Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Disaster Recovery Planning Keys to Success

Disaster recovery planning is a great idea until someone actually has to do it. There are many reasons and events that will try and sabotage your disaster recovery planning project. Here are 10 keys to developing a successful disaster recovery plan and implementing it successfully.

1. Set Expectations for The Disaster Recovery Plan

Everyone will agree that your company needs a disaster recovery plan. Each person will also have a different preconceived notion of what the disaster recovery plan will cover. The first critical success factor is to define the disaster recovery plan in terms of what the plan will cover and, most importantly, what the disaster recovery plan will not cover. Make sure that the key stakeholders have input into the development of the project definition.

2. Create a Detailed Project Plan and Budget

Identify the resources and activities that will be required to complete the disaster recovery plan. This may include employees' time and the purchase of physical resources such as software and equipment. Aggregate this into a realistic time-line that will set the delivery date for the disaster recovery plan. Create a realistic budget so upper management will not be surprised and finance can plan appropriately. Make sure to include Key Performance Indicators (KPI) that measure the success of each step in the project.

3. Get Upper Management Support

For a project to succeed that crosses all organizational boundaries, you must start at the top. After agreement has been reached on the project time-line and budget, executive support and commitment must be obtained. Without this, the project will always be on the back-burner and will never reach completion. Make sure upper management is aware of the disaster recovery planning goals and objectives.

4. Select the Best to Obtain the Best

The most detailed project plan that is accompanied with a realistic budget and has the "blessing" of upper management can still fail. To increase the likelihood of success, select the best people from each department that will be impacted by the disaster recovery plan. In addition to greatly contributing to the plan, these people will also be the project champions that will make sure the disaster recovery planning project does not get shifted to the back-burner.

5. Admit That You Didn't Think of Everything

As the disaster recovery planning project progresses, you will become more knowledgeable with the inner workings of your company. In fact you may actually have to modify the project plan when you discover something that was not in the plan. Be up front with all those involved and promptly notify upper management if the change is significant.

6. Avoid Scope Creep

Although you admit that you didn't think of everything, you don't have to add everything you discover to the project. Evaluate each new discovery in terms of the project definition that was created in Step #1 (see above "Set Expectations for The Disaster Recovery Plan"). If the item is outside the scope of the project definition, differ action on it until the disaster recovery plan is complete.

7. Manage the Plan

Take time throughout the project to evaluate your progress. Look at what has been accomplished, what remains to be done and what obstacles you have overcome. Make adjustment where necessary to keep the project on track. Also, assess the quality of the work that is being done. Redo any items that are not up to the highest quality standards.

8. Report Early and Often

Don't wait until there is a problem or the disaster recovery plan is almost complete to make a progress report to the stakeholders and upper management. Take advantage of the reporting mechanisms that are already established in your company. Get a standing agenda item on the "weekly production meeting" or the "monthly managers meeting." At least create an email distribution list that you can use to send a weekly updates.

9. Change Isn't Easy

It is human nature to resist change. You will be asking employees to spend time on a project that they are not interested in. Procedures and job functions may have to be altered in order to accommodate the new disaster recovery plan. Seek first to understand what the change will mean to the employees affected. Listen, learn and take notes. Make any adjustments from what you have learned and then explain the "what" and the "why" of the changes that need to be implemented.

10. Report the Final Results

The disaster recovery planning project isn't over until the final report is given to the stakeholders and upper management. Report on the success of each step in the project as indicated by the measurement of Key Performance Indicators that were originally defined. Present your budget versus actual spending report and explain why you went over or under budget. This will bring the project to closure and bring recognition to those who participated.

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