5 questions with… business continuity manager Eun-Joo Ahn

Eun-Joo AhnWhen an emergency occurs, whether manmade or natural, the university’s immediate concern is for the safety of those involved. But what happens after the situation has cleared? Classes, research and day-to-day operations all must resume as quickly as possible.

That’s where Eun-Joo Ahn comes in.

As Case Western Reserve University’s business continuity manager, Ahn works to make sure each university department will be equipped with the proper plan to resume business functions, should they be interrupted.

A year after joining Case Western Reserve in this new position, she has made significant strides in laying the foundation for the business continuity program. Recently, she launched case.edu/business-continuity/ to provide the basic information for all university departments to begin preparing business continuity plans.

“We’re not here to create extra work for people, but to organize their thought process, so in that crisis moment, they can say, ‘OK, we have a plan for this,’” Ahn said.

But being prepared doesn’t mean that department leaders must be overwhelmed by the worst-case scenarios. Instead, Ahn takes a methodical approach, first working with employees to create a business impact analysis.

The business impact analysis is a critical exercise where departments prioritize their main functions in terms of how they support the overall mission of the university and how long it can tolerate not being operational without adversely impacting the institution. Then, the department must determine the resources that are pertinent to continue operations—including employees, vendors, supplies, equipment, systems and applications.

With that information in hand, the department can best assess how to address the loss of any of those resources, should that happen. The business impact analysis forms the foundation for business continuity plans, where departments document procedures and operational guidelines that they will follow to resume operations. The university has recently acquired a new software tool that will aid in this process, called Kuali Ready, which is a popular continuity planning tool used by institutions of higher education. Kuali Ready is a user-friendly software designed to require minimal training before usage.

“[Departments] must take ownership of their plan,” she said, noting that her role is more facilitative in nature. “We’re here to help them think through the process, but the plan ultimately belongs to the departments.”

With these preparations, a department can respond to any situation with a plan.

In Ahn’s prior position as a business continuity manager at South Jersey Industries, a natural gas company with multiple divisions and facilities dispersed over 2,500 square miles in New Jersey, Ahn helped departments prepare for life after a disaster. For example, when Hurricane Sandy hit the east coast in 2012, departments at South Jersey Industries were ready with plans in hand (which, Ahn said, luckily were not needed).

Though she doesn’t face the “highly critical, immediate danger” situations with which a natural gas facility deals, here at Case Western Reserve, Ahn must contend with significantly more buildings and employees—a challenging situation Ahn said she enjoys.

“The opportunity to work at a university where I feel like innovation and forward thinking is a part of our ethos was really exciting,” she said. “Here, I find that there is much more creativity and momentum to tap into. These will help drive the process of exploring the what-ifs of business continuity planning, and define our responses to these situations.”

There’s so much more to Ahn than just her job here at CWRU—get to know her better with this week’s five questions.

1. What technology do you think we should have, but don’t…yet?

The idea of teleportation is fascinating to me. Obviously, there’s “Beam me up, Scotty”; that’s really iconic. But my family is geographically dispersed … so to help cover all of those miles—that would be amazing.

2. What was the most challenging part of your education?

When I went to graduate school [for an MBA at Drexel University], it was when the economy was struggling. … There was a lot of uncertainty about job security and what’s going to happen when we emerge from graduate school. Even more fundamentally, I was curious about how my actual career interests were going to materialize.

3. What popular icon do you most identify with? Why?

I can’t really say that I identify with him in that he and I are similar in any way, but I really admire Marcus Samuelsson. He’s a chef and he’s quite well known, but he came from pretty humble beginnings. He struggled early in life but he is an individual who overcame a lot of adversity and went on to pursue an awesome, dynamic dream.

4. If you could live in any other time period, which would it be?

I would probably say the 1950s. I really like the aesthetics of that time—the furniture, the design, the architecture, and particularly Scandinavian furniture design. If I could live during that time and be part of that movement, I think that would be really cool.

5. What’s your favorite thing about Case Western Reserve?

I really like the open, urban campus nature—the fact that there’s a lot of fluidity between campus itself and the greater University Circle area, and being surrounded by all of these incredible cultural institutions. I feel like CWRU really cares about the community and takes an active role in being a community leader. I also love the fact that it attracts such a global student population. There are people that are coming from all over the world to be here.