Today’s businesses need to be prepared for unforeseen impacts on their work. A Business Continuity Plan is an excellent way to do this; it consolidates everything you need to do when an outside event disrupts your business. But, of course, any Business Continuity Plan also needs regular testing to ensure it’s fit for purpose.
We’ll be taking a look at an explanation of what a Business Continuity Plan is, what testing looks like, and how often you should be testing it.
What is a Business Continuity Plan?
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A Business Continuity Plan explores how a business works after a disastrous event. It offers procedures in the face of fires, natural disasters, mass disease outbreaks, or data breaches.
A key concern of today’s plans is data backups. Since many industries (like content marketing for saas) require extensive planning, we need to know our protected data. Other critical components of the plan include comprehensive contact details for staff and maintaining productivity on a short-term or long-term basis.
If you employ a manual QA tester, you can understand a business continuity plan isn’t static. They require regular testing to ensure that they do what they’re supposed to. Testing also helps to spot any blind spots or areas for improvement.
Do I Need a Business Continuity Plan?
If the last few years have proved anything, it’s that nobody can really predict the future. As a result, unexpected events can completely upend our daily lives, and businesses can be severely compromised or go out of business altogether.
Invenio IT reported that in 2020, 51% of businesses worldwide didn’t have a business continuity plan. Given how dramatically the world of work has changed, that’s an oversight we literally can’t afford to make. As a result, 90% of businesses fail within a year if they can’t recover quickly from a disastrous event.
A business’s inability to keep working in the face of adversity is a threat to customer acquisition. Even if you have a detailed customer onboarding template, customers will likely reject you if your business isn’t reliable.
Business Continuity Plans demand significant investments of both time and resources. But they can be the difference between a business’s survival and its collapse.
How Do I Test My Plan?
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Today’s businesses can approach business continuity plan testing in several different ways. It’s important to understand that different test types share the same fundamental tasks—understanding your plan, putting it into practice, and identifying potential improvements. The difference lies in how closely you look at your plan and the resources you can commit.
You might want to take some inspiration from the quality assurance process of software testing. First, have a clear idea of what you want to look at or improve. Then, involve everyone who needs to be involved, and has a dedicated team of people assigned to the task.
Business Continuity Plan Review
A Business Continuity Plan review is the most straightforward approach to plan testing. It acts as a basic audit of your plan with key personnel—the main BCP (Business Continuity Plan) team, department heads, and some management staff. During the review, participants simply read through the plan and see if there are any obvious flaws.
The rise of cloud services means it’s relatively easy to preserve modern-day business data. For example, if we’re calculating CSAT, we might use a cloud-based graph to track our progress. Although, don’t treat these as a silver bullet; make backups and keep a record of what cloud services you use.
This kind of test is easy to arrange and helps introduce your plan to new BCP team members. However, this test is also very lightweight. As a result, it lacks an in-depth assessment of a plan’s effectiveness and doesn’t communicate procedures (or benefits) to the broader workforce.
Also known as a structured walkthrough, tabletop testing is a simple roleplay scenario. A business’s key stakeholders come together to simulate a risk to the business, and see if they understand how to respond. A continuity plan needs human eyes on it; the more hands-on you can be, the better.
Tabletop testing usually looks at a few different scenarios; participants review response procedures, outline responsibilities more clearly and see if they can improve the overall plan. If you’re just starting out, begin with something relatively simple like hacker attacks; these are both commonplace and relatively easy to thwart.
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This testing type is a great way to bring employees up to speed on what’s required of them. It takes an in-depth approach to the plan and usually brings together multiple departments. This makes understanding and amending the project much more straightforward.
At the same time, tabletop testing has significant requirements. It takes a long time to do properly, and it needs thorough documentation for it to be of any use at all. It’s also not as hands-on as other testing types; in many cases, you’re more talking about the plan rather than putting it into practice.
