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Horizon Scan 2014 – past or future?

The annual BCsummary of Horizon scan 2014I/BSI Horizon 2014 survey has just been published, and presents some interesting results, although I have to wonder how much of this is down to an understanding of terminology, particularly given the overlap of the different issues being examined.  Also, given the probable biases of the respondents from previous incidents and media coverage, can this be a true reflection of what 2014 could bring?
As with the CMI annual Business Continuity Management survey, which is normally published during Business Continuity Awareness Week, there is consistency, with IT and adverse weather sharing the top slots.  However, with both surveys, there seems to be an on-going issue in the separation of cause and effect when questioning the major concerns of businesses.  As an example, unplanned IT outages could be related to software issues, but could also be related to fire, interruption of utility supply, or many other of the concerns listed.

Also of interest are the supply chain aspects.  The report states that the ‘fall of supply chain disruption as a perceived major threat comes as a surprise given the nature of the potential disruption caused’.  However, whilst the risk has fallen from 8th to 16th place in the results, the percentage of respondents highlighting extreme concern or concern of their supply chain has risen from 40% to 42%.  Not surprisingly, the manufacturing sector scored highly is this regard.  However, sectors such as Financial Services, Professional Services and Healthcare did not score this highly, although were very concerned about IT or telecoms outages.  Does this mean that IT and Telecoms providers are not classed as being within the supply chain, or that majority of these services are operated entirely in-house?

So how does the Horizon Scan 2014 help?  As Donald Rumsfeld famously said ‘there are known knowns; there are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns; that is to say, there are things that we now know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns – there are things we do not know we don’t know’.  I am unsure that any form of Horizon Scan will ever assist us with identifying the unknown unknowns, and it is difficult to say how much respondents answers for this survey were biased by what has occurred in the previous 12 months or what has been in the media.  So, whilst the survey results do make for interesting reading, we would always advocate flexible all-hazard planning that is based on a through understanding of what your business needs to operate and a flexible incident management response.

Written by Helen Molyneux