In an earlier blog I discussed how global supply chains had been severely disrupted in recent years. I also discussed how the role of the Business Continuity or Supply Chain Risk Manager is becoming increasingly important. But how many companies actually have a Business Continuity Manager or  ’Master of Disaster’ within their business and what exactly does the role entail?

I guess the Master of Disaster could be referred to as a sort of supply chain super hero and this post is quite timely given that the new Avengers film was recently released. I wonder how the Master of Disaster would stack up against Iron Man, Captain America or the Incredible Hulk!  One thing is for sure, in true super hero style they would need some sort of costume, now this is where the Master of Disaster would have to do some work to create a unique identity as a quick check on Google did not reveal many suitable costumes, however I have given them a helping hand by developing an appropriate, supply chain themed, logo :)

So why is the Master of Disaster so important, what roles do they undertake during a period of disruption?, how do they communicate both internally and across the extended enterprise? and what IT tools do they use to manage disruption? There are certainly a lot of questions that need answering here, but given their importance and relevance in managing today’s supply chains I thought I would try and introduce some of their key roles and activities.

Recent supply chain disruptions have certainly brought an element of nervousness to many companies.  Companies and indeed regulatory bodies are looking ever more closely at an organisation’s ability to not only recover from a disaster, but reduce the chances of supply chain disruption happening again in the future.  Ten years ago companies were focused on disaster recovery, how long would it take a business to recover from a disaster.  Today however things have moved on and companies are more interested in how they keep their businesses running during a period of disruption.  This particular process is referred to as Business Community Management.  Essentially this process provides an ability to recover from any given event and this area is certainly becoming important from a competitive differentiation point of view.  After all, if you can either continue production or offer some form of service during a period of disruption then your company will be seen as offering excellent customer service and ultimately customer satisfaction levels will increase significantly.

Business Continuity Management (BCM), as defined by the Business Continuity Institute, can be considered as a management process that identifies potential impacts that threaten an organisation and provides a framework for building resilience and the capability for an effective response which safeguards the interests of its key stakeholders, reputation, brand and value creating activities. The British Standards Institute (BSI) provides a really useful website for understanding more about this particular subject area, click here. In fact BSI has released a ten point guide to the key things you should know about BCM, you can download their guide here

The Business Continuity Manager, aka Master of Disaster, helps to ensure that people, services or back up procedures are mobilised to fix any issues that may arise and make sure this is communicated succinctly to the affected areas of the business. Business Continuity Managers can also help to identify potential bottle necks, or points of weakness/single points of failure across a supply chain. Business Continuity Managers will also help to prioritise where efforts or the focus should be in recovering from a specific disruption. Without a suitable Business Continuity Management process in place, decision making will have to be taken on the fly and this will inevitably lead to errors being introduced to your supply chain processes.

As I mentioned in my earlier blog entry, many companies, especially those with truly global supply chains have established control towers so that they can monitor their supply chains very closely. I also discussed how these control towers were now doubling up as crisis management centres during a period of disruption. IT and B2B technologies play an important role in assisting a Business Continuity Manager with trying to minimise the effects of disruption across the supply chain.

The area of information management and collaboration across a supply chain or trading partner community is certainly one of the more important areas that a Business Community Manager will be asked to focus on. I would certainly expect to see the Business Continuity Manager as a key user of a solution such as GXS RollStream which I briefly introduced in my earlier blog entry.  The ability to:

  • identify alternative suppliers very quickly
  • send out a mass communication to potentially thousands of suppliers at the click of a button
  • undertake an assessment of the state of your supply chain following a natural disaster
  • establish some form of supply chain risk database where you can analyse assessment response trends etc, especially relating to how supply chains were brought back online following a period of disruption

This is an area that I will take a deeper look into via a future blog entry, but in the meantime if you are interested in seeing a recording of a supply chain risk related webinar that I conducted last week then please click here.

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