Business Continuity & Vendor Assessment – Tip #4 – Questionnaire Questions

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Please find the third tip in my series on vendor assessment originally posted here on LinkedIn:

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/business-continuity-vendor-assessment-tip-4-questions-kevin-brandt

Text of the post below.


In the previous tip in this series on vendor assessment related to my presentation at DRJ Springworld 2017 (thanks DRJ!), I covered some tips on how to plan out creating a questionnaire to assess your vendors. All questionnaires are individual to the company they are from and definitely should be. One tip, that bears repeating, is to ask questions focused on the areas that matter most to your company. However, there can and should be questions that are universal. With the amazing interest in this topic, I promised a “sanitized” sample set of questions that are generic and could be used as a starting point for any company’s vendor assessment questionnaire. Please find them below in no particular order and I will post more as they come to mind.

  • Name and title of the person (of the vendor) that filled out the questionnaire.
  • Name and title of that person’s direct manager.
  • How many certified business continuity professionals are on staff or under contract?
  • Who (if anyone) is the officer of the company ultimately accountable for the business continuity / disaster recovery / crisis management program at the vendor?
  • What is their title and who do they report to?
  • How frequently (if at all) does the company conduct a Risk Assessment?
  • How frequently (if at all) does the company conduct a Business Impact Analysis?
  • How frequently (if at all) does the company conduct Disaster Recovery exercises of their key technology infrastructure that directly affects service to our company?
  • How frequently (if at all) does the company conduct Functional Exercises of the key areas that directly affects the service to our company?

My disclaimer here is twofold: First, you may find these pretty obvious as they track BC best practices and, second, use at your own risk… but in good health! There could be many, many more questions. However, as a final thought I caution anyone conducting an assessment to limit the number of questions asked. With fewer questions you are more likely to get answers. Thanks again to everyone interested in this topic!

Business Continuity & Vendor Assessment – Tip #3 – Questionnaire Tips

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Please find the third tip in my series on vendor assessment originally posted here on LinkedIn:

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/business-continuity-vendor-assessment-tip-3-tips-kevin-brandt

Text of the post below.


In the previous tip in this series on vendor assessment related to my presentation at DRJ Springworld 2017 (thanks DRJ!), I covered the idea that you need to partner with other areas in the enterprise to get your vendor assessment program started. In this tip, I want to share some ideas on how to craft a questionnaire that gets results. Many of you have reached out to me for sample questions. I am going to post some here and privately send some more out to folks who connected with me during the conference.

On a personal note, thank you to everyone who attended my presentation and for all the kind words! I am very glad that you all got something out of it and seemed to enjoy my speaking style. If you want anything else from me or would like me to speak at your conference / user group / etc. just reach out to me via LinkedIn. For those of you who have already reached out to me for sample questions, my sincere apologies for not getting those to you. My laptop gave me the “black screen of death” right after the conference! I am only now getting back up and running plus I need to “sanitize” some of the questions for public consumption. I will get them out as soon as I can.

The challenges faced today in assessing vendors includes many facets, including a “backlog” of vendors that are un-assessed and limited resources, perhaps the most insidious is determining the right questions to ask a vendor. What not to do is sometimes easier than stating exactly what to do and the first thing I would recommend is to NOT ask to see the vendor’s continuity plan(s). Why? Ignoring the fact that they might not anyway due to proprietary information within the plan, the plan will most likely not really help you determine anything. Every plan is different and chances are good you do not know their business well enough to even know if the plan is any good. Without that intimate knowledge, a plan to recover it will not give you what you want.

Instead, the idea here is to ask questions that you can do two things with: 

1. Turn them into an empirical number or score (or red, yellow, green rating). 

2. Focus on the items you are most interested in that give you an understanding of how seriously they take resiliency.

The first item allows you to easily communicate how likely it seems the vendor will be resilient in any disruption they might have. With a simple scale with colors, you can show the risk of going with that vendor. Backing it up with the vendor’s answers and a numerical point scale allows for fine tuning of the recommendation.

