Interview with John Zeppos for Business Continuity Management
John is the lead for Business Continuity & Crisis Management content and courses on behalf of iSMTA, he is also Managing Director of Resilience Guard GmbH who are a leading Business Continuity company based in Switzerland. John is highly recognised in his field of work and has been awarded ‘Business Continuity Manager of the Year’ in 2012 and also in 2014, which is part of the BCI Global Business Continuity Awards.
John has supported a number of multinational companies within different business sectors in terms of ISO22301 and BS25999 accreditation. His passion for the subject also means that he takes considerable time to help nurture aspiring BCM & Crisis Management practitioners, being a member of the Judge’s panel for the IRM Global Risk Management Awards since 2012 and also a member of the Judge’s panel for the BCI Global Business Continuity Awards for 2013 and 2015.
John has also been a NATO expert on Operational Capability in Brussels since 2009, further evidencing his experience and skills. Having John as part of the iSMTA team means that students of the IQ Level 5 Business Continuity Management Professional course gain the highest level of content and professional support in their learning.
AK: John, very pleased to engage you in this interview. For our prospective learners to gain further insight into yourself, can you explain your current role further please?
JZ: Adrian, many thanks for this kind invitation and introduction, I am always glad to talk about Business Continuity as you know. I am currently the Managing Director of Resilience Guard GmbH, a boutique Business Continuity, Crisis and Risk Management consultancy based in Zurich, Switzerland, since 2014. We, at Resilience Guard, aim at supporting our clients to build their own capacity in withstanding real life situations, be it Incidents or Crises, by protecting their business and critical products or services.
It’s always challenging and interesting as we are delivering only bespoke solutions to fit our client’s needs, as “one size fits all” is not the right approach – never was in fact. We work closely with a number of international companies not only in Switzerland but across Europe and UAE as well, taking them where they strategically aspire to be, up to the ISO22301 certification.
At the same time, we regularly present in conferences our approach, while we always try to maintain a motivational and educational approach in our speeches and presentation rather that a sales pitch one.
As we are a very socially responsible organisation, we also support UNISDR activities by volunteering and contributing to their important initiatives towards a more Resilient Society and we are committed to trying to make the whole world a safer place for everyone.
AK: How long have you been active in Business Continuity and how did you get into such a role?
JZ: I have been doing Business Continuity Management for more than 15 years now, one way or another, initially doing what now seems to be basic activities, like Y2K planning for the IT systems, or Risk Mitigation planning for the Olympic Games 2004, but gaining a much more engaging role over the years. Since early 2005, I am a full time Business Continuity professional , while since 2008 I live and breathe BCM, including advanced training and accreditation for not only the core part of my business, but most “neighboring” disciplines as well, such as Risk Management, Information Security, Audit, Occupational Health and Safety, Security Management.
If I try to remember how it all started, it seems like I was more or less thrown in and had to learn to swim. Right after the Olympic Games were over, I was given the BCM role, in order to build the whole Business Continuity Management System for a leading Mobile Telecoms operator I was working for back then. It was a bit scary as there were so many things I found out I did not know, but being patient and committed, it all came around nicely so now I am happy to say that “I’ve made a job out of my hobby”.
AK: Explain your role at iSMTA?
JZ: iSMTA was a challenge I had to take when I was initially contacted by the team, so I am now responsible for the Business Continuity Management and Crisis Management Courses, while I am facilitating the preparation and drafting of other modules, such as Incident Management or Crisis Communications and generally speaking whatever fits within the Resilience umbrella.
Within my current role at iSMTA, I do provide feedback and status updates on the modules progress while being prepared and once this is done, I do the remote support of students that are studying one or more of the above mentioned modules and get to mark their work, which is really exciting and interesting as you are in fact remotely mentoring newcomers or even existing professionals in these fields towards gaining a modern business approach and not just theory. At the same time I am also gaining valuable experience of the fields that students come from as one can easily spot a number of different perceptions of the business, it’s critical processes and the environment they are operating in every part of the world.
AK: Do you think the nature of Business Continuity Management has changed over the last 10 years, if so in what way?
JZ: Yes, it definitely has changed and in fact it might seem as a moving target to some, having to follow up with all the new threats to the business and technology challenges that need to be tackled in order for the organisations to remain resilient. The whole Geopolitical environment has played a major role for this transformation as people get to realize that not all threats and risks can be foreseen or mitigated, leading to more practical ways of thinking, that’s why the old school Risk Based Planning is now long gone, while Impact Based Planning is the way forward as one aims at minimizing the impact and consequences as soon as practical. As I use to say, “Scenarios are for Movies, Impact is for Businesses”
AK: Can you explain to our prospective learners what is involved in the IQ Level 5 Business Continuity course?
JZ: The iSMTA IQ Level 5 Business Continuity course, is rather unique as we use a modern business approach, trying to infuse our enthusiasm to the students but at the same time let them understand and realize the need for Security Convergence and Resilience.
The benefits for someone that decides to take this course is that upon successful completion, he/she will have a much better understanding how Business Continuity is perceived within an organisation, how important things such as Top Management buy-in can be facilitated, interface with the other disciplines, such as Crisis Management, Security Management, Information Security etc and what are the major challenges for a business nowadays – not 10 years ago.
I find this approach very pragmatic and practical, as we aspire to facilitate and generate professionals that will be ready to perform a number – if not all – of Business Continuity tasks, the next day they graduate, while they also learn how to devise a plan and present it in a way that their internal as well as external audiences will become more engaged to support business Resilience.
AK: Do you have any tips for our learners once they have completed the BCM course with iSMTA, in terms of continual professional development?
JZ: I assume that people who complete the iSMTA Modern Business Continuity Management course, will have eventually become more interested and intrigued to also look into other neighboring disciplines and get a better understanding of them, so they can perform better in business, speak the language / jargon needed and also realize the need for corporate Resilience, so not just cover one single knowledge territory.
This is fact, is what I’ve done for myself and hugely helped me progress in the business world by getting back to back promotions in a highly competent environment, which gave me a huge career boost.
I also believe that through the training methodology followed by iSMTA, we do hugely promote and encourage online research as this is a core part of the course in order to get the certification. I find online research can offer a wealth of knowledge as today through social media platforms and more traditional blogs, one can find so much more information, detail, viewpoints that will certainly enrich the experience along with the fact that professional networking itself is invaluable.
AK: What is next on the agenda for yourself in developing or promoting Business Continuity Management within the business world?
JZ: There are so many different things I would like to do and only hope I have the chance and time to do so. I would love to work more towards community resilience as well as business resilience, and promote education for the masses as this is key for minimizing disaster impact which affect both people and business.
As for the business part, I guess that critical infrastructure protection against known and fairly unknown threats is vital – we all know that businesses rely on energy, transportation, telecoms, so it would be really interesting to get more involved with that, providing an increased level of resilience to the local communities thus creating more resilient business.