This is the most ambitious form of continuity plan testing. Participants in a walkthrough carry out recovery actions (such as restoring backups and testing redundant systems), and anything else a business thinks is relevant. This involves the plan’s critical personnel and any relevant employees.
It might also require traveling out of the office (for example, external data storage locations). Just as localization testing examines an app or website in different places, a walkthrough ensures all the components of your plan function wherever they’re located.
This hands-on approach to testing gives you the most precise idea of how effective your recovery plan is. That said, it’s also the most resource-intensive. For example, carrying out a walkthrough demands a lot of investment from a business. It can also be quite challenging to arrange if you need several different colleagues to participate.
How Often Should I Test My Plan?
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Testing frequency depends on your business’ needs and the resources you have to work with. As you can see, detailed plan testing isn’t something you can do every day. Even at a basic level, it requires several people from several departments to be genuinely effective.
You also need to consider what you are testing for. Today’s businesses face multiple threats, but some are likelier than others. For example, if you work in an area susceptible to flooding, you may want to focus on your business’s flood response. That said, remember to consider commonplace threats, such as data breaches, to which a security assessment is a good response.
At a minimum, it’s best to conduct one tabletop test per year for each key area of concern. This includes recovering from likely disasters, business continuity, incident response, to name but a few key areas of potential agitation. You should also aim to carry out an in-depth walkthrough every two years. Time-intensive tests like tabletop testing might need to be carried out on weekends to ensure you don’t compromise your work schedule.
What Else Should I Consider?
The essential part of any testing is documentation. Record your testing, with particular emphasis on anything actionable. You also need to follow up on these actions for the testing to be worth doing at all.
If you’ve made any significant changes to your business (like moving premises or changing the size of your workforce), make sure you increase the frequency of your testing—at least in the short term. These major shifts can have a dramatic impact on what your continuity plan looks like.
Make sure you tell your wider workforce about your plan and encourage people to take part where necessary. This could shed light on new, valuable ideas, such as wiping sensitive files from your hard drives.
By treating your Business Continuity Plan as an organic element (such as one that is open to revision and evolution), you’ll do an excellent job of keeping your business safe in the future.
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3 Process Mining Methods That Will Unlock Ideal ROI Results
What do you use for your process mining methods that will unlock your ideal ROI results? Some CIOs say that the ends justify the means sometimes. By the same token, the business process management methods a CIO deploys to accomplish an objective can speak volumes about them and their business.
Between cost efficiency and productivity to customer satisfaction and avoiding mistakes or delays, process mining (i.e., using data and automation to analyze and optimize operations) is one particular approach that is layered with benefits for CIOs and their corporate allies.
Use evidence and data — don’t just guess
THE KEY: Similar to process intelligence (aka business intelligence), process mining helps companies make more informed decisions using evidence and data — plus, both strategies use KPIs and other data tools.
Why process mining beats business intelligence
The difference between process intelligence vs. process mining resides in root-cause analysis.
While process intelligence is more about monitoring and reporting to tell you an activity went wrong, process mining tells you arguably the more important factor: the why.
And that understanding will help CIOs unlock their business processes’ true potential.
Business mining is all about timing
The fluidity of business operations is such that statuses can change on a dime. One of the biggest perks of process mining is the real-time data it provides, allowing CIOs and other C-suite members to adapt quicker.
For enterprise legacy companies, this means modernizing internally amid digital transformation. In fact, about 80% of CFOs in a Gartner study said industries such as finance must lean more on solutions like artificial intelligence and robotic process automation to effectively support businesses by 2025.
Ideal ROI results because the numbers and data don’t lie
How does process mining work? By indicating when a process started, showing how it operates, and creating a log that can assess how successful the process is. Process mining applications deliver 30-50% gains in productivity and can improve customer satisfaction by 30%.
Legacy companies trying to catch up and embrace these strategies sometimes struggle. For example, to see the risks or bottlenecks, you need to analyze logged data — which legacy companies often don’t have.
