Lamar Poppell of Jack Henry and Associates has seen a thing or two in his 20 years as a business continuity practitioner. He’s held different jobs at various companies in several states. As the years go by and his scenery changes, Lamar has also watched the business continuity landscape change. Once his primary threat was a Florida hurricane. Today he keeps an eye out for cyber breaches and terrorist attacks. Through it all, Lamar relies on DRJ to provide the latest insights in business continuity and disaster recovery.
Lamar has attended a dozen DRJ conferences, and he plans to attend more—including Spring World 2017. “I’ve been to other business continuity conferences, but I keep coming back to DRJ because to me they’re the industry leaders,” he says. “Others don’t have the scope that DRJ has.” While Lamar works for the banking sector, he appreciates that DRJ brings together BC/DR professionals from across industries – like insurance, manufacturing, telecommunications, and government.
“DRJ offers great conferences, good sessions, and really dynamic speakers,” he elaborates. “Many of the speakers are practitioners with hands-on experience in the field, some internationally. You learn about pandemics from health professionals and disaster response from earthquake teams.” He recalls learning how to respond to an active shooter situation from a retail professional who experienced one personally.
ROI OF ATTENDING
To get a return on the money he spends on registration and travel, Lamar goes into a DRJ conference prepared. “I think about the hot button issues today at work, and then I look for sessions that address them,” he says. “If I can learn better reporting, a more efficient response, or how to prevent the event from occurring, I save my company money.”
Lamar suggests that another way to gain value from a DRJ conference is to attend with a group of peers. Team members can attend different sessions and compare notes later. But, he cautions, don’t spend the entire conference with your colleagues. One of the great advantages of DRJ is the chance to gain outside perspectives and new ideas.
“You benefit by connecting with people who have lived through a disaster and responded to it. You learn what they did well and what the could have done better.”
At each DRJ conference, Lamar also catches up with old friends and past speakers. He asks about the sessions they plan to attend and the pressing issues in their businesses. His connections often influence his conference experience and his work back at the office.
Lamar highly recommends DRJ sessions on business analysis or on how to conduct an exercise. These are especially helpful for new practitioners or companies that are just starting BC/DR programs. He encourages attendees to be bold and ask questions: “The speakers are passionate about what they do, and they’re happy to provide additional information after sessions or in the hallways.”
Of the many sessions at DRJ, Lamar’s favorite is “Birds of a Feather.” This interactive discussion gathers participants at round tables based on their industries. Each table has a facilitator to encourage conversation and idea sharing. At the end, facilitators give a brief overview of their table’s discussions and open the floor for dialogue. Lamar first encountered Birds of a Feather years ago as an attendee. Today he is one of the facilitators. “You get more from the conference when you speak or facilitate,” he recommends. “You learn a lot from the audience that you can take back and put into practice.”
Lamar sees today as an exciting time for BC/DR professionals. In the past, conference attendees were often tech professionals concerned with system recovery after an event. Today’s focus is more on prevention and proactive measures, and the audience represents diverse industries, positions, and age groups.
Lamar fell into the profession by accident. He was “volunteered” to take on a BC/DR role and ended up enjoying the work. Today he sees young people intentionally seeking out the profession because it offers so many opportunities. “BC/DR is really a project management role,” Lamar explains. “You get a high-level view of your company, and you learn how all the departments work together. For a young person, it’s a great entry into a company. They can see all levels and all areas and eventually move up to a new role based on their strengths.” He adds that a DRJ conference is especially beneficial for these young professionals to gain education and connections to succeed in the field.
RESOURCES FOR CHANGING TIMES
“For me business continuity is about more than just recovering from disruptions,” concludes Lamar. “It’s about taking care of employees and their families so the employees can once again take care of their companies. It’s about figuring out how to prevent events from occurring and responding quickly and efficiently when they do.” He shares that some of today’s threats – pandemics, terrorists, active shooters, cyber attacks – were unheard of 20 years ago. It is essential to have the most current tools and information to face whatever tomorrow might bring. For Lamar, that means Spring World 2017 won’t be his last DRJ conference.