Role of External Consultants in Business Continuity Management
In previous articles, we have discussed how risk management teams and the management can help in planning for contingencies. In this article, we look at the role that external consultants can play in formulating and shaping a companys business continuity planning. For starters, the biggest advantage that external consultants have over in house risk management teams is that they bring an element of objectivity and neutrality into the business continuity planning process. For instance, it is common in many companies to have turf battles and power centers that impede the functioning of a well oiled business continuity management process. To think of companies without these factional pressures would be wishful and hence, management ought to take into account these factors when formulating their strategies.
This is where the external consultants with their objectivity and neutrality have a role to play. Because they are external to the organization, they can cast a sharp eye on the business continuity plans of the company and point out whats right and whats wrong without bias and getting involved in the organizational politics.
Further, however much in house risk management teams put in their best efforts, the external consultants are trained to do the job and hence are more capable of bringing an element of professionalism to the job. Companies like Boston Consulting, McKinsey and Booze Allen Hamilton have perfected the art of business consulting along with KPMG and Deloitte and hence, large and medium sized companies can turn to these external consultants for advice on how to formulate their business continuity management plans.
Further, external consultants have the advantage of comparing the business continuity plans of a particular company with that of industry best practices since they deal with several companies. This aspect of bringing world class expertise along with deep experience and cross sector knowledge is indeed an asset that few companies can boast of with their in house business continuity teams. Of course, there are organizations or behemoths like Citigroup that have staff that can do the job of the external consultants. The point here is that for most of the companies that are not as huge as GM, Citigroup or Microsoft, it makes sense to hire an external consultant to do the job of business continuity planning.
The flip side of hiring external consultants is that their familiarity with the organizational terrain and landscape that is unique to the company is somewhat patchy and this can result in lack of adequate oversight and depth in the business continuity plan. In fact, one criticism against hiring external consultants for any aspect of assisting organizations is the fact that they are not as familiar with the internal processes as the in house teams. This holds good for business continuity planning as well. However, experience of major companies has shown that in the specific aspect of business continuity planning at least, external consultants are preferable over in house teams.
The best in class solution would be for companies to draw up their business continuity plans with the help of in house expertise and then hire external consultants to audit the business continuity plan thus drawn up. This would save the company a lot of trouble since the in house teams would have done their job and with specific reference to the external consultants ratifying the plan with their objectivity, cross sector expertise and knowledge of different companies business continuity strategies, this solution represents the marriage of the best of both worlds.
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