5.3.4 Plan testing and validation
It is one thing to have a plan; it is another thing to have a plan that you can rely on to work. There is an old military maxim that ‘A plan only gets you into first contact with the enemy. After that, you fly by the seat of your pants’ (Anon). A 1993 IBM report on business continuity planning confirmed this when it revealed that ‘half of the plans failed completely or substantially when they were first tested’ (IBM, 1993, p. 5).
The IBM report identified three categories of plans:
viable plans – tested within the last year, and proved to work;
doubtful plans – tested, but not in the last 12 months;
Of course, the ultimate test of a plan is to attempt to use it to manage a real emergency. It is a thorough test, but that is not the time to find out that your plan has left you flying by the seat of your pants!
According to official guidance:
The most effective way to validate the effectiveness of plans (other than real events) is to test and review them regularly. Exercises are a key mechanism for achieving this: to assess the arrangements properly and then to update the plans as appropriate in the light of the experience.
(Cabinet Office, 2003, p. 68)