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Recovering IT in a Disaster: Lessons from Hurricane Katrina

2 Feb

Key points in the article

  • Hurricane Katrina destroyed a datacentre and much of the communications infrastructure as well as a second datacentre of Northrop Grumman Corporation.
  • The scale of the disaster far exceeded the assumptions of most firms’ business continuity plans.
  • They did a fly over and took photographs to assess the damage – know scale of disaster so you can adapt recovery plan accordingly.
  • They provided good support to their employees after the disaster which was repaid in increased loyalty and performance.
  • In the days following the disaster rapid decision making became essential and managers were given license to make decisions with far less analysis and oversight than was customary.
  • In uncertain times good information is more important than management position in shaping direction.
  • The best form of crisis management is preparation , but a question that companies need to ask themselves is  – can you plan for a disaster of the magnitude of Katrina?
  • An alternative approach to disaster recovery planning is to consider a broader spectrum of disaster types such as the generic disaster categories of economic, information, physical, human resource, reputation, and natural disasters. While it’s impossible to prepare for every conceivable disaster in each category, it is possible to prepare for one in each, thus establishing a “disaster preparedness portfolio”. Disasters in the same category share common characteristics. Preparing for at least one in each category decreases an organisations overall vulnerability on an infinite disaster spectrum. Plan for generic disaster types e.g. modular plan and adjust usage based on the type of disaster that occurs.

Northrop Grumman had 2 sites 100 miles apart and both were hit. In the end they only lost a few hours of data and were back working within two weeks.

They had a plan and implemented it straight away.

10 lessons to be learned:

  • Keep data and data centres out of harm’s way
  • Don’t assume public infrastructure will be available (They used walkie- talkies)
  • Communication will be essential
  • Plan for civil unrest
  • Assume some people will not be available
  • Leverage your suppliers as critical team members e.g. secondment of staff
  • Expect the unexpected
  • Be prepared
  • Establish a strong leadership position
  • Empower decision makers
  • Exploit fresh start opportunities



The elements of survival guide:

  • Gives scope & capability
  • Outlines key roles and responsibilities
  • Summarises critical services required

But “the best laid plan lasts only until the first arrow leaves the bow”. If an element of a business continuity plan (BCP) is unavailable the plan can be undermined and collapse. To avoid this, organisations should use a modular approach to recovery planning which depends on the type of disaster that occurs and what areas are affected.

Organisations are now looking at loosely coupled modules that make up a plan and depending on the type of disaster they’ll use the required modules they need of the plan.

A company of the size of Northrop should be planning for a wipe-out not only on a regional basis (from a data perspective). Paidi said their plan should have different levels e.g. local, regional & national etc. and the appropriate responses required. They should also plan for the human element of a disaster (their staff).

The transport of data now is cheap and instantaneous so it’s as cheap to have a datacentre a thousand miles away as 100 miles away (could refer to virtualisation and cloud computing here).


Source 1:

Source 2:

How to Create a Business Continuity Plan for a Small Business

29 Jan

Many organisations take out insurance policies to deal with loses incurred by the business during a disruption to its services caused by internal or external forces. If a organisation adopts a business continuity plan it can cost very little or virtually nothing to implement. It outlines how an employee can keep working in the event of a disaster.

Below are a few steps which can be used to implement a Business Continuity Plan

1. Identify key staff and potential backup staff.This identifies the essential employees that are needed to run the business efficiently and who are critical to everyday functions of the business

  • Consider which job functions are critically necessary, every day. Think about who fills those positions when the primary job-holder is on vacation. Identify back up staff that are accessible and can fill the positions of the critical staff in the event that one of them are out sick, on holidays etc.
  • Gather information from the critical staff so that they can be contactable ona 24 hour basis in the event of an emergency

2. Discover if staff can work from home. Explore which staff have the infrastructure such as computers, broadband to work from home.

3. Identify critical external contacts. Identify key customers and vendors and complete a contact list which includes essential about the external contact and also contact information

  • The contact list should include IT consultant, landlord of premises, solicitor etc.

