A question like this might draw any number of answers. Board room resistance, hurricanes, cost, silo management, and hard disk crashes are just a few. Senior executives that refuse to spend time or money that they consider necessary for other priorities, howling gales with floods, and smoking servers are all highly imaginable enemies of business continuity. Those thinking a little more laterally might suggest unseen or unseeable enemies, such as apathy. If nobody cares about business continuity, it will never happen. But then again, most people want their business to continue, if only for reasons of job security. Here is another candidate that might well trump all the rest.

This business continuity foe has been present in many enterprise disasters. A recent instance was the data security breach of the Target supermarket chain in the United States. Target had already installed a malware detection tool costing more than US $1 million. The company also had a team of security specialists to monitor its systems. The modus operandi of the cybercriminals was apparently uninventive. They captured shopper credit card data at Target points of purchase and stored the information in a Target server taken over for that purpose. They uploaded malware to help them ship the stolen data out. The malware detection tool spotted them. The security team alerted Target management. And that was the end of the story. Target management failed to react to the warning signs.

Why Target management let stolen data then be exfiltrated does not seem to be clear. But in any case, the lack of reaction led to the theft of 40 million credit card numbers. Lack of reaction also affects organisations and industries in business continuity in general. Impending regulatory changes, chronic production problems, and failed data backup tests sometimes simply do not trigger the action they should. An attitude of ‘it’ll be alright on the night’ is accompanied by figurative finger-crossing. Lack of reaction to clear and present danger is what really hurts business continuity for many.