The Important Connection Between Telework and Disaster Recovery/Business Continuity

Carl Weinschenk
Slide Show

Six Tips on Introducing a Telework Program

Important tips to ensure your telecommuting program is a success.

One of the advantages of telework is that, by definition, it scatters the work force and spreads communications assets. This capability enables the organization to get back online more quickly than if all the workers were in the office that went down. In other words, the decentralization of telework is one of the most important elements of disaster recovery/business continuity.

The federal government has long been a champion of telecommuting and telework, most recently through The Telework Enhancement Act of 2010. Last month, however, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report that found that the synergies are not being found. A report was carried by Continuity Central:

GAO's review of the OPM, GSA, FEMA, and FPS government wide guidance on telework or telework-related emergency planning found that none of the documents provide a definition of what constitutes incorporating telework into continuity and emergency planning or a cohesive set of practices that agencies could use to achieve this type of incorporation.

(The acronyms stand for various government agencies and offices within: OPM is the U.S. Office of Personnel Management; the GSA is the U.S. General Services Administration; FEMA is the Federal Emergency Management Agency; and FPS is the Federal Protective Service.)

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Five Deadly Sins of Disaster Recovery Planning

Common blunders that result in data recovery disasters.

The report goes on to further highlight the opportunities that are being missed. Recommendations include defining "what constitutes incorporating telework in emergency and continuity plans" and creation of a set of practices to push the connection. The study says that metrics should be developed to measure progress and interagency coordination.

The bottom line is that government is acting in an uncoordinated manner and squandering assets to which it has access. Few people probably will be surprised by that. The good news is that it always is possible to do things more efficiently, and it seems that the road to more tightly linking telework and business continuity is possible if the right people get the message. Indeed, it sounds like a great area for partnership between the government and private industry.

The report was reviewed at Huffington Post by telework expert Josh Sawislak. He says that a pertinent federal document exists:

If you want some clear, consistent, and broadly applicable guidance, I would refer you to a document issued in August 2007 by President Bush. This plan was reviewed and reconfirmed as national policy by the Obama Administration soon after they took over in 2009. It's called the National Continuity Policy Implementation Plan (NCPIP), and it's pretty clear on the issue of getting people out of the office on a regular basis. It doesn't mention "telework" by name, but read the excerpt below and send me a note if you are still confused on the meaning.

Sawislak provides a link to the NCPIP and writes, rather disapprovingly, that the GAO report doesn't mention it. So, ironically, the report seems to be a victim of the same sort of inefficiency it says is endemic in the way other departments treat telework and business continuity.

This is an important link. AT&T Government Solutions, Oracle and Avaya recognize the need. In May, the three introduced a telework solution aimed at federal workers. Note the first use case in this description:

This suite of telework technologies can be customized to address the unique and evolving federal workplace needs and requirements for the three major telework user categories: on-demand users for disaster recovery and continuity of operations; full-time or frequent-use teleworkers; and part-time or occasional-use teleworkers.

The link between disaster recovery/business continuity and telework is vital and can, indeed, be one of the focal points around which both intiatives are structured.

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