4. Identify essential equipment. Make sure there is a back-up system in place such as RAID in the event of a disaster or emergency. Also back up generators and hardware should be ready to use in the event there is a computer failure or power failure

  • Some organisations need essential hardware to function such as storage devices.
  • Specialised software can be critical if it is only installed on one machine. Installation a few machines will counteract this problem.

5. Identify Essential Documents. Documents regarding employee information, premises lease, tax papers, legal issues etc. should be duplicated and stored off site in the event of a fire or natural disaster. The business should be able to set up again.

6. Identify contingency options in the event of failure. Discover what outsourcing options are available in the event that an essential function of the organisation becomes inoperable. For example if newspaper company produces its own paper, where would it source a paper company

7. Identify your temporary location. This is the place you will conduct business while your primary offices are unavailable.

8. Create a list of responsibilities for implementation of BCP. This should identify which employee does what and how. Such as person who should phone the fire brigade, this person could be appointed as the Fire Safety Officer

9. Combine the information. A document should be prepared outlining all the remedies in the event of a BCP been implemented and should be easily accessible in a identified location. Duplicate copies should be distributed to employees and also digitally and in an off-site location.

10. Hold staff meetings. Every employee should be made aware of the BCP and should be reminded of it on a regular basis.

11. Practice the BCP. Just like in school you would practice a fire drill. A organisation should be no different. Test the BCP and put it into action sop that if the day arrives that it needs to be implemented then at least you have practice runs completed.

12. Amend the plan if changes are needed. An organisation is always evolving. New hardware, technology, expanding. Keep the plan up to date and modify. Then hold staff meetings to inform staff of the changes. Then practice the BCP again.


This plan will help a small business minimise the disruption caused by a disaster to the company. By implementing this plan an organisation should still be able to operate with minimal disruption. What do people think of this plan? Are there any flaws identifiable with this BCP?


Business Continuity Planning: A brief outline

14 Jan

Business continuity planning is an essential future plan for a business in order to provide a service without any factors affecting its performance. A business can never foresee future events such as a crime, natural disaster, IT failure, power failure, fire etc. However if a business has a plan in place to deal with such events, then the essential functions of a business are fail safe and a business can provide an uninterrupted service. Business continuity planning can be defined as “”identifies an organization’s exposure to internal and external threats and synthesizes hard and soft assets to provide effective prevention and recovery for the organization, while maintaining competitive advantage and value system integrity” [1]. A business continuity plan should use the following 3 steps when developing a plan:

“1. Identify major risks of business interruption.

2. Develop a plan to mitigate or reduce the impact of the identified risk.

3. Train employees and test the plan to ensure that it is effective” [2]


Figure 1: Business Continuity Plan [3]

As illustrated in figure 1, it outlines different threats associated with an organisation and identifies risk planning associated with business continuity planning. I wish I had a recovery plan in place, my laptop crashed and died earlier and I lost all my work so I now know how frustrating it can be on a personal level if work is lost. I can’t imagine how disruptive it can be for a business to lose its work.

When developing a business continuity plan the following items should be included in the plan and illustrated in figure 2:

  • “The command structure for crisis management, along with full contact details and capability profiles
  • Roles and responsibilities during disaster recovery, along with full contact details and capability profiles
  • Details of services and equipment available to be utilized during recovery
  • Details of all the steps in the recovery process, both to get an initial basic operation up and running, and for full restoration of business
  • Plans for training the staff who would be involved in the process
  • Plans for testing the systems that are involved in the recovery
  • Plans for maintaining and updating the recovery system, including maintaining all machinery and computers in a fully operational state” [3].


Figure 2: Recovery Plan [3]

In conclusion, the completion of Business Continuity Plans will ensure that an organisation can continue to provide essential services during times of disruption.

This is a brief outline in business continuity planning. I will develop upon these steps in future blogs but I just wanted to give a brief synopsis of what is involved and the reasons for a business continuity plan.

