Business Continuity, Olympic style

People are beginning to talk about “keeping business running in London during the Olympics” or words to that effect. I’ll try and track some of the most helpful commentary.

The Olympic planners themselves highlight the key issues. Of course the effect will be at its greatest close to the venues, but these are quite widely scattered across London and beyond. Nor is the impact limited to those areas:

  • travel: there will be perhaps millions of additional people in, and travelling to and around, London. Event start times may mean additional travellers in the rush hours. Transport networks will be re-organised to service the games, meaning disruption to normal travel patterns
  • logistics: deliveries into or from, or transport through, London will see challenges
  • communications: there will be significant additional load on communications networks which might lead to overload and failures in other areas
  • accommodation: will be scarce and probably more expensive than usual
  • staff: people may be on leave (escaping, or, because they want to attend events or are volunteering), or, on shorter timescales, giving attention to reports of high profile events as they happen
  • and don’t forget that however good the preparation there is always the possibility of a high profile security incident which would cause disruption very widely

Suggestions, and commentary, are beginning to emerge. What’s striking me is that we’ve been here before: not in relation to the Olympics, clearly, but with other situations where travel and normal business patterns might be disrupted. Ash clouds. Bird flu. And so on.

So, what are the recommendations being re-invented? For the people issues, some clear short-term ones such as don’t arrange meetings during the Olympics which involve lots of people travelling to, and needing accommodation in, the London area. See if working patterns can be changed to stagger travel. And do check out the events at the out-of-London venues too. Expect that, for those who do need to visit, accommodation expenses will increase. Book travel as far ahead as possible.

But (this is an IT blog) once again the discussion focusses on alternatives. Use online technology to support distributed meetings: much more a way of business-as-usual than it was, for example, ten years ago at “9/11”. In fact, where I worked, it was 9/11 that kick-started the use of distributed meetings: not just from the security angle, but because the number of people out of place that single week highlighted just how much the company was spending on travel.

Encourage and support staff working from home, to circumvent commuting disruption: we had that one with the bird flu scare, and one of the key questions was whether the company’s inbound connectivity was adequate. Another, not immediately obvious, is whether the public infrastructure (which in residential areas won’t have been upgraded to support the event) is up to the increased load being placed on it. We’re a lot further on than even a couple of years ago in understanding different ways of enabling business activities to use personal technology, but staff likely to work from home may still need to be provided with additional services or facilities too.

Here are a number of references and events.

First, check out the Olympic organisers’ own business continuity information, planners and tools. London 2012 online has an extensive Business Network section highlighting both opportunities for businesses to get involved and the continuity challenges. Track through to Preparing your Business, or download (PDF) Preparing your Business for the Games.

The CMA (part of the BCS these days) is hosting an eventon the afternoon of 16th April focussing on the comms issues: Managing Your Business During the Olympics will include fixed line, mobile network and data centre providers and an ISP.

I’ll seek more, but the major (global) analysts not surprisingly don’t have much. In the meantime I’m off cycling in France along the Avenue Verte Dieppe-Forges (posting in French – sorry!), so I’ll extend this post next week.

Anatomy of a crash (2)

So … New iMac with OSX Lion, installed and working. I’m taking the time to reinstal stuff as needed, and keeping a system audit as I go.

In no particular order, here are a few significant issues.

Problem: new machine has Firewire 800 port not Firewire 400. Need to connect to backup disk to restore stuff. Old firewire cable incorrect; then discovered there’s more than one FW 800 connector and I bought wrong cable online. Go into Brighton Apple Store and get correct cable. Send old one back.

Problem: when opening a document with any software (Word, Excel, Preview, anything …) multiple “old” documents open with it. Problem: Lion has  new “feature” which, when an application is opened, “restores” old windows. Aggravating. Cure: in system settings, turn the feature off.

Problem: Blackboard Collaborate (Elluminate), which is crucial for my Open University work, isn’t fully compatible with Lion. Application sharing causes Elluminate to crash, which my students didn’t appreciate. Temporary fix: present sessions from my laptop, which is still on Snow Leopard. Cure: wait for the vendor to fix this; it’s a known problem.

Problem (this one was anticipated): installing Windows under Boot Camp causes a licence problem. Through my old machine I have a licence for XP and it would be legitimate to transfer this to the new machine. However, Apple tell me XP won’t instal on Bootcamp under Lion so I bought a Windows 7 upgrade pack. As I expected, activation doesn’t recognise either the old XP code or the new Win7 code. This is despite Microsoft’s advice that upgrading from XP needs to be a clean instal. Asked Microsoft for help; so far, they’ve referred me to a US West Coast call centre though, to be fair, it does come on stream at 5a.m. their time (so 4pm here, as they haven’t gone to Summer Time yet). Ongoing.

Something I expected to experience as a problem that isn’t: I decided to bite the bullet, abandon the old Entourage Microsoft mail client and upgrade to the Office 2011 version now called Outlook. I’ve stayed on Entourage 2004, primarily because of a useful feature. If I drag a mailbox to the desktop, it saves an archive copy. When I’m going to an event, I use this to transfer the relevant email threads to my laptop in case of questions. Entourage 2008 didn’t have it. But hey presto, Outlook 2011 has brought it back. And I like the new client. Unexpected benefit.

I did look at Apple’s migration assistant. But it’s not sufficiently granular for the selective migration actions I want to take. So some things like Calendar and Address Book get manually migrated. Address Book is easy; just move the folder, and get used to the new Apple interface which actually, once adjusted, is ok. Calendars get migrated one calendar group at a time; this requires some careful adjustment of preferences (“Put imported events into …”) but I only have a handful of calendar groups so it’s not a big deal. Here, though, not so sure about the new interface. The list of calendar groups is a drop-down, not a permanent panel, and on the new panel I can’t pre-select a calendar group to create a new item. Not so friendly.

More to come, no doubt; but the main things are migrated now. Most software I’m looking for new versions as I go; things like Graphic Converter, Audacity, Audio Hijack, and so on. VisualWorks, my Smalltalk application development platform, will probably be a challenge if there’s a new version out. We’ll see.

Links? well you can probably work them out.