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Business Management

Keith Tilley (Europe) - The Olympics: Is the UK Prepared for the Ripple Effect?

At times, it can seem like everyone in the UK is focused on this summer’s Games. With over 800,000 spectators and 55,000 athletes and officials expected on some of the busiest days, it will be a spectacular few weeks. While London 2012 is expected to contribute an additional £21 billion to the UK economy it’s worth noting that businesses across the UK need to be able to cope with potential business disruptions both before AND after the Games have taken place.

To investigate organizational and employee concerns around the Olympics we interviewed 250 UK directors in midsize organizations and over 1,200 UK employees to better understand their plans for the inevitable working life disruptions they’ll face in 2012.

The research revealed insight into potential disruptions businesses are likely to face, but interestingly, and arguably of greatest concern is the overwhelming disconnect between business and employee preparations; 88% of employees feel left in the dark when it comes to Olympic working policies, despite four out of five businesses claiming to have made adequate disruption plans for working during the Games. The divide becomes even more apparent when considering that over half (55%) of organizations claim to have communicated these plans already.

Organizations can tackle this disconnect by clearly implementing, testing and communicating plans. It takes time and dedicated resource, but the benefits are clear and will keep businesses prepared for future incidents. The wider picture shows that this isn’t just about businesses being ready for two weeks in the summer, it’s about organizations and employees clearly understanding how they can become  productive during as well as in the aftermath of any disruption. While the nature and timing of disruptions are near impossible to predict – it’s vital to implement measures that improve ongoing resilience.

The full extent of the potential disruption during the Olympics remains unknown, but what is clear is that the ripple effect could cause disruptions outside of the known London hot-spots, in particular due to supply chain vulnerability. Modern business practices such as the ‘just-in-time’ model have caused 40% of UK businesses to feel less resilient to major organizational disruptions due to the pressure to retain a lean and ultra-efficient operational model. In addition, 43% are expecting supply chains to break down during the Olympics – a worrying statistic!

Often it’s only when an incident occurs – such as the collapse of part of the supply chain that businesses realize how vulnerable they have become. While many companies predicate their planning on the swift resolution of an incident, the reality is that even short-lived events can result in pro-longed disruption and impact for a significant period of time. While it is tempting for business continuity plans to be predominantly internally focused on what problems can occur within the organization, it is all too common that the threat and disruption could come from an external source. There needs to be a shift in how organizations assess disruption risks to factor in all potential eventualities.

2012 is set to be a challenging, but equally rewarding, year for organizations. This summer’s Games are here for all us all to enjoy and present the perfect opportunity to get the house in order for all planned and unplanned disruptions. The impact of poor planning isn’t restricted to just one company’s operations, but their customers, profits and reputation too. Action taken now will not just benefit them for two months in 2012, but as a differentiating quality management process that will benefit them for many years to come.

By Keith Tilley, managing director UK and executive vice president Europe for SunGard Availability Services.

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