Plus, as CIOs well know, the IT built for individual departments creates silos that can spark inter-departmental friction, companywide issues, poor customer experience, and lack of employee retention.
Overcoming irrational fears of process mining
And with change always comes bouts of doubt and reluctance. Some CIOs and other leaders might not be prepared for the time and demand a digital transformation requires — especially if they’re new employees who don’t know the system yet. “Fear of the unknown” is common in cases like this, but the payout is worth it.
Finally, many legacy companies are not prepared or built to continuously improve — or to be governed and regulated. For organizations such as financial institutions, this poses a real issue when their process frameworks aren’t up to date and don’t comply with mandates or new regulations (such as fraud and data protection).
How to effectively mine your enterprise process management
Beyond the potential roadblocks, CIOs need to understand the long-term value of enterprise process management. Process mining automation creates on-demand actions and results. There will be more of an influx of low-code tools to help with this, and process mining vendors will have to decide which routes they want to take with their technologies.
As priorities and rules change, understanding how process mining software works in tandem with business process management methods will be key.
For businesses to succeed, they need a solid BPM platform that looks at the bigger picture and incorporates process mining technology to extract the full picture and identify the risks.
Taking a deliberate approach to your digital transformation
Phased approaches where you introduce new systems and technologies to teams over time will best help leaders understand what the outcomes will be, what the organization is trying to achieve, and how the implementation will hit all goals.
To help CIOs use process mining to unlock returns on technology investments, these methods must be implemented deliberately.
1. Stay practical and positive
A common worry for a company looking to advance its technology is that failing processes will be detrimental to overall business success. These process inefficiencies are silent killers in business and can’t be seen without process mining. This is an imperative strategy before implementing or adding any more technology investments.
2. Step back and look at what your company will require
Process mining helps your company scale. By investing in process mining technology, you can look at the needs and demands that your organization will require and evaluate future technology solutions. Moreover, you can decide if these opportunities fit in with the “to-be” state you determined when you mined your processes.
3. Invest in quality
Process mining creates a bigger picture of the “as-is” state and where inefficiencies live. While it might seem like a costly endeavor, implementing cheaper software that doesn’t do the full gambit of process mining will hurt potential ROI and lead to more budget being spent to overhaul or restart an implementation.
Process mining provides an ongoing look at every element of your business operations. To see its true value, ensure you have a well-thought-out rollout process so your company’s efficiency can soar.
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Cybersecurity Outsourcing: Principles of Choice and Trust
A few years ago, cybersecurity outsourcing was perceived as something inorganic and often restrained. Today, cybersecurity outsourcing is still a rare phenomenon. Instead, many companies prefer to take care of security issues themselves.
Almost everyone has heard about cybersecurity outsourcing, but the detailed content of this principle is still interpreted very differently in many companies.
In this article, I want to answer the following important questions: Are there any risks in cybersecurity outsourcing? Who is the service for? Under what conditions is it beneficial to outsource security? Finally, what is the difference between MSSP and SecaaS models?
Why do companies outsource?
Outsourcing is the transfer of some functions of your own business to another company. Why use outsourcing? The answer is obvious – companies need to optimize their costs. They do this either because they do not have the relevant competencies or because it is more profitable to implement some functions on the side. When companies need to put complex technical systems into operation and do not have the capacity or competence to do this, outsourcing is a great solution.
Due to the constant growth in the number and types of threats, organizations now need to protect themselves better. However, for several reasons, they often do not have a complete set of necessary technologies and are forced to attract third-party players.
Who needs cybersecurity outsourcing?
Any company can use cybersecurity outsourcing. It all depends on what security goals and objectives are planned to be achieved with its help. The most obvious choice is for small companies, where information security functions are of secondary importance to business functions due to a lack of funds or competencies.
For large companies, the goal of outsourcing is different. First, it helps them to solve information security tasks more effectively. Usually, they have a set of security issues, the solution of which is complex without external help. Building DDoS protection is a good example. This type of attack has grown so much in strength that it is very difficult to do without the involvement of third-party services.
