Big Blue and Bird Flu?

Steven Minsky | June 6, 2006

IBM announced today their newest Risk Management service offering, Contingency Planning Assessment in their press release, IBM TO HELP COMPANIES DETERMINE PANDEMIC PREPAREDNESS. I had the opportunity to speak with Rich Cocchiara, IBM Distinguished Engineer & CTO for Business Resilience at IBM prior to their announcement. Rich made the point that business continuity and disaster recovery and crisis management is constantly evolving and that new threats need new strategies. Rich outlined a few of the differences to consider in planning for a Bird Flu Pandemic versus a traditional business continuity and disaster recovery issue.

1) People vs. Infrastructure Resources – Bird Flu scenarios can affect up to 40% of employees where traditional business continuity has been all about the physical property infrastructure of buildings, transportation, data and communications.
2) Global vs. Local Geographies – a Pandemic is forecast to affect multiple cities, regions and entire countries simultaneously where traditional business continuity planning has been focused on reactions to single localized events.
3) Long term vs. Temporary Impacts – Avian Flu may have several waves lasting several years and may change the way business is conducted on the long term, where traditional business continuity has been thought of as a few days to a few weeks in duration.

Rich posed the question on corporate preparedness “Does your organization know how operations will be impacted due to a health Pandemic? What business areas will need to be shut down or functions, locations or processes abandoned?” Rich also pointed out that all organizations are impacted, including small and medium sized businesses, not just the largest enterprises and government agencies.

Rich also commented on the importance of risk management software tools to support an Enterprise Risk Management program for identifying and assessing scenarios, evaluating options as well as planning and tracking results. Further, having Corporate Objectives and a Performance Management view in mind can also help address current business operations issues to help make your business better today. For example, enabling business processes for greater effectiveness in telecommuting or shifting operational capabilities for work between offices and regions can help business reduce costs and increase productivity today even if a bird flu pandemic does not materialize.

This announcement by IBM validates the critical need to put an enterprise framework in place with both a methodology and process to constantly reevaluate thinking and planning on how risk can impact your business and what actions need to be taken.

What is keeping you up at night and what are you doing about it?

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