[1] Wikipedia

[2] Virginia Cerullo and Michael J. Cerullo (2004) Business Continuity  Planning:  A Comprehensive  Approach


Business Continuity Introduction

11 Jan

Definitions of Business Continuity:

“An holistic management process that identifies potential impacts that threaten an organisation, and provides a framework for building resilience and the capability for an effective response which safeguards the interests of its key stakeholders, reputation, brand and value-creating activities.”[1]

“Business continuity management (BCM) is a holistic management process that identifies potential threats to an organization and the impacts to business operations those threats, if realized, might cause, and which provides a framework for building organizational resilience with the capability for an effective response that safeguards the interests of its key stakeholders, reputation, brand and value-creating activities.”[2]

“The ability of an organization to provide service and support for its customers and to maintain its viability before, during, and after a business continuity event”. [3]

“Business continuity is the activity performed by an organization to ensure that critical business functions will be available to customers, suppliers, regulators, and other entities that must have access to those functions. These activities include many daily chores such as project management, system backups, change control, and help desk. Business continuity is not something implemented at the time of a disaster; Business Continuity refers to those activities performed daily to maintain service, consistency, and recoverability” [4]

My understanding of Business Continuity is the ability provide customers, suppliers etc. access to critical functions by pre planning processes and procedures in an organisation in the event of failover. A company must decide on which of its functions are critical and then provide a function so that the service is not affected during a failover or during disaster recovery. A business needs to be able to continue in the event that one of its functions fails. Business continuity helps organisations prepare a solution in the event of failure of a function. Organisations must provide a plan to eradicate the disruption of a failover or disaster and keep the organisation running. Disaster may occur at any time and an organisation needs to be prepared in the event of such a failure.


I have attached a link to video which gives an insight into business continuity and how it can be adopted in business and gives some interesting stats if a company does not practice business continuity. [6]


Business Continuity should not be confused with Disaster recovery. Business continuity is planning a solution for a disaster or failover to a function while disaster recovery is repairing the function after the disaster or failover [5]. Business continuity is when an organisation is proactive while disaster recovery is reactive.


Here is a link to very good explanation for the difference between business continuity and disaster recovery by a certified business continuity professional and Allstream’s director of corporate emergency management, Vito Mangialardi. [6]

Do fellow bloggers find this blog informative and does it help them to get an insight into the whole concept of Business Continuity? I found the the youtube clips very interesting and it helped me understand buisness continuity so well worth a look.


[1] Source 1: The Business Continuity Institute

[2] Source 2: The draft British Standard for Business Continuity Management (BS 25999)

[3] Source 3: The Disaster Recovery Institute International

[4] Source 4: Wikipedia

[5] Source 5:

[6] Source 6: Youtube


Social Business utilising the cloud – Product Review

15 Nov

Social business has been defined in-depth on numerous blogs. Social business allows networks of people to engage and create value for the customer. Social business allows people to engage and interact so they can share information, ideas and expertise. It allows transparency in which people can work in a secure environment. It is also nimble and allows which allows fast instant interaction which encourages business ideas and helps with business decision-making.

I have discovered that IBM have utilised the cloud to support social business$file/SmarterCloudExperience%20-%20Smart%20Cloud%20Application%20Services.pdf.

IBM have developed a product known as Smart Cloud which acts as a business collaborator for businesses which will allow secure email interaction, encourage social business capabilities and allow for third-party applications. This will reduce IT costs and provide flexibility using IBM expertise in a secure cloud.

Customer Relationships

This product will help a business understand and communicate better with customers. It will help create brand awareness and create customer relationships which were previously non-existent.

Operational Advantages

This platform can encourage employees, customers and vendors to share ideas and resources which will benefit the business in creating new products and fine tuning existing products based on feedback.

Optimise Workforce

Smart cloud can provide the tools for streams of a business share expertise and distribute work effectively and securely. Employees from different parts of the world can work together at any time in any place. This is highly beneficial for a company with different offices from around the world working on the same project.

Using smart cloud encourages employees to share ideas with customers and suppliers in one place. They can interact, arrange meetings and manage projects all in the one workplace location. This is extremely cost-effective. For example a project manager in India does not need to travel to Ireland to meet clients, employees etc. and instead can interact with them through the cloud in a secure environment. IBM will provide its expert IT skills overlooking the smooth running of the product.