There are also economic reasons that push large companies to switch to outsourcing. Outsourcing helps them implement the desired function at a lower cost.
At the same time, outsourcing is not suitable for every company. In general, companies need to focus on their core business. In some cases, you can (and should) do everything on your own; in other cases, it is advisable to outsource part of the IS functions or turn to 100% outsourcing. However, in general, I can say that information security is easier and more reliable to implement through outsourcing.
What information security functions are most often outsourced?
It is preferable to outsource implementation and operational functions. Sometimes it is possible to outsource some functions that belong to the critical competencies of information security departments. This may involve policy management, etc.
The reason for introducing information security outsourcing in a company is often the need to obtain DDoS protection, ensure the safe operation of a corporate website, or build a branch network. In addition, the introduction of outsourcing often reflects the maturity of a company, its key and non-key competencies, and the willingness to delegate and accept responsibility in partnership with other companies.
The following functions are popular among those who already use outsourcing:
- Vulnerability scanning
- Threat response and monitoring
- Penetration testing
- Information security audits
- Incident investigation
- DDoS protection
Outsourcing vs. outstaffing
The difference between outsourcing and outstaffing lies in who manages the staff and program resources. If the customer does this, then we are talking about outstaffing. However, if the solution is implemented on the side of the provider, then this is outsourcing.
When outstaffing, the integrator provides its customer with a dedicated employee or a team. Usually, these people temporarily become part of the customer’s team. During outsourcing, the dedicated staff continues to work as part of the provider. This allows the customer to provide their competencies, but the staff members can simultaneously be assigned to different projects. Separate customers receive their part from outsourcing.
With outstaffing, the provider’s staff is fully occupied with a specific customer’s project. This company may participate in people search, hiring, and firing of employees involved in the project. The outstaffing provider is only responsible for accounting and HR management functions.
At the same time, a different management model works with outsourcing: the customer is given support for a specific security function, and the provider manages the staff for its implementation.
Managed Security Service Provider (MSSP) or Security-as-a-Service (SECaaS)
We should distinguish two areas: traditional outsourcing (MSSP) and cloud outsourcing (SECaaS).
With MSSP, a company orders an information security service, which will be provided based on a particular set of protection tools. The MSS provider takes care of the operation of the tools. The customer does not need to manage the setup and monitoring.
SECaaS outsourcing works differently. The customer buys specific information security services in the provider’s cloud. SECaaS is when the provider gives the customer the technology with complete freedom to apply controls.
To understand the differences between MSSP and SECaaS, comparing taxi and car sharing is better. In the first case, the driver controls the car. He provides the passenger with a delivery service. In the second case, the control function is taken by the customer, who drives the vehicle delivered to him.
How to evaluate the effectiveness of outsourcing?
The economic efficiency of outsourcing is of paramount importance. But the calculation of its effects and its comparison with internal solutions (in-house) is not so obvious.
When evaluating the effectiveness of an information security solution, one may use the following rule of thumb: in projects for 3 – 5 years, one should focus on optimizing OPEX (operating expense); for longer projects – on optimizing CAPEX (capital expenditure).
At the same time, when deciding to switch to outsourcing, economic efficiency assessment may sometimes fade into the background. More and more companies are guided by the vital need to have certain information security functions. Efficiency evaluation comes in only when choosing a method of implementation. This transformation is taking place under the influence of recommendations provided by analytical agencies (Gartner, Forrester) and government authorities. It is expected that in the next ten years, the share of outsourcing in certain areas of information security will reach 90%.
When evaluating efficiency, a lot depends on the specifics of the company. It depends on many factors that reflect the characteristics of the company’s business and can only be calculated individually. It is necessary to consider various costs, including those that arise due to possible downtime.
What functions should not be outsourced?
Functions closely related to the company’s internal business processes should not be outsourced. The emerging risks will touch not only the customer but also all internal communications. Such a decision may be constrained by data protection regulations, and too many additional approvals are required to implement such a model.
