Continuity Is A Serious Business

The London 2012 Olympic Games are nearly upon us. However, there are still questions to be answered as to how both the UK’s infrastructure and businesses will cope with likely disturbances to daily routines. With a world-wide focus on the games, and the increased mobility employees continue expect, any weaknesses in an organisation’s long-term business continuity strategy will be exposed.

The impact of disruption created by the Olympics will highlight the importance of businesses enacting flexible working programmes, underpinned by joined-up communications platforms. UK businesses that operate globally must establish collaborative working strategies to provide for these uncertainties, cutting out all operational inefficiencies wherever possible.

There should not be a reliance on one major event to bring this requirement to light. The benefits of flexibility, mobility and productivity far outweigh the costs for both workers and employees.

So, this summer marks a moment of truth for UK businesses. They must ensure that their services and business operations are not disrupted by external factors, such as the games, throughout 2012 and beyond. Implementing tactical measures or short-term strategies will not sufficiently ensure long-term business continuity.

As organisations look to differentiate themselves from their competitors, a long-term business continuity strategy provides a platform to implement best practices in order to achieve consistent productivity.

Despite all the warnings, many of Britain’s businesses are still unprepared for likely upheavals from London 2012. Research of 1,000 UK organisations found that many organisations (43 per cent) have not issued a flexible working policy for the duration of the games. This is despite advanced warnings of potential disruption. In fact, the government has already urged UK businesses to allow employees to work remotely.

With businesses needing to mobilise their workplace to remain competitive, organisations need to facilitate more decentralised workstyles and fully support them, with more flexible business tools and communications channels. Otherwise both businesses and customers face potential downtime in service delivery from transport infrastructure running at capacity, traffic restrictions and an influx of people in the UK.

Of course, flexible working is not a new business practice. The company’s survey found that more than half of UK office-based employees already spend 60 per cent of their time away from the office. However, even with the majority of work now completed outside the traditional environment, only 39 per cent of employees believe that they are only ‘sometimes’ fully prepared to work remotely.

The potential for business disruption is undeniably heightened over the Olympic period. The restrictions around the Olympic Route Network (ORN), a 109-mile network of roads connecting key venues, accommodation and transport hubs across London, include the provisioning of single lanes and new traffic signs. Hence, rush hour times will be extended and road closures will become common in order to host the marathon, road cycling and triathlon events.

However, it is important to remember that the Olympics are not solely London-centric. Venues outside of London, in some cases with reduced infrastructure, will host large-scale events. Eton Dorney in Windsor will host the rowing competitions and Weymouth in Dorset is the setting for sailing events.

Business customers will expect an uninterrupted service with additional support for any potential disruption. With increased congestion and ORN restrictions, the primary challenges that the workforce will face are the movement and flexibility of staff (predominantly engineers) to customers, and the availability of replacement technical equipment.

In light of these challenges, as the workforce becomes ever devolved, businesses will not benefit from a short-term fix. Business continuity is specifically about ensuring that a firm is immanently resilient and recoverable in the face of severe disruption, of any kind.

To address these challenges, long-term business continuity strategies include measures to account for uncontrollable disruption. Customers in high risk areas have been identified and assurances made to ensure delays and disruptions do not hinder business operations.

With an influx in road users plans have been put in place to ensure that support vehicles are refueled regularly, with routine services conducted pre-Olympics, especially in Greater London. Replacement technical components have also been distributed around the country in anticipation of customer requirements and to avoid delay in any necessary service visits.

The business continuity plan also includes preventative maintenance checks on ‘disruption hot-spots’. This will flag issues that need to be addressed in a particular time period. This business tool also has a ‘traffic light’ dashboard that shows system status. An alert can be automatically issued to the relevant senior manager to flag any potential threat or disruption to business operations.

With this in mind, businesses could take the opportunity to turn the likely disruption surrounding the Olympics and forthcoming UK events into an opportunity to encourage greater mobility, driving overall productivity and satisfaction at work.

With all these challenges, and with a business continuity strategy in place, organisations need a system that brings together the multiple and varied communication channels into one place. This allows the workforce to achieve triple productivity – at home, on the road and in the office.

A secure technological foundation to achieve this end is enabled by Unified Communications (UC), a reliable, secure and strategic approach to long-term business continuity. Through a seamless collaboration experience, UK organisations can ensure steadfast productivity and a reduction in operating costs. Employees likely to suffer from Olympic related disruption can remain productive, retaining access to a secure enterprise network, from home or the location that best suits them.

Disruption is inevitable during the Olympics. A key differentiator for businesses will be the manner in which they cope with incidents beyond their control – such as third party delays and any down time in UK infrastructure. Business continuity is an essential platform for ensuring sustained productivity and a unified approach can only be ensured through reliable, flexible and constant communication and collaboration.

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Paul Edge has over 30 years experience in a number of senior management roles within Siemens Enterprise Communication. He is currently the Information Security Manager, responsible for companywide ISO 27001 certification including Data Protection, Business Compliance and Business Continuity.