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Business Management

Keith Tilley (Europe) - Business Disruption is Now a Way of Life in the UK

To put it simply, disruption is now a way of life for UK organizations, their workers and their supply chains. The corporate calendar over the past couple of years has been littered with all manner of obstacles to business operations, from the Thai floods and Japanese tsunami through to unforeseen snow and public sector strikes. As a result, according to recent research, 59% of organizations are factoring in more disruptions to operational plans – but is this enough to change the tide of operational challenges and maintain continual levels of Information Availability?

On the one hand, there’s the potential to be better equipped for disruption than ever before. The codification of business continuity in standards (including the new International Standard for Business Continuity ISO 22301) and the statutory nature of Emergency Planning have helped push the resilience agenda, while companies now have easier access to multiple data and power backup sites than ever before. Furthermore, new technology is in place to help ensure continuous operations. Workers no longer have to solely rely on the office as the base of operations. Tablets and smartphones are enabling the worker to maintain productivity even when delayed on trains or stranded outside of their buildings, while business-critical workers can now operate via secure remote access to an organization’s existing IT and telephony, in the event of a prolonged business disruption.

On the other hand, the failing confidence in the UK economy has meant that UK organizations risk losing previous levels of resilience, with businesses across the board keen to cut costs as well as consolidate assets and supply chains. In an effort to reduce everyday expenses, organizations could be setting themselves up for the biggest cost of all: loss of reputation, investor/partner confidence and productivity due to the failure to ensure continuous operations.

What’s more, staff considerations can all too easily drop off the radar amongst the preparation for major organizational disruptions. The solutions in place are only as good as the extent to which employees completely understand their roles in the recovery plan. Clear channels of communication between employer and employee are vital in ensuring a swift return to business as usual. Staff moral and expectations must also be prioritized. The Olympics typifies this point; ahead of the Games, almost a third (31%) of UK employees are expecting holiday packages, new technology devices and flexible working hours to be introduced to counteract potential challenges they’ll face to their working life. Companies cannot afford to let such preferences be sidelined – in times of disruption, resources will be stretched as they are, without counting the potential cost of employee discontent or even absenteeism. Indeed, over one in five adults (21%) are willing to take unauthorized time off to watch high profile events this summer, making an HR headache a good deal worse for managers and businesses.

Rather than introduce a lock-down and rigidly enforce hard-line business continuity policies, look to achieve the balance between maintaining levels of productivity and recognizing the specific wants and needs of staff. Organizations understandably want business as usual 24/7, but taking a step back and tailoring procedures to meet the demands of each situation is infinitely more valuable.

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

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