Although there are some exceptions, in general, the customer should be ready to accept certain risks. Outsourcing is impossible if the customer is not prepared to take responsibility and bear the costs of violating the outsourced IS function.
Benefits of cybersecurity outsourcing
Let me now evaluate the attractiveness of cybersecurity outsourcing for companies of various types.
For a company of up to 1,000 people, IS outsourcing helps to build a layered cyber defense, delegating functions where it does not yet have sufficient competence.
For larger companies with about 10,000 or more, meeting the Time-to-Market criterion becomes critical. But, again, outsourcing allows you to solve this problem quickly and saves you from solving HR problems.
Regulators also receive benefits from the introduction of information security outsourcing. They are interested in finding partners because regulators have to solve the country’s information security control problem. The best way for government authorities is to create a separate structure to transfer control. Even in the office of the president of any country, there is a place for cybersecurity outsourcing. This allows you to focus on core functions and outsource information security to get a quick technical solution.
Information security outsourcing is also attractive for large international projects such as the Olympics. After the end of the events, it will not be necessary to keep the created structure. So, outsourcing is the best solution.
The assessment of service quality
Trust is created by confidence in the quality of the service received. The question of control is not idle here. Customers are obliged to understand what exactly they outsource. Therefore, the hybrid model is currently the most popular one. Companies create their own information security department but, at the same time, outsource some of the functions, knowing well what exactly they should get in the end.
If this is not possible, then you may focus on the service provider’s reputation, the opinion of other customers, the availability of certificates, etc. If necessary, you should visit the integrator and get acquainted with its team, work processes, and the methodology used.
Sometimes you can resort to artificial checks. For example, if the SLA implies a response within 15 minutes, then an artificial security incident can be triggered and response time evaluated.
What parameters should be included in service level agreements?
The basic set of expected parameters includes response time before an event is detected, response time before a decision is made to localize/stop the threat, continuity of service provision, and recovery time after a failure. This basic set can be supplemented with a lengthy list of other parameters formed by the customer based on his business processes.
It is necessary to take into account all possible options for responding to incidents: the need for the service provider to visit the site, the procedure for conducting digital forensics operations, etc.
It is vital to resolve all organizational issues already at the stage of signing the contract. This will allow you to set the conditions for the customer to be able to defend his position in the event of a failure in the provision of services. It is also essential for the customer to define the areas and shares of responsibility of the provider in case of incidents.
The terms of reference must also be attached to the SLA agreement. It should highlight all the technical characteristics of the service provided. If the terms of reference are vague, then the interpretation of the SLA can be subjective.
There should not be many problems with the preparation of documents. The SLA agreement and its details are already standardized among many providers. The need for adaptation arises only for large customers. In general, quality metrics for information security services are known in advance. Some limit values can be adjusted when the need arises. For example, you may need to set stricter rules or lower your requirements.
Prospects for the development of cybersecurity outsourcing in 2023
The current situation with personnel, the complexity of information security projects, and the requirements of regulators trigger an increase in information security outsourcing services. As a result, the growth of the most prominent players in cybersecurity outsourcing and their portfolio of services is expected. This is determined by the necessity to maintain a high level of service they provide. There will also be a quicker migration of information security solutions to the cloud.
In recent years, we have seen a significant drop in the cost of cyber attacks. At the same time, the severity of their consequences is growing. It pushes an increase in demand for information security services. A price rise is expected, and perhaps even a shortage of some hardware components. Therefore, the need for hardware-optimized software solutions will grow.
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5 Signs That Indicate Your Startup Is Ready To Scale Up
Concerns surrounding the current changing economic cycle amid rampant running inflation, a tightening monetary policy, and an even tighter labor market has seen small business sentiment reach a new low against the backdrop of tumultuous conditions.
Across the board, small business confidence has plummeted to new record lows. According to an earlier August report by CNBC, The Small Business Confidence Index dropped to 42 points at the start of the third quarter, four points lower than the quarter before.
