient over time and the appropriate plans are in place to help guide them when bad things happen.”
He added that a business impact analysis and business continuity, in general, is founded with a baseline of looking at the risks that the different services across the government face based on natural hazards and other threats facing the government or the community as a whole.
“So, when we start with the business impact analysis it really gives us the opportunity to look at the types of risks that critical government services face, and then determine what would the consequences be if something disrupted those services. How long do we have to get these services back up and running before the government and the public at large really feel an impact from those? That created the foundation for business continuity plans which really set the procedures in place so that we can make sure our public services especially those services that are very time sensitive that we can get those back up and running as fast as possible,” McCallister said.
The maximum allowable outage is defined as the maximum acceptable length of time that can elapse before the lack of a business function severely impacts the organization. Information Technology or IT Systems is considered a time-critical service that ranks very high in the risk profile in a business continuity plan. Leton Clovis is the Systems Administrator in the Department of Finance.
“We have learned throughout this workshop that IT plays a critical role in how a business operates but also in case of a disaster how the business continues. We’ve seen throughout every single unit the importance of IT and as a unit of the Department of Finance, we have to ensure that we are a step ahead or at least try to be a step ahead in providing whatever services are necessary in order that at least some level of continuance can happen throughout the department,” Clovis said.
The two-day workshop also focused on team-building exercises to reinforce the value of cross-sector collaboration in formulating and executing an effective business continuity plan.