What to Look for When Choosing Business Continuity Management Software

The task of choosing Business Continuity Management software can be overwhelming. There are a wide variety of BCM software available to choose from, but not all of them will suit your specific needs. To get you started, here are seven key considerations for selecting the right business continuity software.

1. Determine your requirements

Before you begin your search, understand what you want the business continuity software to achieve. Are you looking for a straightforward business continuity tool that will be used in a single location or a more complex database that can be utilised worldwide, anywhere, on any device?

Some users main goal is to automate the administration of plans, whereas others want a mobile response tool or software that offers in-depth analysis and reporting.

If you consider the size of your business continuity function, it enables you to understand if the provider offers scalable solutions to match your needs. 

2. Look for an established BCM software

The time the business continuity software has been on the market is critical to understand the type of experience you are likely to have when using the software.

If the BCM product is well established in the market, the software is likely to be more stable and predictable, having been tried and tested by many users. If the software is new, it is important to weigh up the pros and cons of being an early adopter. You may land a great price and get some great new interfaces or technology. New products generally take months, if not years, of constant updates and testing to establish themselves. Ask the vendor what clients they currently work with, see if the software havewon any awards and what type of industry presence does it command?

Another factor that searchbuyers often forget to look in to is the actual provider. Are they subject matter experts in business continuity or are they just a software vendor? For some, they may think this does not matter.

However, when it comes to training, tips and tricks and advice, a software demo provided by industry professionals will be able to give you the answers you need.

3. Take a guided tour of the BCM software

If you are at the point where you are ready for a product demonstration, then it’s safe to say you have already partially bought into the business continuity software.

At this stage, you should revisit your initial requirements and make sure the software’s functionality matches your needs and addresses your questions. It will always be hard to find a BCM software that does everything you need, in the way you want it done. So be realistic about your ‘must haves’ and ‘nice to haves’ and be prepared to do a little compromising. As a minimum, BCM systems should:

  1. Provide an easy to use and simple interface with visual dashboards
  2. Align to ‘best practice’ in your industry
  3. Cover the full life cycle of business continuity with dedicated functionality for BIAs, plans, risk assessments, exercising and reporting
  4. Allow sufficient data storage for supporting documents
  5. Automation of system reminders for administrative tasks like plan updates.
  6. Provide portable access to plans during a disruption
  7. Provide a strong data analytics function with visual reporting
  8. Adhere to robust data security and privacy policies for all users
  9. Ability to access the system securely from any device, anywhere

Some vendors will provide a free trial, but given the complexity of most programs this is not always feasible. The vendor should be willing to provide numerous product demonstrations (you will typically need at least 2, if not more) with various stakeholders in your organisation.

4. Does the BCM software have ongoing feature updates?

The business continuity software you select may be well suited now, but technology becomes quickly outdated quickly. When selecting a BCM software, hone in on products that will continue to grow, update and improve as new technologies emerge. The innovation curve tends to slow down rapidly for many software vendors when a critical mass of clients are using their system.

5. What training and support options are available with your business continuity software?

If you have shortlisted the right business continuity software for your organisation, it is time to assess the training and support options.

If new users do not feel comfortable using the software, then they probably won’t use it, leaving you unsatisfied with your purchase. In worst case scenarios, users will simply disengage from your business continuity program.

First, understand the user profiles required to manage your system and business continuity program. All systems are different, but you will generally require “Administrators” who have full system access, team members who may need read only access to their plans, plan owners and/or maintainers who need editable rights, and general staff who may simply be registered in the system for contact purposes.

On-site training may not always be possible if you opted for an overseas vendor, so this is important to consider during the decision-making process. Considerable training is typically required for active users, which is often best-done face to face in small groups and over several days or weeks.

If e-learning is your preferred training method for infrequent users or as refreshers, there are also a few things to consider. You want to ensure it is easy to understand and that the terminology is digestible by the end user.

E-learning is a good, cost effective option for geographically dispersed teams as well as for regular refresher training. New staff members also do not need to wait for the next on-site training session.

Support is probably the most important consideration for the ongoing success of your purchase. You need to be comfortable with the service level time-frames on offer, and that the support staff can respond when you need them.

 If your selected BCM software doesn’t have local representation, what are the support hours? Are they available 24/7, during your business hours or only during business hours in their time zone? What methods of support are being provided? Is there an online portal, email or phone support? Are user groups available or online forums?

Being part of a user community (either face to face or online) is often a great way to get the level of support you need and influence the direction of the product you are using.

6. How are BCM software generally priced?

All BCM software products are priced differently. In general, you can expect to pay an implementation and ongoing licence fee for access to the system based on some or all the following factors:

  1. Size and nature of your organisation
  2. Geographic use of the system
  3. Functionality required
  4. Number of users in the system
  5. Contract term, many vendors have a minimum 3 years

Given the complexity of most business continuity programs you will generally pay for an upfront implementation fee to set up your instance.

7. System hosting and security

Security is a crucial factor when considering a hosted solution.  Your IT department will more than likely throw you a very long list of requirements.  The key questions you need to consider are:  

  1. Where are servers located?  
  2. Are these secure environments which meet international standards (e.g. ISO27001)?  
  3. Is your data encrypted?  Or maybe your organisation has regulatory requirements to keep data onshore?
  4. Will your information be backed up instantly, nightly etc. and how long are backups kept for?
  5. What is the system uptime?
  6. How quickly can the system be recovered if there is a failure?

Selecting the business continuity software for your organisation can start as a strenuous task. However, the process becomes simplified when you understand your functional and technical requirements, explore available software through product demonstrations, decide what level of support you will need and be comfortable that the vendor can provide this for you.

You need to establish that you can work happily with the vendor and of course ensure you have the budget. BC-3 is a business continuity management software worth adding to your list of software to explore.

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