The second item is a bit more complicated because this is where you generate the questions and a point scale. The questions should include very specific questions that relate directly to your organization’s needs and general ones that cover the general areas of knowledge of resiliency. However, the questions are more effective if they “get at” resiliency rather than ask “are you good at” resiliency (the answer will almost invariably be “yes”). For example, a good question would be ask how many certified business continuity professionals do they have on staff or contracted with? A quick search on LinkedIn after their answer should give you an idea if they are being completely honest.

Here are some do’s and don’ts:

DON’T ask for their plans. They either will refuse or the plans will be very detailed which forces you to make value judgments based on you having to review all of them (two enormous time wasters).

DO ask for an executive summary if they have one. If they don’t have one, that may be a red flag.

DON’T ask open ended questions. Much like above, their answers will be time wasters and force you to make judgment calls.

DO ask questions that allow you to assign points quickly based on their answers. Yes/No or letter answers score very easily.

DON’T try to automate things right away. A simple document can be used to gather the information.

DO spend a little time focusing on the things you care about and asking more questions with that in mind.

DON’T accept answers from the sales person. This leads to incomplete answers and again, time wasted.

DO ask for the name and title of the person who filled out the questionnaire. Plus definitely ask for the name and title of the person they report to.

Once you have the assessment back and scored you can provide your recommendation back to the vendor selection committee or whoever needs it. If the vendor scores poorly I never say “no”. I will always provide the information and ask that someone sign off on the risk. If they are willing to accept the risk to the organization then they can engage with any vendor they like. However, they cannot say you didn’t warn them!

Hopefully these tips will help you get started with a vendor assessment questionnaire.  I plan on releasing some “generic” sample questions soon!

Project Intake and Congestion Collapse

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Originally posted on LinkedIn here.

Recently, I was reminded of a computer networking concept called congestion collapse (or congestive collapse according to Wikipedia). The basic theory, which has been proven in practice, is that something counter-intuitive happens when the amount of data being sent reaches the limits of the network device and more requests are continuously made. The amount of data that can be processed does not flat line at the top of the curve, but instead it completely collapses (see my graph). 

This is an oversimplification, of course. Briefly, for the non-computer types in the audience, the network device referred to is usually a specific piece of hardware, such as a network router or switch. The data I refer to are TCP packets. The reason the useful work nosedives is that the network hardware starts to get overloaded once it reaches maximum capacity. It then starts dropping (forgetting) packets because it can neither process them nor store them in memory (in networking this is a full buffer or queue). The hardware starts then requesting that the packets be resent. This requires more processing power to make these requests and as the amount of requests come in for processing, it drops more, has to do more resubmit requests and starts being unable to send out packets it has not dropped. And so on…. Which leads to the amount of useful work collapses.

What does this have to do with project intake? In my experience, project based areas tend to stumble and fall under the strain of many, many requests. Generally, I see this in IT areas specifically as they are very project intensive with feature requests, break-fix work and a variety of major software / hardware installations. They start the year with a (relatively) clean slate of known project work that they need to manage. They make a plan to complete that work and it all looks great. Yet, as the year continues on, they begin to struggle, fall behind and get complaints of not being communicative. Why?

I believe that similar to a networking congestion collapse situation, a project team without an intake process or a centralized project portfolio management area, such as a PMO, will start to do things similar to that poor, helpless network device mentioned above. As the amount of work requests increase close to capacity, the team starts to spend more and more time on non-work tasks. Communication needs to increase as more people ask for updates, status, and to make changes, etc. As the team gets drawn into more and more project meetings for a wider variety of projects, mistakes get made and useful work declines.  The negative impact of more people requiring communication can be seen in Fred Brook’s classic work, The Mythical Man-Month. That impact from the group intercommunication formula alone can destroy productivity. 

Therefore, I think any project area requires some kind of intake process, gatekeeper or some kind of congestion control (again, another networking term). Intuitively I believe it makes sense, but I may explore the proofs around this in future posts. 

Business Continuity & Vendor Assessment – Tip #2 – You Have to Partner

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Please find the second tip in my series on vendor assessment originally posted here on LinkedIn:

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/business-continuity-vendor-assessment-tip-2-you-have-kevin-brandt

Text of the post below.


