Analysis: Get set for a summer of disruption

By Stuart Sumner
24 Jan 2012 View Comments
Get set for 2012

IT departments must start planning now to ensure their operations run smoothly during the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations and London 2012

2012 is set to be the year of disruption for UK businesses. Firms based in and around London, for example, could find that staff face problems commuting at the start of June due to the influx of tourists for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations. And more disruption is likely in July, August and September when the Olympic and Paralympic Games are held in London and several other venues across the UK.

Further reading

But, according to a recent survey from BT called Race to the Line, UK businesses are woefully unprepared for this disruption.

The survey of 1,200 UK business leaders found that 85 per cent of private sector respondents expected to see some sort of disruption caused by London 2012, compared with 65 per cent of respondents from the public sector. However, only 40 per cent of respondents reported that they expected staff to struggle to get into work during the Games, despite well-publicised fears that London’s transport networks, for example, will be unable to cope with the additional nine million people expected to flood into the city this summer.

Flexible working

One way that IT can help to minimise this disruption is by ensuring that more staff can work remotely via a virtual private network (VPN). Most businesses in the survey said that they would encourage more flexible working during the Olympics, but 30 per cent said they had no plans at all to deal with the impact of reduced staff numbers, should the predicted transport problems occur.

Colin Hansen, the Canadian government minister responsible for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, warned that firms should expect disruption.

“It’s important that companies plan properly for the Olympics. You absolutely cannot expect business as usual. Firms should enable staff to work from home, as transport networks will be overloaded. Having good communications networks is vital for this."

Preparation

Judging by BT’s findings, most UK enterprises have left their preparations perilously late. According to BT, many firms in Vancouver spent 19 months getting ready for the 2010 Winter Olympics, and even this was not long enough.

“In Vancouver, every business we spoke to said they wished that they had prepared for longer,” said Emer Timmons, president of BT Global Services UK.

“In particular they wished that they had prepared better for reduced staffing levels when people couldn’t make it into work, but also for the disruption caused to their supply chains as their ecosystem experienced similar problems.”

Enterprises that do business with small and medium-sized companies (SMEs) need to be aware that the lack of preparation is worse among those companies. Steve Wheeler, BT local business director, London BT Business, explained that a third of UK SMEs are far less prepared than their enterprise counterparts.

“Some 34 per cent of SMEs believe that three months is an acceptable preparation time. It’s not. If everyone is trying to procure the same services and equipment at the same time, then there will be supply problems. Get preparing now to both capitalise on the opportunities, and cope with disruptions,” he added.

Cyber threats

High-profile events such as the Olympics invariably bring a heightened threat from hackers and other online criminals. According to the survey, only 34 per cent of respondents had performed a risk assessment around the possibility of cyber attacks during the Games.

London First, a body that promotes the capital as a business destination, is running a series of briefings covering business continuity, staffing and servicing issues.

“London and its businesses are particularly vulnerable before, during and after the Games,” said London First’s Catherine Shrimpton.

“We are developing a cross-sector cascade mechanism for public- and private-sector organisations to share information with one another and the police on cyber threats.”

She concluded that this sort of co-operation is vital to mitigate risks and maximise opportunities: “It’s in everyone’s interests to make these events work in these gloomy economic times.”

 

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