Olly Parsons | GSMA | Mon, 09 May 2016 11:13:46 +0000

The GSMA Disaster Response programme has recently published a toolkit report on building resilience into Business Continuity Management (BCM) for mobile networks. The report aims to highlight the measures undertaken by mobile network operators (MNOs) to increase the resilience of their business, of the services they provide and the communities they serve. Intended as a reference guide, the report contains extensive information on building resilience into existing processes. It draws upon the experiences of operators in past events to suggest Business Continuity Management considerations for disasters of different types and severities.

To further share the best practices contained in this report we will be posting a series of blogs over the coming months, focusing on different elements. This first post will act as an overview but stay tuned for resilience models, technical and human resource considerations and insight into specific disaster scenarios. The full report is available to download.

For the purpose of the report resilience is defined as the capacity of a mobile network (and its related business) to maintain and/or recover its ability to deliver mobile services to users, in the face of rapidly changing, wide scale disruption brought about by different types of disaster scenarios.

Whilst this does mean networks must have the ability to withstand disruption, it is more critically about the ability to recover to a point of stability and function sufficient to provide a sustainable service and business going forward. In order to do this the business requires plans and structures to enable them to be resourceful and respond quickly to rapidly changing circumstances.

The implication is that there are three aspects to resilience for mobile networks:

 

  • The first is the effects on people and processes;
  • The second is the recovery of the critical infrastructure; and
  • The third, the building/recovery of ecosystems which support the business.

 

All of these are interdependent and should be considered holistically as well as at individual levels.

Creating more resilient mobile networks which can cope with diverse scenarios will require the development of flexible processes which can adapt to rapidly changing circumstances, and therefore the training of staff. Such activities will help both protect an MNO’s long term business and allow for the provision of connectivity and communication as humanitarian assistance when it is needed most.

Recommendation 1 – Planning for resilience through BCM is a key responsibility undertaken by an MNO, especially for those located in highly vulnerable or susceptible areas of the world. This will help to protect their business and provide essential services to support both short term assistance and longer term recovery for the affected community.

A component of this should be in developing, over time, an innate resilience in the people (staff), infrastructure and business processes against potential disasters which could impact the MNO. There should be a balance between the cost of building resilience against the benefits to both the business and to the wider community in the face of a disaster.

Recommendation 2 – BCM needs to be a testing and iterative process which looks to improve resilience with every iteration. Otherwise, it runs the risk of becoming stale and ineffective in a constantly changing environment where vulnerabilities and the frequency of hazards are increasing.

In order for BCM to be effective it needs to be tested either by simulation or an actual event to see where plans work and where they do not. This leads to evaluation and improvements to increase the level of resilience.

Recommendation 3 – BCM plans should enable a reduction in friction and an increase in flexibility. In a disaster and its immediate aftermath, there is a high degree of disruption within a rapidly changing environment, where even the best plans will never be sufficient to meet all eventualities. For that reason, plans need to be flexible and allow room for people to innovate and find effective solutions to the problems without the burden of operational requirements which could slow down or render solutions ineffective.

This is particularly important when working across different organisations (NGOs, government, agencies, suppliers, etc.) whose own plans may not be as advanced or aligned to the MNO’s. This is where a level of trust and discernment needs to be fostered, helping find solutions to the issues being faced. This is a key component in establishing resilience across organisations.

Recommendation 4 – BCM plans should be tailored to specific disaster types and levels of severity. The full report includes a number of suggested considerations for disaster type and disaster severity. BCM plans should be created for a matrix of possibilities, low-likelihood / high impact to high likelihood / low impact. This will help strengthen resilience.

For further information on all of these recommendations, as well as in-depth examples and best practice, please refer to the full report. This is the first in a series of blogs which will explore business continuity management best practise for the mobile industry. You’ll hear more from us soon.

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