continue to function or be brought back online quickly. The more
critical the piece of technology, the more it should be duplicated. A
copier going offline for an hour isn’t as critical to a data center as it
is to a printing company, so the critical pieces of technology vary
from organization to organization. Justifying duplication costs is
as simple as considering the consequences of not having those
systems available when the failure occurs – your organization’s
bottom line is at risk if a system breaks down, as well as the trust
you’ve secured with clients and other organizations.
In regard to how this applies to your personnel, ensure that
key skills sets are duplicated among different members or can
be quickly augmented by outside parties. Loss of unique institutional knowledge can lead to disaster. Similarly, if there’s only
one person in your organization who knows how to enact a crisis
plan, what happens if the crisis plan needs to be executed on a day
when that person is out of the office?
As mentioned before, it’s not a question of “if” but of “when”
failures will occur. Running a risk analysis for your organization
can show you where the most potent potential failures reside and
further highlights the fact that these failures will manifest. While
this certainty of SPOFs happening doesn’t mean that organizations
need to try to prevent all SPOFs, they need to be aware of where
these potential SPOFs exist and be prepared to act when they strike.
Investing time and resources into preventing every possible failure
isn’t the wisest investment, as the more you try to reduce the probability of a particular event from occurring, the more that event
will end up costing. Understanding your most critical potential
failures and creating crisis plans for when the failures occur helps
insure your organization against the surprise element of SPOFs.
How do you start identifying your organization’s potential
SPOFs? Start by identifying your business process, or what you
need to service your clients or the public each day. Figure out how
you do business on a micro level – how essential is e-mail to your
daily process? Can you access information on your phone if the
connection in your office is lost? Are calls re-routed to another
service center if your central phone lines are down? Along your
business process path, are there points that you’re fairly confident
in, or are there pieces you’re not as sure about, points that need
to be “fattened up?” When you find those less-confident areas,
assess whether or not this is a vital piece to your business process
or if it’s something that isn’t as essential. Prioritizing your business aspects is critical to identifying potential SPOFs.
Next, go beyond simple awareness of your organization’s
SPOFs and start building a proactive team. Create a strong squad
for your organization so that when failures hit, it isn’t as tragic.
The best way to start building this team is to define core competencies, or what makes individuals successful in your organization, then assign specific responsibilities that enable those skills.
Each organization should have a list of core competencies that
each employee is assessed against during review processes, and
each core competency list should include monitoring for SPOFs.
Examples of core competencies include resourcefulness, integrity, having a proactive approach to business, leadership, and so
on. Once these critical competencies are established, hire individuals that demonstrate those competencies. Also, make sure that
each individual’s role is clearly defined and that these individuals
can make their own decisions within those realms.
Beyond establishing core competencies, ensure that trust is
built among your organization’s members. Trust can be built
through “trust falls” and ropes courses, certainly, but how about
building trust by improving communication within an organization and reinforcing organizational goals? Having each team
member understand what needs to be accomplished to be successful is a process that isn’t accomplished in one day of trust
discussions – it’s a practice that you need to commit to every
day. Make sure that everyone is on the same page with how their
role helps the organization succeed by communicating often and
communicating well. If everyone is focused on the end goal, suspicions around colleagues’ motivations are drastically reduced.
By helping your team understand each member’s different communication styles and personality types through various frameworks, trust can be built over time. Building trust among the team
is essential, as this trust is what will ultimately make or break the
organization during temporary failures.
Finally, don’t let an SPOF destroy your organization. The
reaction your organization has when an SPOF strikes will define
its success in the years to come. It’s time to start planning ahead
for SPOFs, instead of letting them pop up without notice. A proactive approach to SPOFs is the best line of attack and will ensure
that you’re ready to face the next SPOF when it makes its debut.
David Brown is president and founder of St. Louis-based Datotel, LLC,
a provider of cloud-computing environments and colocation. For more
information, call 314-241-9101, visit datotel.com, or follow the company on
Twitter and Facebook.