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We talk to Kevin Stevens about his career in the world of Business Continuity & Resilience
Kevin Stevens is a 30 year veteran of the Business Continuity & Resilience industry and reflects on what led him there with Lawson Chase, and what kept him there. As you will read here, he is a keen advocate of his profession, and likes engaging with his fellows and encouraging new entrants' progress.
Although I appear to have become one of the 'elder statesmen' in BC and DR (please can someone define these as I still have much learning to do!), I rather fell into this field by accident.
In the dark 70's when I left school with 'A' levels I had no clue as to whether I should chase girls, pursue a legal career or opt for the soft option of life in Government. You guessed it, there was an economic downturn and the girlfriend quit, so it was the Civil Service.
Seven years of penpushing later, and the opportunity came to join the newly formed computer services in HM Land Registry, part of the Lord Chancellor's Department.
What's this to do with BC? Well, as I say, I fell into it by accident. I was recruited as a trainee systems programmer. Then became a performance and capacity planner, and my boss (an ex car salesman) sold me on the idea of 'disaster recovery and contingency planning'. It sounded rather grand and I was still young, so I volunteered.
So I learned how to build systems, make them go faster, and fix them when they broke. I only now have had time to catch my breath and look back.
If a career is a headlong drive along uncertain paths, this was it, as there was always a potential disaster, crisis to manage, or clearup to do. Nothing changes!
If I remember correctly I moved from IT disaster recovery projects in the Land Registry to much the same in a commercial environment in the automotive industry with a parts concern in Cowley at Oxford. 1100 HQ staff, 19 football pitches of warehouse space, supporting VOR - vehicles off the road.
When IT was outsourced to France, and then again sold to another French company, I still stayed at my desk, but was rapidly promoted to become Business Continuity Manager Europe, with responsibility from Scandinavia to Spain.
I left to go a-contracting in '05, fulfilling a range of BC and ITDR contracts until becoming a hermit this year. These included roles with card companies and in insurance in the finance sector, IT outsourcing, government again in claims management, statistics and justice, as well as the NHS, and a brief period planning for emergencies in the utilities. Altogether quite varied, but it was surprising how much of the framework processes were portable.
I've found the diversity of risk analyses on floods, terrorism and sunspots quite engaging; strategy development and implementation across old and new sites; introducing process redesign can be very stimulating in greenfield situations, but my real enjoyment and most hard work has been co-ordinating test programmes - 2 years work, 80 customer organisations, 80 hours a week and no weekends off!
However, I still managed to 'kill off' a number of senior managers in my plots, to see how organisations run without them. So not all bad.
It was gratifying that the planning ahead of the Buncefield explosion worked.
But, without doubt my 2 years working with the NHS provided the greatest pleasure.
I worked in 6 Trusts in the Southeast and Midlands in the run-up to the Flu Pandemic, including time at the superb Birmingham Children's Hospital. It really gives you a fizz going to work knowing you can make a difference to your customers when they are only two foot nothing.
Would you have any advice for someone who is thinking about joining the BCM profession?
General education is essential, as you can apply across markets. Qualifications can be a real door-opener on your CV. Experience from both sides of the track (commercial and government, business and IT) also helps in making you saleable. Not to mention a couple of awards, a reasonable day rate, flexibility on location, and a selection of agents with your number on speed-dial!
Using your managers, colleagues and staff as your mentors is also key.
In acting terms I'd be 'resting'. In politics I would be looking to spend more time with family. In practice I can't imagine life without work. I'm looking to mentor or knowledge transfer, if that's how I can put it, before I pop my clogs. Leave something behind for those who come after.
How did you find the private sector and public sector differ in their approach to business continuity?
In short, three aspects. Terminology, availability of budgets, and distrust of anyone who came from the 'dark' side (outside the organisation).
What sort of challenges do you think the industry faces at the moment?
The profession appears to be a little at sea with the debate between the ideal of holistic business continuity that has served us for years, and a 'new' concept of resilience. I would like to see where that goes.
Three spring immediately to mind:
1.Data mining and analytics to get a better grasp on risks and the reaction performance
2.Strategic planners to define a response, before it is needed
3.Implementers, be they constructors, cablers, IT staff, military or community responders.
We all need to look at community resilence, BC and DR as a joint responsibility and I hope to continue 'doing my bit'.