In the previous tip in this series on vendor assessment related to my upcoming presentation at DRJ Springworld 2017, I covered the basic idea that a business continuity practitioner must accept the fact that they just cannot assess every vendor. In large organizations, this is especially true. In this brief tip, I want to touch on another key to success to do this work on a shoestring budget.

Yes, as the tip title states, you have to partner with others in the organization. If you are lucky, you can partner with a centralized vendor management business unit or a legal department. If you are partially lucky, you can partner with various contracting / purchasing people throughout the organization. If you are unlucky, no one returns your calls!

Getting a partner in place may require some sales tactics. Try these:

  1. Generally, you are there to reduce risk to the organization and most partners want that as well.  Find that common ground.
  2. Assure the partner that the assessment of the vendor will be non-threatening and have minimal impact to any selection process timetable.
  3. Offer up data. As a potentially centralized point of information about all the business processes in the company, you can offer data on what vendors the various areas of the company are already using (if their business continuity plans are complete). This is a potential treasure trove of information for a centralized vendor management area!

As a side note, I want to emphasize sales tactic #3. This is good to keep in mind for just about anything you might need from any area in the organization. If you have at least some support from upper management, you will be accumulating valuable business process, systems, interaction and vendor information from everywhere in the organization. Do not underestimate the value of this!

Once you have a partner in place, you need to increase the speed of trust between the two of you. Offer them a road-map of how a basic assessment could be done and show them that you do NOT want to assess every vendor (see tip #1). Then, move on to tip #3… Create a non-threatening assessment questionnaire and show it to them. Now you have the potential to be able just have your partner hand the assessment to the vendor during the selection process with no impact to your own (shoestring) budget. What you do with the assessment comes later.

Business Continuity & Vendor Assessment – Tip #1 – You Can’t Assess All Vendors

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For those of you interested in all things Business Continuity related, please check out my post (and hopefully series) on LinkedIn related to my upcoming presentation at DRJ Springworld 2017:

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/business-continuity-vendor-assessment-tip-1-you-cant-kevin-brandt

Kind Regards,
KB

Fans: Thank You for Making Senior Dummies’ Guide to Android an Amazon Top 100!

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Thank You!

Thank you to all the fans, seniors and folks looking for an easy-to-use guide for pushing the Seniors Dummies’ Guide to Android Tips and Tricks (black and white edition) into the top 100 in our niche of Computers & Technology and within the top 150,000 of the overall books on Amazon.com!!  My deepest gratitude to all of you who have looked at the book and for those of you who have purchased it!  With your continued support, Gene (my editor and friend) hope to do more books for you and help everyone with their technology questions. 

Thank you!

As always, check out the Senior Dummies blog for more tips:
www.seniordummies.com

The Senior Dummies’ Guide Is Out!

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JustFrontCover

The book is out!! Thank you for everyone’s support so far!  As a special gift for just checking out our site, please find a discount code at the bottom of the page  good for $5 off from purchases through the Createspace E-Store (the Amazon publishing platform).  Get one for your friend(s) that keep asking you how to fix their tablet!

 

Amazon link (If you are so inclined to write a review, that would be great!): https://amzn.com/1505442117

Createspace E-Store link – The discount code to use at checkout is UPYJ8TKK:

https://www.createspace.com/5159600

Also, check out the Senior Dummies blog for more tips:
www.seniordummies.com

Out Now: Two Books Plus An Audiobook Version!

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Three Sunsets Book CoverI have been remiss in writing posts lately, so I’ll get right to it in this blog post.  My esteemed friend / colleague, Gene Lass, and I have now (re)published two classic works of poetry in soft cover book form originally written by the great author, Lewis Carroll of “Alice in Wonderland” fame.  We have added biographical information on the life of Lewis Carroll in the books with additional found photographs and illustrations.  I feel that they have turned out quite nicely!  You can take a look at them on Amazon at the links below.

Three Sunsets

http://www.amazon.com/dp/1512358894/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_dp_2WAHwb1DS7XA8

Phantasmagoria

http://www.amazon.com/dp/1519119879/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_dp_iYAHwb13CV07F

You will notice that the reviews are for all the varieties of the Lewis Carroll books, such as the Kindle versions, which we do not have (yet).  So that can be a little misleading, just FYI.

