Business continuity software is just the starting point

Effectiveness is based on company's investment in staff resources and attention to detail

Mapping business processes and technological dependencies for business continuity planning is not a new concept; however, the few tools out there require a healthy measure of manpower and input to yield meaningful results . Many business continuity planners use spreadsheets, databases, and diagramming tools such as Microsoft Visio to accumulate, visualize, and store their business model information. In any case, other software can make your efforts more focused and comprehensive.

One such package is Strohl Systems’ LDRPS (Living Disaster Recovery Planning System), which includes “plan navigators” for corporate crisis management, business process recovery, application recovery, and site event management that guide planners step by step through a logical sequence of business continuity planning tasks. There are also many specific plan templates focusing on banking and finance, call centers, commercial insurance, and IT. A central multiple-user database stores all the business, technology, and continuity planning data and ensures that changes made in one place are propagated throughout all of the plans. Perhaps most useful for business modeling is LDPRS’s dependency map, which builds a graphical depiction of the relationships and dependencies among business processes, applications, and hardware, allowing planners to visualize the chain of events that would unfold if a single process were disrupted and understand what recovery plans should be activated. It’s available in several versions, including an on-demand version that Strohl hosts.

Another useful package is SunGard’s Paragon, which also uses a central database and guides planners through the business continuity planning process with libraries of questions for business unit surveys and numerous plan templates.

Most useful for business modeling is Paragon Profiles, which you can use to map many-to-many relationships among business processes, departments, facilities, applications, and underlying servers and infrastructure. Business unit reps can enter what they know about business processes and applications and then IT can enter what it knows about underlying infrastructure. The information is then tied together to illustrate all the dependencies, which can then be used to run “what if” scenarios to help gauge the scope of any crisis. You can import information from other databases and Excel spreadsheets. Paragon can also be used to track the survey and planning process and helps you produce checklists of required business continuity activities and explanations of assigned roles during an event. It even includes its own module for secure notifications.

Paisley Consulting offers two products, CARDmap and Risk Navigator. The latter can be purchased alone or as part of a suite called the Paisley Solution, which is focused primarily on compliance and risk management. It helps senior executives assess the criticality of their company’s business processes and use that information to build a rational approach to risk tolerance.

These solutions can be extremely useful, but as with all tools, effectiveness is based on the attention to detail the business invests in them. They will help organize and rationalize the process, but they still generally require many hours of meetings and collaboration, as well as ongoing maintenance, to be truly effective.