If You Never Anticipated An Event Like Hurricane Sandy, What Do You Do Now?

On Monday, Hurricane Sandy slammed into the East Coast of the United States, flooding entire towns in New York and New Jersey, triggering large-scale power outages and killing at least 17 people. The health and safety of individuals is the first and foremost priority, followed by the recovery of critical infrastructure services (power, water, hospital services, transportation etc.). As these services begin to recover, many business and IT leaders are wondering how they will resume normal operations to ensure the long-term financial viability of the company and the livelihoods of their employees and how they will serve their loyal customers.

Most likely, if you have offices that lie in the path of Hurricane Sandy, you are experiencing some sort of business disruption, large or small. The largest enterprises, especially those in financial services, spend an enormous amount of money on business, workforce and IT resiliency strategies. Many of them shifted both business and IT workloads to other corporate locations in advance of the storm, proactively closed offices and directed employees to work from home or a designated alternate site.

If you are small and medium enterprise and, like many of your peers, you didn’t have an alternate workforce site, robust work-from-home employee capabilities, an automated notification system or a recovery data center, what do you do now? While it’s too late to implement many measures to improve resiliency, there are several things you can do now to help your organization return to normal operations ASAP. Here are Forrester’s top recommendations for senior business technology leaders:

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Hurricane Sandy Shows A Dramatic Improvement From Botched Katrina Response

My house sits atop a hill overlooking the Atlantic Ocean (hence, the neighborhood name of “Beachmont”) and was built sometime in 1890. It’s one of the tallest houses in the neighborhood and as I write this post, my house is swaying back and forth from 50 mile an hour winds (I’ve been told it’s meant to sway which is somewhat comforting but not entirely) and from my porch, I can see waves crashing over the sea wall and slamming into my neighbor’s homes below me. Needless to say, I have a vested interest in the emergency response to Hurricane Sandy.

There will be time for more detailed analysis later but here are just some initial observations and thoughts:

  • FEMA has come a long way since the incompetent response to Hurricane Katrina.
  • The response at the federal, state and local level has been much more proactive than I’ve ever seen it in the past. Many New England and Northeast states began communicating to cities and towns about the seriousness of the storm almost a week in advance, many declared emergencies as early as Saturday, and many insisted on mandatory evacuations for the riskiest areas.
    • The overall approach is better safe than sorry, even if worst fears about the storm don’t materialize.
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Launching The 6th Annual Forrester & Disaster Recovery Journal Survey

 

Each year, Forrester Research and the Disaster Recovery Journal team up to launch a study examining the state of business and technology resiliency. Each year, we focus on a particular resiliency domain: business continuity, IT disaster recovery or crisis management and enterprise risk management. The studies provide BC and other risk managers an understanding of how they compare to the overall industry and to their peers. While each organization is unique due to its size, industry, long-term business objectives, and tolerance for risk, it's helpful to see where the industry is trending, and I’ve found that peer comparisons are always helpful when you need to convince skeptical executives that change is necessary. For better or for worse, it is a fundamental part of human nature to want to go with the herd. For those who are interested, there is a great Freaknomics podcast on the subject called “Riding the Herd Mentality: A New Freakonomics Radio Podcast.”

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