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May 21, 2020

Enterprise Architecture Fortifies Business Continuity Planning

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the strengths and weaknesses of higher education business continuity planning. Almost all institutions have been impacted in some way by the pandemic, and most are likely mired in implementing and revising their business continuity plans. While some schools are discovering that they were better prepared for this than others, many may be starting to realize that their existing business continuity plan doesn’t meet their needs post COVID-19. 

Fortunately, schools can use this as an opportunity to improve their approaches to business continuity. Hiring or contracting with an enterprise architect to participate in business continuity planning across the organization is an excellent first step that will pay dividends long after this pandemic has passed.

Bringing processes together

A business continuity plan should begin with a singular goal: providing the best possible user experience for all mandatory services pertinent to each user’s role. Even when narrowing the scope to include only mandatory services, this effort must necessarily span a significant number of business processes and different offices. Often, these tasks are looked at in a vacuum, with each office considering only its piece of the puzzle, which results in a disjointed, siloed approach that misses the big picture goal.

An enterprise architect can model these processes across the enterprise rather than within the silo of a single office. As the business continuity plan is created or revised, the business continuity planning team members will have an accurate picture of the totality of business processes versus individual siloed office tasks.

man pointing at Enterprise Architecture among several topics

Furthermore, an enterprise architect can assist the team by linking together the entirety of the business process with technology needs, especially when they span across the 20 or more software systems that most institutions have. This guarantees that the business continuity plan encompasses both business process and technology components, ensuring that when there is a disaster, the entire business process continues functioning as necessary.

Bringing technologies together

Indeed, the technology being used by higher education institutions has become increasingly diverse. As institutions have grown beyond using a single, monolithic ERP system, they need to consider all software systems and their integrations, along with all the other technology components that make up an enterprise. This can include sometimes overlooked parts of the enterprise, such as the phone system, VPN access, physical networks, virtual networks, and other pieces of data center hardware.

An enterprise architect can assist by helping identify all the hardware, software, and networking systems that make up an enterprise. They can document and diagram these systems so that the business continuity planning team has all the appropriate information available to make the correct decisions and sustain operations in the case of a disaster. Without an enterprise architect and the essential information that they bring to the table, it’s very possible for a business continuity plan to miss critical systems.

Bringing plans together

COVID-19 has taught everyone some harsh lessons about disaster preparedness. Put simply, many organizations are not as prepared as they thought they were to navigate a storm of this magnitude.

On the bright side, we now know that it’s imperative that schools shore up their business continuity plans and processes. An enterprise architect can consider all aspects of the enterprise, while looking beyond context of just software systems—providing a unique perspective on this planning process. With an enterprise architect on the team, an institution can ensure that the team is looking across hardware, software, and networking systems, and considering business processes in totality rather than in the context of each individual office.

The COVID-19 pandemic is not the first crisis to hit higher learning, nor will it be the last—but we can do something now to prepare for the future.

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