Audio!

Even more exciting for me is the publishing of Three Sunsets as an audiobook on Audible!  I recorded and produced the book myself with editing help, once again, from Gene.  You can find it on Audible at the link below (and on Amazon and iTunes).

http://www.audible.com/pd/Drama-Poetry/Three-Sunsets-and-Other-Poems-Audiobook/B019HO07CA

Coming soon: Our Android book and the audiobook of Phantasmagoria!  Thanks to everyone for their support and Happy New Year!

Coming Soon! My Android Tips For Seniors Book!

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Large Print!  Big Screenshots!  Tips For Seniors!

I am very excited to announce that I have my first book coming out quite soon!  It is in final editing right now and when that process is done it will be available on Amazon.com.  The first edition will be a full color print book that spans almost two hundred pages of content. I really spent quite a bit of time looking for the right kind of things that seniors with Android phones or tablets would want to know.

For example, here’s a tip below that’s also freely downloadable as a PDF for you to take a look at.  It covers one of the most underused features of Android that I think seniors (and sometimes me!) would probably like to use:  Getting the device screen to display large print.  Comments?  Please let me know!  Enjoy!

The Senior Dummies Guide To Android Tablet Tricks And Tips – Tip 3 – Large Print

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Thought I Had a Grip On Reality, Then I Went To Jonathan MacDonald’s UnlockSession!

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Travaasa Resort

Travaasa Resort, Austin – Location of Our Unlock Session

 

Disrupt or be disrupted.  It’s not whether or not it will happen, it’s just a matter of when. That was really the first message of the Unlock Session.  Then Jonathan proceeded to blow everyone’s mind with proof.  The guy is so plugged in to what is going on in disruptive technologies that it is downright scary.

Mercury Vapors

The day was intense and jammed packed with thoughts that make you question what you hold to be true… which is really the whole point.  The roller-coaster ride of anecdotes and the “I told them and they did not listen to me” stories pushed my limits.  Sometimes, it felt like I was teetering on the edge of insanity, like a mad hatter forced to inhale mercury vapors, whenever Jonathan went into another realm of upcoming upheaval.  Most of the details, however, I cannot share… frankly, much of it is so out there, yet real, you probably won’t believe me anyway.

Let me back up a second here as I’m getting ahead of myself.  I have been in many seminars, workshops and seen many speakers engage with audiences. I cannot say I remember much of them (except maybe seeing Gorbachev speak in person, but that’s a different blog post) but I do know that NONE of them made the promise that we would finish the day with a true action plan… But he did make that promise and he made good on it.

A New Mission

With that goal in mind (begin with the end in mind) we proceeded with the day in a cyclical fashion of discussion, mind expansion, break, process, discussion, mind expansion, etc. The style and pace is intense but it works. Thankfully we were in the very beautiful Travaasa resort near Austin. We could all go out into the warm, balmy weather and clear our heads. I know I needed to do that. I could breathe without the “mercury vapors” and process what I had heard.

Sometime during the afternoon we worked out our new mission statement as well. From there, the flow of peering into the future to see the disruption avalanche coming our way was snapped into sharp clarity.  We needed to pivot and do so in a way that did not throw out our current business until we hit the right inflection point (sorry I can’t explain that part further).

The Rabbit Hole

True to the promise, my team figured out how to disrupt our own business using that guiding mission statement… before it gets disrupted for us.  We now have a high level action plan with more details being discussed constantly within our team and a commitment date to complete the first step.  Truth be told, I’m not sleeping much or well or sometimes at all.  But I think that’s a good thing.  I think we’re on to something.  Something that we need to work on now to be ready for the future when the technologies converge at the right time and they hit the mainstream.

Looking back on the experience, I feel like I had been sitting under a tree absentmindedly reading a book that bored me a little. Suddenly, a white rabbit ran past me and I followed him down the rabbit hole.  But unlike Alice, whom the rabbit ignored, the rabbit helped me find my way and create my own road map through Wonderland.

www.ascend-technology.com