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The Case for Business Continuity Certification Disaster Recovery & Business Continuity & Contingency Planning & Disaster Prevention Bookstore
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by  Lawrence Kalmis , FBCI

The business continuity function has been steadily growing in importance in both the private and public sector over the last 20 years. The corporate world has recognized the importance of the business continuity process to the very survival of the enterprise. What began as a technical discipline within the data center has grown to become a key component of business risk management. Methodologies have evolved and standardized. Practitioners have become more professional and, with the development of the profession, have reasonably sought appropriate recognition of their qualifications through certification. The existing certification programs have been improved and refined since their inception and will continue to evolve in the future. The certification organizations continue to offer their members more opportunity for learning and advancement. The question we must ask ourselves today is, “should corporate management underwrite professional certification for its business continuity staff?”

     The reasons, from the perspective of both the corporation and the individual practitioner are valid and bear restating. For the individual, certification is a useful business credential. Certification acknowledges an individual’s standing in the profession. It is also a demonstrable recognition of a person’s achievement. Professional certification raises the possibility of enhanced career opportunities
as a business continuity manager in a company or in a consultancy. There is clear evidence to show that professional qualification can lead to enhanced salaries
and fees.

     By ensuring that staff members have demonstrated their professional qualifications through a meaningful certification program, organizations can be assured that their business continuity management processes are being correctly focused and managed. Certified staff will have access to the latest thinking and a network of other professionals, both domestically and, in some cases, worldwide.
     Further, many organizations will need to call upon a consultant to assist with the development and maintenance of the business continuity program. By choosing suitably qualified consultants, an organization can be assured that the individuals understand the process and have been assessed as to their level of competence and understanding of business continuity management. In addition, certified practitioners are required to operate to the Code of Practice and Ethics for Business Continuity Practitioners as defined by the certifying organization.

     More and more employers worldwide, are looking at certification as a condition of employment and certification is now often seen as a qualifying condition for the hiring of consultants. Many employers that do not require certification in advance of hiring are launching concentrated efforts to see that their business continuity staff becomes certified. For example, a major money center bank has just declared its intention to seek certification for its entire business continuity staff.

     The most important benefit flowing from the adoption of a recognized business continuity process – using professional, qualified people – is that the organization can be more certain of its ability to effectively manage major disruptive incidents. This helps maintain the continuity of the organization and instills confidence in all stakeholders.

     While professional certification acknowledges the business continuity practitioner as a professional, the practice and process of certification define the profession itself. It creates a set of quality standards, promotes the use of approved methodologies, and fosters professional development through ongoing mentoring programs, continuing education and on-the-job experience.

     Today, there are primarily two recognized professional institutions certifying the business continuity professional. The recent acquisition of Harris Recovery Services by Iron Mountain and the attendant uncertainty about the fate of the Harris Recovery Institute certification program, leaves its 300 plus members in limbo, at least temporarily. (the author has been informed that negotiations are taking place to continue the program). There are other organizations which certify the professional emergency and risk manager, but for the purpose of this article we will focus only on the business continuity professional. The organizations are the Business Continuity Institute (BCI,, headquartered in the United Kingdom, and the DRI International (DRII,, headquartered in Falls Church, Virginia, USA. Both are member-owned, not-for-profit organizations. Both offer certification at different grade levels. Both agree on a ten specific disciplines known as the “Common Body of Knowledge” as the basis for certification. Both have an international presence: the BCI has approximately 1,100 members in 31 countries, while the DRII has approximately 2,500 in 15 countries.

     While there are many similarities between the two organizations, there are significant differences in their certification philosophy and methodology:

  • The BCI bases its certification on the knowledge gained through profession experience. Applicants are required to complete a scored-assessment matrix, listing their applicable experience in each of the ten disciplines. This information is validated by the applicant’s references (two required).
  • DRII also requires written references. The DRII bases it certification on the the applicant’s score on a multiple-choice test. Both require a specified length of time working in the profession to qualify for the various grades.

     Both the BCI Fellow grade and the DRII Master grade are reserved for senior practitioners. The BCI requires that candidates for the Fellow (FBCI) grade demonstrate that they have made a significant contribution to the advancement of the profession above and beyond the normal performance of their job. An FBCI has not only proved their competence on the job but has shared their experience and knowledge with others through extensive writing, teaching, and/or public speaking, or has, in some other way taken an active role in developing the profession. DRII requires that candidates for its Master grade take a narrative case study exam or submit a directed research paper.

     BCI requires no recertification as long as the certified professional continues to work in business continuity. DRII requires a re-certification every two years, based on the accumulation of DRII-approved continuing education credits. The DRII recently declared a re-certification amnesty, granting automatic re-certification for all members needing re-certification by December 2000.

The BCI has five applicable membership grades:

  • Student
  • Affiliate of the Business Continuity Institute
  • ABCI Associate of the Business Continuity Institute
  • MBCI Member of the Business Continuity Institute
  • FBCI Fellow of the Business Continuity Institute

DRII International has three membership grades:

  • ABCP Associate Business Continuity Planner
  • CBCP Certified Business Continuity Planner
  • MBCP Master Business Continuity Planner

The certification requirements for each grade are presented below.. The presentation reflects the author’s opinion of the relative comparative ranking of the various grades.

     Although the certification process will continue to evolve, it is now, more than ever before, considered an important professional credential. The two primary certification bodies, the BCI and DRII, despite their differences, advocate the use of a common body of knowledge for business continuity certification. They promote industry standards, individual competence and professional development. For the enterprise using certified personnel both as staff and consultancy, this ensures that the business continuity process will be executed by competent professionals according to established industry practices.

Comparison of Business Continuity Certification Programs
(Ranked by the author in ascending order of standing)

Students having an interest in the subject area taking a qualifying course or subject.

An individual expressing an interest in business continuity management or who is a Member of an associated Institute where both governing bodies have agreed that joint membership can be offered.

Less than 2 years working in profession or work in a position related to business continuity / disaster recovery planning. Minimum knowledge in business continuity / disaster recovery planning. Score of 75% on multiple- choice test.

Currently in a business continuity related profession. Developing an understanding of ALL certification standards. Having full or part time experience within the scope of the certification standards.

2 Years working in the profession. Score of 75% on multiple-choice test. Significant practical experience in 3 of the 10 disciplines.

3 Years working in the profession. Demonstrated proficiency in all 10 disciplines.

5 Years working in the profession. Score of 85% on the multiple-choice test. Significant practical experience in 5 of the 10 disciplines. Successful completion of case study or research project.

2 Years as a MBCI (minimum 5 years in the profession). Demonstrated thorough proficiency in all 10 disciplines. Pass a structured 1 hour interview conducted by 3 FBCIs. Made a significant contribution to the profession.

Lawrence Kalmis, FBCI, is a Director, Business Continuity and Strategic Planning Solutions for Fortune Communications, Inc., a leading independent consultancy. A Fellow of the Business Continuity Institute and a member of its Board of Directors, he is an internationally accredited, hands-on business continuity professional with proven record of accomplishments, including managing successful recoveries from major business disruptions. He has been a senior executive with responsibilities for the development and operation of several highly successful corporate business continuity organizations.

Copyright (c)2003, Lawrence Kalmis, FBCI. All Rights Reserved.

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