Who Matters Most

By Matthew Hicks  |  Posted 2001-10-08 Print this article Print

?"> Who Matters Most?

No company can plan for every situation or have backup plans to provide all employees with alternative work space, experts say. What each company must do is ensure there is recovery space for employees in those functions critical to the operation of the organization. That means enterprises, as part of their disaster recovery plans, must identify in advance which employees need access to alternative space first.

At Visa International, in Foster City, Calif., every division of the company is required to identify high-priority employees, as well as determine recovery and backup needs, annually. Those surveys ensure that the technology and work facilities necessary for the company to operate are prepared and ready in the event of disaster.

"Im sure there are opportunities to do business continuity better, smaller, faster, cheaper," said Ken Lieberman, executive vice president of international risk management at Visa. "I wouldnt presume to say that we have a desk, chair and pencil ready for every single person. But if an employee provides a critical function necessary to support customer service here at Visa, we will spare no cost to make sure they can do their job."

The priorities will vary widely, depending on a companys type of business. Companies such as Visa and Carlson must initially focus on customer-facing operations such as customer service call centers. One aspect of Carlsons business, for instance, is providing call center customer service to other corporations loyalty programs, such as frequent flyer programs, Wachter said.

Identifying core functions is just the first step. Companies must also figure out which groups of employees should get up and running first. Nestlé USA, for instance, plans for a stepped approach to moving key employees to alternative work sites in a disaster. Mayhall likens the approach to triage, calling it an "emergency room hospital theory."

If the food manufacturers headquarters in Glendale, Calif., became unavailable, the company has plans for its 100 most critical employees to be up and running with workstations within 24 hours at a Comdisco recovery center, Mayhall said. Then, within another three days, Nestlé USA can take over the 1,500-square-foot ballroom at a Southern California hotel to house another 300 employees. Using services from Rentsys, it can install about 100 workstations every 12 hours, once the ballroom space is ready, Mayhall said. But those plans wont cover all the companys 1,600 headquarters employees, so Mayhall has worked with Nestlé USAs lines of business to determine the functions needed to keep the business churning.

"You have to trade off strategy for tactical efficiency," Mayhall said. "What you really want to do is recover your tactical operations, those that are essential to day-to-day running of the business as opposed to those that are focused and devoted to the growth aspects of the business and the general management aspects of the business."

But its not enough to have plans and priorities. Periodic testing is also prudent, experts say.

Matthew Hicks As an online reporter for eWEEK.com, Matt Hicks covers the fast-changing developments in Internet technologies. His coverage includes the growing field of Web conferencing software and services. With eight years as a business and technology journalist, Matt has gained insight into the market strategies of IT vendors as well as the needs of enterprise IT managers. He joined Ziff Davis in 1999 as a staff writer for the former Strategies section of eWEEK, where he wrote in-depth features about corporate strategies for e-business and enterprise software. In 2002, he moved to the News department at the magazine as a senior writer specializing in coverage of database software and enterprise networking. Later that year Matt started a yearlong fellowship in Washington, DC, after being awarded an American Political Science Association Congressional Fellowship for Journalist. As a fellow, he spent nine months working on policy issues, including technology policy, in for a Member of the U.S. House of Representatives. He rejoined Ziff Davis in August 2003 as a reporter dedicated to online coverage for eWEEK.com. Along with Web conferencing, he follows search engines, Web browsers, speech technology and the Internet domain-naming system.

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