White Paper Abstract

Mission Critical Facilities and Operations: Executive Overview of Threshold Considerations

By: Staff

New regulatory and legal standards for corporate governance have dramatically elevated the level of chief executive and board member involvement in mission critical operations, which were previously the sole concern of technical and facility managers. Both the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and recent legal interpretations have redefined directors’ fiduciary duty as “active monitoring” of corporate operations rather than reliance on management to control risks. Because of the extreme financial, operational and security risks presented by mission critical functions and facilities, chief executives and directors must have independent understanding of the threshold concepts applied in these operations. This is the first in a series of white papers to examine these threshold considerations for the benefit of C-suite executives and fiduciaries.

Progression to Hypercritical Thinking

The world of mission critical operations and facilities is dynamic, without a defined doctrine and reliant on information exchange between stakeholders. Engineering facility reliability is less a disciplined science than a practiced art continually advanced by deep and refined experience. Standards are neither universally defined nor absolutely practiced; protocols are based on the nuanced balance of cost constraints and performance objectives. With more acute risk awareness, facilities recognized as hypercritical are assigned greater resources. However, distinctions in standards and techniques are diminishing over time; global best practices applied to Hypercritical Facilities™ are becoming the norm for all.

Unique Challenges

Overseeing mission critical facilities introduces unique challenges to be monitored:

  1. Uptime, reliability and security objectives must be balanced with prudent risk analysis. Cost-effectiveness must be realized within balanced budgetary constraints.

  2. Marketplace impacts of failure can be high and compounded by visibility, liability, negative publicity and additional downstream vulnerabilities. Critical facilities must therefore move to a “front-of-house” consideration.

  3. Adequate testing, training, equipment maintenance, upgrades and expansions can only occur within the high stress environment of 24/7/365 operations.

  4. There are industry-specific, SEC and other regulatory compliance factors to consider.

  5. Installations and modifications must proceed quickly to optimize productivity and minimize unscheduled disruptions.

  6. Prudence demands a broader view of continuity and disaster recovery planning.

The life cycle phases of a critical or Hypercritical Facility™ are site selection/planning, designing, constructing, commissioning, validating, operating, maintaining and ongoing reassessment. Decisions at each phase are influenced by threshold views of security, reliability, flexibility, uptime and human factors. Executives and directors can better interpret decisions about mission critical facilities by grasping the threshold concepts examined in-depth in this and future white papers in this series.

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