This is just one of the many businesses taking advantage of the cloud but with the concept social business in mind. Would people find this product worthwhile and do you think it can be beneficial to a business?

Click to access SmarterCloudExperience%20-%20Smart%20Cloud%20Application%20Services.pdf

The future of social business

14 Nov

I found an interesting article on the future of social business (  and i have extracted what i believe is relevant to the future of social business.

A challenge faced by virtually all organisations in these turbulent times is how to build a business that is more adaptive and agile, more creative and innovative, and more efficient and resilient. Increasingly, it is becoming clear that the traditional hierarchical enterprise, built on a structure of departments and a culture of compartmentalisation, will give way to a social enterprise built on continually evolving communities and a culture of sharing and innovation.

Social Business is inevitable. However, the differentiating factors – those which will separate the leaders from the masses – will stem from how effectively an organisation embraces both a Social Business culture as well as the technology to deepen customer relationships, drive operational efficiencies and optimise the workforce.

Even the most successful organisations will come across problems along their paths. For example, in today’s open world, disgruntled employees, partners and customers have a tremendous voice – something that must be considered as a business plots its Social Business strategy. In addition, issues relating to protection of intellectual property in the socially networked world, as well as an enterprise’s potential legal risks associated with social media, must be considered. Finally, HR policies likely need to evolve to take into account the massive increase in public information about employees, candidates and alumni.

Despite the many issues to consider and the changes in organisational culture that must occur, enterprises must adapt and embrace the opportunities associated with being a Social Business. By harnessing the creative and productive potential of employees, customers and partners across the enterprise and expertise across a value network, companies can position themselves to enjoy deeper customer relationships, increased operational efficiency and an optimized workforce. Organisations that encourage a Social Business culture and technology framework have the potential to transform themselves and take leadership roles in their industries.


What does it mean to be a Social Business?

13 Nov

I have found interesting article in the attached link which i have extracted and given my own assumptions based on what i have read.  (

A Social Business embraces networks of people to create business value.

Social business should have the three characteristics below:

1. Engaged – A Social Business connects people to expertise. It enable individuals – whether customers, partners or employees – to form networks to generate new sources of innovation, foster creativity, and establish greater reach and exposure to new business opportunities. It establishes a foundational level of trust across these business networks and, thus, a willingness to openly share information. It empowers these networks with the collaborative, gaming and analytical tools needed for members to engage each other and creatively solve business challenges.

2. Transparent – A Social business strives to remove unnecessary boundaries between experts inside the company and experts in the marketplace. It embraces the tools and leadership models that support capturing knowledge and insight from many sources, allowing it to quickly sense changes in customer mood, employee sentiment or process efficiencies. It utilizes analytics and social connections inside and outside the company to solve business problems and capture new business opportunities.

3. Nimble – A Social Business leverages these social networks to speed up business, gaining realtime insight to make quicker and better decisions. It gets information to customers and partners in new ways — faster. Supported by ubiquitous access on mobile devices and new ways of connecting and working together in the Cloud and on open platforms, a Social Business turns time and location from constraints into advantages. Business is free to occur when and where it delivers the greatest value, allowing the organization to adapt quickly to the changing marketplace.


I believe the most effective approach to enabling a Social Business centers around helping people discover expertise, develop social networks and capitalize on relationships. A Social Business enables its employees – and customers – to more easily find the information and expertise they seek. It helps groups of people bind together into communities of shared interest and coordinate their efforts to deliver better business results faster. It encourages, supports and takes advantage of innovation and idea creation and builds on the intelligence of the crowd.

An effective Social Business embodies a culture characterized by sharing, transparency, innovation and improved decision making. Such a culture enables deeper relationships with customers and business partners. By allowing people (both inside and outside an organization) to document and share their knowledge and ideas and others to recognize, refine and promote the value of those ideas and content, a Social Business can reap great benefits. Among them: 1) the ability to leverage more expertise and a greater diversity of skills and experience, 2) better realtime use of current knowledge (contrasted with formalized, but less current knowledge) and 3) improved situational awareness and use of social intelligence in decision making.

