Speakers Soapbox: an interview with Chris Needham-Bennett

Speakers’ Soapbox: Chris Needham-Bennett On Britain’s Tsunami & The Fun Side Of ISO22301

Authored by Luke Simpson, Editor.

In the leadup to the 11th Annual Continuity Insights Management Conference, April 22-24, 2013 at the Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina, Continuity Insights asks presenters about their chosen topics, lessons learned from Superstorm Sandy, critical business continuity skills and hypothetical band names. This week Chris Needham-Bennett, owner & Managing Director of London-based Needhams 1834 Ltd, discusses the real cost of ISO22301 certification, the tsunami that struck Britain in 1607 and Theodore Roosevelt’s resilience.

Continuity Insights: Your presentation with Avalution’s Brian Zawada is titled ISO 22301: What You Need To Know & How It Can Benefit Your Organization. You are particularly well qualified to speak on ISO 22301 as your firm was one of the first to be certified to the standard; at one stage you described the process as “good fun.” Why was the process fun and, briefly, how do you justify the cost of certification?

Chris Needham-Bennett: I suppose that in business “fun” is a relative term! I really meant that the self questioning aspect of the process was revealing of our own weaknesses and therefore both interesting and useful.

As to cost, the direct cost of the audit was very low — some 0.2 percent of turnover. What cost more was the management effort and opportunity costs but these were offset by the results both for ourselves and the clients.

CI: What is the number one lesson learned from Superstorm Sandy in terms of business continuity and disaster recovery strategies?

CNB: Sorry, I am English. What was this sandstorm thing? No, seriously, we heard all about it. I do wonder about the propensity of people to forget the lessons of history. Life simply is not risk free and can never be made so; but some perspective of previous events should shape an effective strategy. As a rule: That which has occurred before will do so again.

CI: Complete this sentence: To be a successful business continuity professional you must master the risk assessment, the BIA and _____________________.

CNB: Be good looking, debonair and suave.

CI: True or false: There are some things you simply cannot plan for, e.g. the massive earthquake and tsunami in Japan in 2011.

CNB: False. You can plan for anything you like. One of the recurrent and iconic themes in Japanese art is the tsunami; it would therefore be strange not to plan for one. What is idiocy of the first order is building a nuclear plant on the coast and then being surprised by what happened!

Interestingly, on 30th January, 1607 a suspected tsunami hit the UK coast in the Bristol Channel area. It swept up to 15 miles inland and killed about 3000 people. Most British BC professionals have never even heard of the event. We simply lack the historical memory and tend to suppose that it will never happen. Just remember: 400 years is a pretty short timeframe in geological terms.

CI: Which U.S. president, British prime minister, sports person or musician do you think would have made a good business continuity professional and why?

CNB: No doubt in my mind at all: Theodore Roosevelt. Why? At age 42, he did a superb job of maintaining continuity in taking over from McKinley following his assassination. He was a war hero, lost all his cattle and investment in 1886/7, lost his first wife tragically and had a sickly childhood — he was acquainted with setbacks and adversity of all kinds and overcame them. He was, in my “overseas” opinion, one of the greatest U.S. presidents.

CI: If you formed a band with other business continuity professionals what would you call it?

CNB: AC/BC in the perhaps forlorn hope that we would mistaken for a rather more serious band and get upgrades on air travel.

For more information on Needham-Bennett’s presentation, please click here.