Learn from the Delta systems outage, Focus on Business Continuity Planning

Published on February 17, 2017

At 5:30 pm on a recent Sunday, one of LockPath’s sales reps found himself stuck on the tarmac at the Minneapolis airport. What our sales rep, Matt, couldn’t know at that moment was his plight was shared by thousands of travelers impacted by Delta Airlines IT systems outage.

In case you missed the news story, Delta experienced a systems outage on Sunday, January 29. As a result, around 150 flights were canceled with many more delayed.

Delta isn’t the first airline to experience a systems outage, nor will it be the last. The big picture view is that any business of any size can experience an adverse event that interrupts operations. Disruptions to business as usual can hurt profits, upset customers, hurt the brand, and shock the stock price.

A plan to go from business interruption to business as usual
If you can’t predict it, how you can you plan for it? That’s the job of business continuity management (BCM). A BC plan identifies risks, threats, and vulnerabilities that could interrupt operations and formalizes a response optimized for restoring operations.

BC plans are comprehensive, given due diligence, and tested regularly. Every BC plan requires planning, coordination, testing, analysis, documentation, and more.

In Delta’s case, it’s unknown if a BC plan was executed after the outage. No doubt major airlines have all types of crisis, communications, and incident plans. Perhaps a certain percentage of canceled flights and irate customers is business as usual.

A BC plan is unique in that it’s designed to get a business back to normal as soon as possible. For travelers flying Delta that Sunday evening, it was anything but normal. According to Matt, communications were lacking as announcements led to mad dashes to other gates only to be called back because no flight option existed. Or a backup plane and crew were tracked down, but no flight attendants were available for the flight.

The lesson of Delta
Delta’s system outage is a reminder to all businesses to strategize around a course of action if operations are disrupted or disaster strikes. Otherwise, you could find yourself with upset customers, negative publicity, reinforced brand weaknesses, not to mention financial losses like Delta’s $200 vouchers handed out to stranded fliers.

For most public and private organizations, a solid BC plan is essential for being as prepared as possible. Such a plan prioritizes assets and resources. In the event of an interruption or disaster, there’s a priority to what assets and resources are restored first. In this way, critical operations resume faster.

BCM technology
What’s the right technology to use for business continuity management? According to an OCEG One Minute Poll, many businesses rely on office applications for word processing and spreadsheets. While they work in the office, they fall short in capabilities, most noticeably, during adverse events.

Using a GRC platform for business continuity management makes more sense. You can coordinate activities company-wide, test and refine business recovery plans, quantify the potential aftereffects, produce detailed reports, and more.

You can’t plan a disaster. You can plan a recovery. And, of course, you can learn from Delta’s example and be prepared for your own business interruption or disaster with a BC plan. Above all, don’t leave customers stranded when they need you the most.

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