During the last 12 to 18 months, there have been a number of notable natural catastrophes and weather related events. Devastating earthquakes hit Haiti, Chile, China, New Zealand, and Japan. Monsoon floods killed thousands in Pakistan, and a series of floods forced the evacuation of thousands from Queensland. And of course, there was the completely unusual, when for example, ash from the erupting Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland forced the shutdown of much of Western Europe’s airspace. These high profile events, together with greater awareness and increased regulation, have renewed interest in improving business continuity and disaster recovery preparedness. Last quarter, I published a report on this trend: Business Continuity And Disaster Recovery Are Top IT Priorities For 2010 And 2011.

Recent customer inquiries have reinforced my belief in that BC/DR is back on the agenda for both business and IT executives. I’ve even seen a renewed interest in BC management (BCM) software. And before I get a flood of blog comments, tweets, and emails from technology vendors, I'm not talking about replication and backup (and these technologies, while important to IT availability and continuity, are only a tiny subset of business continuity). I'm talking about solutions that support the BCM life cycle (business impact analysis, risk assessment, plan development, plan testing, and incident management). I have always been an advocate for BCM software, particularly for complex or distributed organizations that have to document complex business process and resource interdependencies and develop hundreds of plans, but it's clear that this market has never completely taken off. However, I’m currently completing a market overview of this space and I’m heartened by the growth reported by the vendors (my report will include 17 vendors). I’m going to follow up this report with a market overview of BC consulting providers in Q2. I believe that 2011 will be a busy year for both BC consultants and BCM software vendors as companies and governments aim to improve the maturity and effectiveness of their BC programs.

Yesterday, I read on npr.org that the U.S. Department of Education fined Virginia Tech $55K for its slow response to the 2004 massacre. Obviously, the $55K fine is nothing to an institution the size of Virginia Tech, but it’s the message and the example it sets that’s important. According to the NPR article, the Department of Education found that “Virginia Tech failed to issue a timely warning to the Blacksburg campus after Cho shot and killed two students in a dormitory early that morning. The university sent out an email to the campus more than two hours later, about the time Cho was chaining shut the doors to a classroom building where he killed 30 more students and faculty and himself.” Obviously, there was a failure in their basic emergency response planning, but I also can’t help thinking that in addition to better planning and taking the threat more seriously, automated communication could have delivered messages to students more quickly by reaching them on any mode of communication available. So in addition to my other upcoming reports, I plan to update my market overview of automated communication service providers.

What do you think? Is BC preparedness back on the agenda at your organization? Are you considering consulting services to help you or investing in BCM software or automated communication?