Top 7 Considerations When Planning a Remote Exercise

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As we know, many organisations have the majority, if not all, of their staff, working from home in as close to ‘business as usual’ mode as possible. Business as usual includes compliance, and ensuring and maintaining the planned approach. One aspect of this is business continuity (BC) and exercising.  URM has run a number of highly effective BC exercises in the last month and this blog will look at some of the key learning points derived from those engagements.

Before we go any further, it is worth stating why we believe now is a good time to conduct BC exercises.  Firstly, most of the people/teams involved have ‘time’ to contribute and secondly, now is the perfect opportunity to generate far more engagement and feedback than is typical, thus leading to a greater understanding and improvements.

The mere fact that most, if not all, staff are working remotely demonstrates that your mobile strategy is working. However, your BC response is much wider than just your mobile strategy.  Many of the types of disruption we are preparing for, such as flood, fire, an IT outage or sickness bug, won’t adhere to any calendar and therefore practising an exercise where everyone is remotely connected is extremely valid.  In addition, it is reasonable to assume that response and recovery teams are likely to be dispersed during an incident, consequently, communicating effectively and efficiently will be critical to a successful incident response.  As such, now is the perfect time to run a remote exercise and test your resilience.

So what are the challenges when planning a remote exercise? 

Here are the key points for you to  consider:

1 – Roles and responsibilities

Prior to running an exercise, each attendee should already know and understand their role and responsibilities in a BC incident.

2 – Good management of the exercise starts with clear ground rules

Prior to running an exercise, each attendee should already know and understand their role and responsibilities in a BC incident.

3 – Communication tool

Given people are working remotely, this is likely to have been tested in anger, but is it available to all on all types of device? For example, if you are favouring Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts, Skype or Zoom, can these be accessed via a mobile phone or handheld device or would you need to ensure that staff involved in the exercise (and likewise an incident) have laptop devices available to them?

4 – Stable connection

The Internet connection for facilitating the exercise needs to be stable and secure. For example, hosting the call from a 3rd party Wi-Fi hotspot, e.g. a coffee shop, is not recommended! Nor is it, given current circumstances, when fighting against other household members ‘streaming’.

5 – Communication etiquette

It is important that everyone is considerate of the circumstances and do not all try to speak at once or are ‘drowned out’ by others. Patience and understanding are key, as is a strong chair.

6 – A strong chair

An influential, well respected and confident lead is required to guide the exercise and provide the forum for all to contribute and be heard.

7 – A scribe or recording equipment

– It can be far more challenging for people to recall what was discussed, identified and actioned. Having a scribe or recording the session will resolve this. However, if you are recording the session, you must give careful consideration to privacy and security.

The validity and effectiveness of remote exercising has been clearly demonstrated in the response that URM has received from organisations in the last few weeks.  They have proved to be an excellent use of time; with sessions providing greater engagement and feedback, and contributing to key lessons learned and improvement opportunities.