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OpenGov speaks to Geoff Williams, Australian Department of Human Services

OpenGov speaks to Geoff Williams

With proper preparedness skills, one may be able to swiftly manage a dire situation with grace.

OpenGov spoke to Mr. Geoff Williams, Director of Business Continuity Practice at the Australian Department of Human Services, on the very topic of business continuity.

The Department of Human Services is the largest commonwealth agency on Australia with about 34,000 public sector employees. Geoff Williams has been a manager and a consumer of business continuity since the late 1990s.

Mr. Williams has been through the advent of Y2K and is a survivor of the great swine flu scare of 2009. He has managed various ICT projects and business as usual services in the private and public sectors. He also manages a Business Continuity validation and exercise program.

Mr. Williams’ focus for the next few years involves working on the rolling 12 month programs, which follows the 6 common practices in the BC lifecycle. His team provides incident response exercises for regional areas and division level exercises for Canberra. They are currently in the middle of the second round of business impact analyses and the supporting Business Continuity plans.

Mr. Williams finds that in dealing with an emergency situation, one must take a principles-based approach.

“You need to put together a decision making framework while remembering the key priorities of your business. These agreed priorities to make sure you do not lose sight of strategic direction. The executives that are in charge of monitoring that response, stay at the appropriate strategic level. This helps you focus on what is really important to the department and helps you manage the media,” Mr Williams told us.

“This helps people get a bigger picture of what they are looking at, what the business is there to do in the first place, may slip their mind,” Mr. Williams said, “In the event of a crisis, someone might be living too much in the moment. This will lead them to forget about how life must move on from such an event.”

Specific abilities required to work in the realm of business continuity, as Mr. Williams describes, “Includes an analytical and inquiring mind, attention to detail, and some genuine life experience. Someone in this field needs to know what is at risk, and what is not. People who can think for themselves and put matters into context will respond appropriately. They must keep calm and prioritize.”

These skills are imperative to have while dealing with a major crisis. Being able to pause and concentrate on the bigger picture, allows the individual to better assess the situation.

Mr. Williams is proud of the team he works with at the Department of Human Services. He believes that they help facilitate a healthy atmosphere. He said, “We have a very effective team in Business Continuity. Our people are very passionate, and it makes for a good environment.”

Mr. Williams hopes his Business Continuity team can improve organisational resilience. Thus, helping people think independently rather than rely on central planning agency in the aftermath of a crisis.

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