This is part 1 of a two-part blog series about executive sponsorship for business continuity program success. In part 1, we take a look at the benefits of executive sponsorship, and in part 2, we’ll share some great ideas about how you can choose the right sponsor for your program.

It’s no secret that many business continuity programs run into obstacles that prevent them from being as successful as their leaders hope they’d be.

There are a lot of reasons, including (but not exclusively):

  • Not understanding organizational goals and aligning business continuity objectives
  • Lack of financial resources
  • Lack of tools and team members
  • Building too complex of plans at the beginning (all or nothing approach)
  • Not understanding your organization’s critical functions, assets, or suppliers
  • Not focusing response and recovery plans on disruptions that could actually impact your organization
  • Set-it-and-forget-it mentality that doesn’t update plans or processes as your organization changes or scales

And one of the most important (and recurring) issues that often leads to business continuity program failure: lack of executive support.

According to our Business Continuity Benchmark Study, organizations with a high-degree of executive support are nearly three times likely to have successful business continuity programs.

Don’t Flip the Pyramid

In many organizations, there’s a push for more team involvement and inclusivity for change management. That’s because, for a lot of organizational changes, flipping the leadership pyramid on its head makes sense. Instead of starting with a top-level mandate, team members —traditionally at the bottom of the organizational pyramid—rally to think through, develop, and plan for changes that directly affect the work they do. Often, these processes are well developed before a presentation to leadership.

Many times, that works great. Dotting all the I’s and crossing all the T’s is often a good approach to get leadership to come on board and provide support for a new initiative.

But, for business continuity success, you need a bit of a hybrid approach.

Adopting a top-down only mandate might hamper program adoption throughout your organization. Employees might be hesitant to adopt your changes if they don’t understand the “how” and “why” behind it.

Conversely, building it from the ground up might leave you a bit like little Oliver Twist, where you’re constantly re-approaching your executives with, “Please, sir (ma’am), may I have some more (resources, funding, support)?”

Start at the Top, but Expand

The most successful business continuity programs have organization-wide buy-in and support. To help get you on that path—and before you build your program’s foundation—seek out an executive sponsor from your organization’s leadership team.

This sponsor will be key to ensuring your program has the team, resources, time, and financial support to be successful.

By bringing an executive leader into your program at the get-go, you can be better poised to mitigate many of the issues that arise when leadership questions the validity—and necessity—of a new (or enhanced) program and related support.

Another benefit of an executive sponsor is the ability to align your business continuity program goals with your overarching organizational objectives. Programs with this core alignment tend to see more program success—not just for response and recovery effectiveness—but also in building that organizational buy-in we just mentioned.

An executive sponsor can also serve as a guide point to help you more accurately pinpoint your organization’s most critical systems, functions, team members, vendors, partners, and key stakeholders. Your sponsor can also play a great role in communicating information not just to your supporting leadership teams, but also your organization’s board of directors and other influencers. Increased exposure to top levels of your organization can result in easier paths to getting the resources you need.

Manage from the Middle

Of course, your executive sponsor won’t lead the day-to-day management of your business continuity program. You’ll need a program manager for that.

Your organization may choose to have a single manager as part of a centralized business continuity program—one that relies on the expertise of business continuity professionals—or your organization might determine your program is better managed with a decentralized approach with program oversight shared across business continuity plan owners or department heads. Not sure if a centralized or decentralized program is right for your organization? 

Here are a few other benefits of adding an executive sponsor to your business continuity program:

  • Your executive sponsor can facilitate the risk assessment that supports your program development, and, as you encounter issues over time, will serve as the person who decides if your organization will mitigate, accept, or reject risks associated with your business continuity program and plans.
  • Your executive sponsor can evaluate overall program performance, helping to find gaps and weaknesses where the program fails to meet goals or doesn’t align to other organizational objectives.
  • Your executive sponsor can cut through red tape to ensure you have adequate resources to support your program.
  • Your executive sponsor can serve essentially as a cheerleader for business continuity, communicating its value and expectations across your organization to encourage successful adoption, implementation, and use.

Securing Your Sponsor

So now that we’ve taken a look at some of the many great reasons why your business continuity program can benefit from executive support, next up is a look at how you can find the right person to serve in that role for your team. Keep an eye out for part 2, coming soon.

Are you considering starting a business continuity program for your organization or see the value of adding an executive sponsor? Connect with a Riskonnect advisor and we’ll be happy to help.