A Social Business shifts the focus from documents, project plans and other temporary artifacts to the source of the energy, creativity and decision making that moves the business forward: people. A people-centric approach relies on:

Networks – Globally integrated networks of employees, partners and customers are the backbone of a Social Business. Rich online profiles of trusted experts enable collaboration and agility and allow for exploration of expertise, publications and networks of colleagues to quickly initiate action or fulfill a business need.

Social and realtime collaboration – Connecting remote teams of people to improve and decision making and discover relevant expertise or related work empowers people and enables problem solving.

Mobility – A social business benefits from enabling individuals to use the device best suited to their needs and keeping them connected whenever and where ever they are. The speed and relevancy of information exchange are increasingly essential.

Integration – Bringing social collaboration capabilities into the applications people use to do their jobs, without overwhelming them, allows for information sharing within the context of business processes.

A key element to the success of a Social Business is trust. First, an organization needs a certain level of trust to empower its employees to share their ideas and expertise – and it must demonstrate this trust by rewarding the behavior. By the same token, it must trust its customers to maintain an open dialogue with them. At the same time, this trust must be balanced with an appropriate level of governance or discipline that sets the parameters of appropriate actions. This is a very delicate balance and one with which some companies struggle.


The risks and challenges of Social Networking on the Business

11 Nov

Social business has been defined in previous blogs. I am going to look at some of the risks and challenges associated with social media in business. Online criminals are quick to exploit any popular activity to make money. Social networking is especially attractive because it exploits trust between friends and it is inherently viral by nature. I found an interesting article below from ( which outlines some of theses risks

Risks include:

“• MalwareSocial networking is easy, with a variety of apps that enable you to interact with customers. So users are very open to seeing new things on social networking that they need to click on and install in order to participate in some kind of activity. For malware writers, it’s a goldmine. Malware distributors are constantly looking for new ways to distribute malware, with their new weapon of choice being malicious apps, which are similar to old-style email worms so that they infect your friends

Targeted attacksRarer but more sinister and on the increase. Using social engineering and custom-written malware, criminals or corporate spies trick people into installing virtually undetectable spyware on their computers. Social networks make it much easier to discover corporate hierarchies, groups of friends and a target’s personal and professional interests. All this makes it much easier to craft an irresistible message containing the Trojan and puts companies at serious risk of data theft.

Blended attacksSocial networking teaches users to click on links in emails, making malicious spoof emails even more attractive.

Revealing secretsThere are plenty of opportunities for indiscretion on social networking sites. One example reveals how thoughtless people can be online, even when their own lives are at stake. In 2010, the Israeli Defence Forces called off a raid after a solder posted the time and destination in advance on Facebook.

Reputation riskEmployees, even senior managers, may feel more relaxed about public pronouncements on social networking sites or on their blogs than they would in a press release. Employees don’t always think about what they say or do online. In a Deloitte report on the subject, 53 percent of employees thought that their social networking pages were none of their employers’ business. Certainly, most companies don’t vet people’s blog comments before they are published in the way that they check official pronouncements.

HacktivismHacktivists, disgruntled employees and customers can use social networking to create bad publicity for companies. Account hijacking or the use of company pages or sites with similar names (e.g. the the spoof ‘@BPGlobalPR’ Twitter account that activists set up during the 2010 Gulf oil spill8) can attract a lot of attention and traffic.

Social engineeringBecause people tend to over-share information on social networking sites, criminals and malicious hackers can put together a profile of their victims. They can use this to send targeted spyware attacks. Corporate rivals and other predators can use social networking information to understand the internal workings of your company. For example, you probably wouldn’t publish your organisation chart and the contact details of senior management online but a rival could piece this information together from website profiles.