Today, more than half – 51% – of small business owners and entrepreneurs have described the current state of the economy as “poor,” a jump from 44% recorded in the second quarter.
The post-pandemic economy, which has brought widespread uncertainty to both business owners and consumers has left many owners signaling red as they try to shield themselves financially against a looming recession.
The tall tale that reads around 90% of startups fail, and 10% fail within the first year since inception is looking more and more realistic these days.
A lack of financial capital, consumer support, and appropriate services or products in a highly competitive market has driven many startup entrepreneurs further into the dark. But these and other conditions have been a persisting challenge for many startup owners, and for those who can upscale their ventures in the coming months or years or now left feeling more puzzled than ever before.
Despite the hard economic challenges, running from higher operating costs to troublesome labor conditions, there are still a number of startups – in several industries – that carry the potential to increase their capacity, whether it’s broadening their services or products offerings, onboarding new personnel, or even going public with a brick-and-mortar store.
Signs That Indicate That It Is Time To Scale Your Business
Regardless of the conditions, you’re operating, it’s time that you start noticing the signs that will help you realize it’s time to scale your business – and here are five of the most common ones.
You Still Have Ongoing Funding
Whether your startup was lucky enough to strike a few lucrative funding deals with credible investors, or you recently signed new backers that are willing to invest in your new line of products and services, startups that still have plentiful funding amid the turndown will potentially be ready to scale their ventures in the coming months or years.
It’s always best to consider how funding is used, and where most of its being allocated. If most of your finances are currently tied to research and development, you might want to still hold out before going too big too soon. If the funding is still there, it’s a good indicator that the startup is still in a good position and that the possibilities of scaling could be around the corner.
Sales have been booming, and the startup is finding it more and more difficult to keep up with the strong demand. If you notice that you need to hire or onboard new personnel to help drive revenue and growth, you might need to consider how you can scale your business in the months ahead.
It’s best to play it safe, as most of the time higher sales can be driven by market trends, and consumer shopping behaviors can change on a whim. If your sales strategy is still on track with startup goals, look to ways in which you can initiate optimized sales growth, while at the same time onboarding a talented team.
Sturdy and Loyal Customer Base
Startups that are more focused on rapid growth, and not consumer demands or building a loyal customer base tend to fail a lot quicker. This might not be the case for every startup, as industries do tend to differ, and consumer purchasing behavior.
Nonetheless, startups that have established a loyal and trusting customer base, and that have a clear value proposition within their business ethos might be ready to start branching out to other parts of the consumer market.
It could also swing the other way around. In the case where a startup has to start turning clients away, because of increased demand, and not enough physical hands to help the business cope, the business could start running into a bottleneck situation.
This is why it’s important to invest in a valuable core team that can help drive sales, and carry the potential to push further development of the business.
You Have a Strong Team
Although customers are a crucial part of the business, a strong and highly motivated team is just as important to the core of the business.
Any business owner will tell you that without the right people, a business is setting itself up for failure. Having a strong team that carries out the mission of the business day in and out will only help a startup become more successful in the long run.
If you notice that your team is capable of running projects by themselves, resolving issues without requiring executive intervention, or generating new leads that could potentially lead to new sales – your startup might be ready for the next step of its scaling journey.
Steady Cash Flow
Aside from investor funding deals and private backers, startups that enjoy steady cash flow might be in the right position to enter a new era of growth.
Although it’s possible that scaling your startup will automatically increase costs, it’s important to delay every outlay of cash as long as possible. This will help the business remain financially secure, even in the face of a sudden market downturn.
Generating revenue is a good thing, but having a steady stream of income coming and going through your business is a good indicator for any startup owner.
There are a lot of startup owners who need to consider before simply deciding they want to scale their business. Whether it’s bringing onboard new members, or launching new products and services to help alleviate a bottleneck demand – seeing the signs of positive business growth means that your startup is ready for its next phase.
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