If you should suddenly feel the earth move under your feet, you’re either experiencing an earthquake or listening to one of Carole King’s biggest hits from the 1970s. Or maybe you’re just running a drill during International ShakeOut Day, a yearly event for millions of people around the world to practice ways to stay safe during earthquakes, update their emergency plans and supplies, and check their work and home spaces to prevent damage and injury. ShakeOut started in California in 2008 as a drill to help educate the public about earthquake preparedness, and since then has expanded across the globe with over 18.7 million participants.
It’s a great reminder that a catastrophic event can happen at any moment, whether caused by nature, bad actors, political upheaval, or simple human error. And while every business may not need to hold an earthquake simulation to ensure they’re prepared to respond to emergencies, the idea of fortifying your response plan is always a good idea.
That’s what occurred at Yorkshire Building Society, the third largest building society in the UK with a 150-year history of providing “real help with real life” to its borrowing and saving members. The Society’s goal is to help its members achieve the things in life that matter to them most. And sometimes, that means being prepared for the best of times as well as the worst of times.
Yorkshire Building Society (the Society) turned to Sungard Availability Services (Sungard AS) to help mature and reinforce their incident- and crisis-management framework and recovery services, ensuring all important business services can continue following a significant incident or crisis.
Over the past three years, Sungard AS supported the Society on its journey to both strengthen and embed an incident- and crisis-management response framework through an effective scenario exercise program. This contributed to the Society’s ability to respond effectively to operational incidents and crises and allowed it to continue providing important business services to its members.
Euan Watson, Senior Manager of Business Continuity, worked with Sungard AS to develop and deliver a series of awareness training sessions to cover the basics of business continuity, and incident- and crisis-management techniques. In 2019, Sungard AS assisted with an awareness briefing for the Society’s board, including the chairman and the board of directors. The briefing covered the organization’s overall approach to resilience and incident and crisis response, as well as what the consulting services would focus on for the given year.
This was followed by awareness training for members of the Society’s Incident and Crisis Management teams, the goal being for each to understand industry “best practices.” This included factoring in different senses of urgency, depending on the severity and nature of the incident or crisis. By using examples of events that could actually happen, Sungard AS explained the processes and risk-based actions that could be applied to gain control of the situation effectively, enabling prompt resolution.
“When we first started, there was a little skepticism about why we were requesting colleagues to be involved to the degree and the level that we were,” Watson says. “The awareness training absolutely helped colleagues understand the reasons why we were looking to enhance the current incident and crisis model. This approach allowed us to overcome the perception that being involved in the incident-management process would be onerous and time-consuming.”
“Over the years, we’ve built up great momentum and a significant level of competence as a result of this approach,” Watson continues. “Members of both the Incident and Crisis Management teams engage effectively when we exercise or ‘do it for real’.”
As part of each scenario exercise, the group was charged with analyzing what had happened and deciding what procedures would work best to address it, then prioritizing and taking actions. Periodic check-ins kept the team on their 45-minute completion schedule and served as coaching sessions, allowing them to assess progress, examine what’s working and what’s not, and to restart the exercise until conclusion. The target timeline, including initial briefings, was 1.5 hours. Exercise timelines have reduced significantly due to improved competence in this space.
When it comes to delivering scenario exercises, Watson says it’s helped to have a Sungard AS consultant on board. “There are a lot of industry books that say, to get the best out of these exercises, you need somebody who is impartial and external to the organization, who can run those exercises in a competent and capable manner, which our consultant does,” he says.
“With the exercises we’ve run for the past three years, participants actually know our Sungard AS consultant and how capable he is in this space. We’ve built up a really good level of credibility with them.”
With a focus on keeping these services continuously available, Yorkshire Building Society will align with Operational Resilience policy and program regulations, which come into effect in 2023.
“It’s been a lot of hard work, and it’s been worth it,” Watson says. We’re continuing that journey now, as it’s never really finished—it’s a constant wheel that we turn with the people involved. Over the past three years, Sungard AS has been very much part of our journey to exercise our incident- and crisis-management framework, which has been really successful.”
For other organizations looking to boost resilience, Watson cautions them not to underestimate the amount of work required at the foundational level.
“It’s really important to identify your key stakeholders and put in the time to communicate with them and the rest of your organization,” he says. “The goal is to make sure everyone understands the tactical and strategic objectives you’re trying to achieve, and their role in achieving them. Without that, you won’t get to the level of buy-in that you need to be successful.”
“Sungard AS has the skills, competence and expertise to help us further enhance our incident- and crisis-management exercise skills, which will help us to continue to mature our response capabilities and thereafter continue to deliver important business services to our members,” Watson concludes.
You don’t need to shake up your workplace and teams unnecessarily, but as Euan Watson advises: “Don’t underplay the work in the early stages, because it will reap significant rewards at the other end.” Read the case study for more information on creating and maintaining a resilient workplace.