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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Musings During A Hurricane: Why We Still Need Workforce Continuity Plans In A Mobile World

I'm having a frustrating day. It's only partly because there is a hurricane raging outside and I'm cooped up inside with a hyperactive dog. The main source of my frustration is my inability to communicate with the outside world. Yes, I still have power, and the Internet, but unfortunately, with cell networks overloaded, no landline (hello, this is 2012), and VPN failing, I can't seem to talk to anyone. At least comprehensibly. Of course, since I'm a resilient and resourceful employee, I've tried everything from GoogleTalk to Skype to our internal VOIP systems all with no success. Who would have thought in this modern era of the anytime, anywhere worker, that I would be rendered mute?

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What Makes A Resiliency Program Mature?

I've been tackling an interesting challenge recently: how to define a mature business technology resiliency (aka disaster recovery)  program. It's something I've been thinking about for years, but it was only a few months ago that I sat down to develop a concrete framework that enterprises could use to compare themselves to. Yes, I know there are existing frameworks for defining what maturity is for a business technology resiliency program, but in my model, I was trying to accomplish the following:

  • Simplicity. Without going overboard, I wanted to put together a model that could be completed within a few hours, rather than something that would take weeks to complete. The tradeoff, of course, is that this model is much less detailed than others. However, with many conflicting priorities, I know that many IT leaders can't take the time to fill out an assessment the length of the last installment of Harry Potter.
  • Objectivity. One of the benefits I have at Forrester is the ability to address this from a vendor-neutral perspective. I have no ulterior motives with this model and no vendor allegiances that could influence the outcomes.
  • Process-orientation. I strongly believe that a mature business technology resiliency program is built on a bedrock of repeatable, standardized, and streamlined processes. In the model, you will see there is a section on technology maturity, but the emphasis overall is on the process components.
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