In today’s volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) world, smart organisations are focusing on building resilience into their corporate DNA. Resilience implies the ability to adapt to changing circumstances, and to recover quickly when a disaster strikes—even one that is unexpected and unplanned-for. An effective resilience programme will cover people, processes and technology—but the necessity for a work-area recovery (or WAR) capability should never be ignored.

This is because when a disaster makes it impossible to use one or more of the organisation’s primary sites, it is very important to have somewhere for staff to work.

“Technology developments like the cloud, and the widespread use of sophisticated mobile devices, mean that some members of staff can continue to be productive from home for a limited period, but many jobs require in-person collaboration and supervision,” says Innes le Roux, GM: Resilient Office Services, ContinuitySA. “Specialised areas like treasury and call centres also cannot operate in isolation.

“Work-area recovery thus remains a key element of any business continuity and resilience plan.”

Work-area recovery can be defined as a secure, alternative environment that can be ready to receive a stipulated number of an organisation’s employees at very short notice. It will have desks, PCs, telephone systems, and ICT connectivity all in place, along with canteen and other facilities needed by staff. Typically, the WAR would be located at the premises of a specialist business continuity provider, so that there would be plenty of support staff with all the experience needed to get employees productive in the least possible time.

This would include the all-important task of linking the WAR to the organisation’s backup data and applications. Today, all organisations are dependent on their ICT systems and data, so it’s very important not only that they have a recovery site but understand how to bring their systems back up in the WAR with minimal delay. Again, experienced business continuity professionals can spell the difference between success and failure.

Many companies take the decision to set up their own WAR facility, often at one of their own secondary sites, in order to save costs. However, experience indicates that this seldom works. Moving a large body of employees to an alternative site successfully is not easy, and the WAR needs constant management and investment to remain functional at the same level as the primary site. It also needs its own backup diesel generators, UPSs and water storage to ensure that it is always operational, come what may.

All too often, insourced WARs are used to supply replacement equipment, which is often not replaced. That means that in an emergency, vital equipment may be missing, thus compromising the organisation’s ability to recover.

“To ensure that your WAR is fit-for-purpose, and truly contributes to making your organisation resilient, best practice would be to outsource it to a specialist provider,” he concludes. “Resilience is key to sustainability in today’s world, make sure your organisation is truly resilient.”