SpamJust as email spam is costly to filter and time-consuming to deal with manually, social networking spam is increasingly a problem. It can waste people’s time and contribute to other problems, such as malware attacks. For example, even though Twitter has improved its internal spam filtering, in 2010, one tweet in a hundred is spam; that’s something like 650,000 spam messages a day”


Social Business Model

6 Nov

A business model can be defined as the method in which an organisation attracts, services and retains customers. The term business model is becoming more prevalent in scholarly reviews more than ever before due to its influence on business.  A business model has been defined in a number of ways by various authors but the main core suggestion is that they are there to create value for customers (Osterwalder & Pigneur, 2010; Teece, 2009; Rappa, 2010). The business model is ‘an architecture of the product, service and information flows, including a description of the various business actors and their roles; a description of the potential benefits for the various business actor; a description of the sources of revenues’ (Timmers 1998). A business model can be defined as ‘the rationale of how an organisation creates, delivers and captures value’ (Osterwalder & Piguer 2010). ). Business models are the focal point of innovation in creating value (Amit and Zott 2001). Creating an innovative business model is essential to gaining competitive advantage which can be gained from the business model alone (Amit and Zott 2006). There are new business models evolving every day and mainly caused by the rise of the internet. Different business models are applied to different organisations depending what market they are in or which market they wish to enter. Bricks and clicks business models apply to a chain of stores allows the user to order products online, but lets them pick up their order at a local store, while a direct sales business model applies to marketing and selling products to consumers directly, away from a fixed retail location. business models are the latest business models to evolve which are applied to businesses that generally do business through online sales and services.

Organisations that have adopted the social business model to utilize social media tools and social networking behavioral standards across functional areas for communicating and engaging with external audiences, including customers, prospective customers, prospective employees, suppliers, and partners. When an organisation implements a social business model it uses social media for marketing, customer support, recruiting, sales etc. The internet has caused a a massive surge in organisations adopting social media into their business models and creating social media business models. (


Osterwalder, A. & Pigneur, Y., 2010. Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers, and Challengers, Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

Teece, D., Pisano, G., Shuen, A., 1997. “Dynamic Capabilities and Strategic Management”. Strategic Management Journal. 18, 509–533.

Rappa, M., 2000. Business Models on the Web. Available at http://ecommerce.ncsu/models/models_text.html.

Timmers, P. (1998) “Business Models for Electronic Markets”, Electronic Markets 8

Amit, R. And Zott, C. (2006) “Exploring the Fit between Business Strategy and Business Model: Implications for Firm Performance”. Wharton-INSEAD Alliance Centre for Global Research & Development

What impact will Social Business have on the future of organisations?

26 Oct

Social business has many definitions as outlined in blackbird333’s Blog in which he gave a definition as  Social Business can be defined as a modern development transforming the way corporations function and generate value for employees, suppliers, customers, stakeholders and partners, ( The internet has changed the way organisations do business. It has opened up many opportunities for existing organisations and new business ventures but has also led to increased competition mainly through cost as many competitors attempt to lure customers with cheaper prices for products.


This is where Social Business can be very useful in maintaining customer loyalty through promotions, customer interaction etc. which will have a huge impact on the future of organisations and play a massive part in their existence. An interesting video by Esteban Kolsky, analyst with thinkJar after his presentation at the CRM Evolution 2012 conference in New York City! Speaks about how organisations are adopting which is having an impact on their future outlook

Globalization, Transparency, Social Media, Collaborative software – all part of a social revolution that forces companies to engage in Social Business Innovation and Open Business Leadership. The internet has already changed the future of organisations, with many having to change how they deliver products such as a newspaper company. The internet will also have an impact on how organisations do business which is where Social business fits in. Customers in this day and age contantly use or purchase services or products on the internet. They use multiple paltforms to give feedback and interact with a business ( And as a result they’ve come to expect a response from businesses at all times and from everywhere. This required business to provide instant feedback with regards to products, services and information in order to create customer loyalty which is where adoption of social business can be extremely helpful. The main impact social business will have on an organisations future is how to avail of the tools available through social media and how to create customer relationships that will have a positive effect on the business going forward. This how i have perceived how social business will impact on the future of organisations which in a nutshell is “Customer Interaction” and creating customer loyalty. I’m sure other people can add to this and provide a different spin on my own blog. Any comments are welcome

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