By Sam Harris
Businesses are increasingly at risk for critical incidents that disrupt normal business operations. However, few professionals possess all the skills necessary for business continuity: a process to assess, plan for, prevent, and respond to events that negatively affect a business.
Professionals need an interdisciplinary skill set that encompasses business administration, risk management, and computer science skills to address enterprise-wide business continuity–COE units can help. Programs in business continuity can capitalize on growing employer demand, limited competition, and low costs for program creation.
Many COE units already offer the programmatic building blocks for business continuity programs, and can incorporate existing coursework into an interdisciplinary business continuity program.
Critical incidents increasingly impact business operations
Organizations nationwide face an expanding number of critical incidents, both natural and man-made, that could jeopardize the health, safety, and well-being of employees, consumers, or the community. According to a 2014 Forbes article, more than 40% of businesses never reopen after a disaster. Of those that do, only 29% are fully operational after two years. Further, a New England Journal of Medicine report shows that not only did the annual rate of natural disasters increase more than 100% since 1980, but economic damage also increased commensurately.
Moreover, businesses are also experiencing a recent increase in cybersecurity incidents—79% of 500 U.S. executives, security experts, and other private and public sector representatives detected a security incident in the past 12 months.
Employers increasingly demand business continuity professionals
As expected, given the increase in critical incidents around the country, employers increasingly look for business continuity professionals to ensure organizational stability. This is especially true in the private sector (e.g., finance, consulting, technology).
Growth in Employer Demand for Business Continuity Professionals
National Demand, January 2014-June 2016
Organizations now see business continuity as a central process to the business enterprise
In the past, organizations were primarily concerned with business continuity as it relates to the preparation, response, and recovery from critical information technology (IT) incidents. However, organizations now see business continuity more holistically, as a set of strategic processes to return an organization to full normal operations as soon as possible after any incident.
The New Face of Business Continuity
Our analysis of labor market data indicates employers most frequently seek business continuity professionals with computer science, business administration, and risk management skills. In-demand skills include:
- Disaster recovery planning (40% of job postings)
- Information security
- Information systems
- Project management
- Risk management
- Change management
In-Demand Skills for Business Continuity Professionals
How Boston University structures their program
Program directors can leverage existing courses to create business continuity programs, rather than create many new courses or programs. Boston University administrators require students to complete 12 courses for the Master of Science in Business Continuity, Security, and Risk Management program. The program includes:
- A core of management courses (e.g. financial concepts, project management, ecommerce)
- Four business continuity, security, and risk management specialization courses offered through the Administrative Science and Computer Science departments (e.g., enterprise risk management, disaster management, IT security policies and procedures)
- Two elective courses within either Criminal Justice (e.g., terrorism, cybercrime) or Computer Science (e.g., agile software development, web analytics and mining) departments
Mapping Department Courses to In-Demand Skills
Offer graduate-level business continuity certificate for working professionals
Few institutions offer business continuity programs, so COE units face limited competition. Employers primarily seek business continuity professionals who possess a bachelor’s degree—67% of employers ask for a bachelor’s degree at minimum. A smaller number, 16%, seek business continuity professionals with a graduate or professional degree.
A graduate-level certificate can also quickly confer in-demand skills to satisfy employer demand. Administrators should market the certificate to professionals who possess some, but not all, skills necessary for business continuity occupations (e.g., risk management skills for computer science professionals).
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