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Building total recall through Business Continuity Micro-simulations

Updated: Jun 8, 2022

Micro simulations work on the basis of short. highly focused tests on one specific aspects of incident response. Their focus tends to be on assuring the understanding and proficiency on organisations incident response that will affect the wider organisation.  They are designed to either confirm knowledge of response actions or capability to operate communications facilities.

Microsimulation exercises are designed to take minutes by leveraging technology.  By keeping these simulations small and punchy, they can be conducted regularly and build familiarity and expertise without major disruption.  Performing several microsimulations throughout a year will build awareness, proficiency and expertise that can often decline between larger, annual simulation exercises.

It is important to note that microsimulations can’t replace the more complex incident management or disaster recovery exercises, but they can help build the capability of individuals across the organisation, providing a more effective learning environment than larger exercises. Micro-simulations can be thought of a means to develop “people capability” across the organsation. This development of people competence compliments the organisations intrinsic resilience and recovery capability within the organisation’s infrastructure (such as IT recovery and workplace recovery strategies) and provides a more comprehensive framework). In this way, micro-simulations make an enormous contribution to creating an effective business continuity exercising and proving framework:

  • Procedural based recovery capabilities such as IT recovery can be tested thoroughly without worrying too much about specific scenarios. 

  • Micro-simulations help to preserve individual’s knowledge of response action and build their familiarity with the organisation’s incident management facilities – reversing the “forgetting curve”. A micro-simulation will concentrate on sustaining both “know what” and “know how” within the organisation 

​To make a micro-simulation program work, one thing that must be considered is authenticity which, in this case, means recreating the environment in which the a “live” incident situation could occur.  For instance, crises rarely take place when everyone is at their desk – it’s safe to assume that when an incident occurs a significant proportion of the organisation will be somewhere other than their desk and will contactable only by telephone.   A micro-simulation, therefore, will always include an element of technology to facilitate, execute the exercise and capture the results.  Two technologies are are important for this:

  • Learning management systems – these can provide a platform for capturing he results of “know-that” based simulations

  • Incident notification systems – these can be used to simulate notification processes and capturing metrics related to responses.

Here’s a few examples of some specific micro-simulations:

  1. Sending a notification- does the person sending the notification know how to send the notification

  2. Receive a notification – does the recipient understand know how to respond?

  3. Test response knowledge – send a message advising of a specific situation, do they know what they should do?

  4. Embed micro-simulations into other regular activities - scheduled evacuation tests, for instance. Use the incident notification system to communicate with people and evacuation marshals. 

  5. Send a notification requesting participation in a conference bridge for your virtual conference room. Does the recipients know how to access and join?

  6. Test situational intelligence gathering: request key individuals to confirm they know what information they should be gathering and escalating during an incident situation. 

Micro-simulations provide an important part of an overall business continuity assurance programme, by helping to facilitating individual proficiency and preparedness across the wider organisation. By leveraging technology, the wider organisation can be engaged in exercises improving both capability and awareness.

Micro-simulations are one aspect of bcp simulation testing. Our website contains further information on simulation testing in bcp


In this article we used the term “forgetting curve”. The concept of the forgetting curve was developed by Ernest Ebbinghaus, a German psychologist, between  1880 – 1885. It is based on the premise that by applying frequent training in learning, information is solidified by repeated recalling.

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