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Volume 31, Issue 2

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The millennium rollover, and events during the first few months of 2000 are no longer a mystery; they're history. We know what has happened, and what hasn't. We know how accurate the predictions were, and how they weren't too accurate. Yes, there may be a few surprises still in store as quarterly and special reports are run, but hopefully by the time you read this, Y2K will be history, and we'll be looking ahead. Now before we wipe the slate clean, and try and forget all the long hours and impossible deadlines, let's explore the likely legacy of that monumental effort.

Companies and governments spent billions of dollars and thousands of person-years attempting to protect their organizations from the so-called Millennium Bug. Was it worth it? More to the point, was there an option? In hindsight, critics will abound and the murky vision looking forward will now be a crystal clear assessment of history. But let's set this tongue-wagging aside and see if we can find a few "pearls" in the graveyard of Year 2000 plans and strategies.

What, for example, might never have happened, or at least not so promptly, without the impetus provided by the insidious nature of the Y2K threat and a fixed deadline? We believe many organizations have taken a quantum leap in their level of resilience, perhaps without realizing it, through the plans and preparations they put in place. Today, our challenge as continuity planning professionals is to ensure that the beneficial aspects of all this effort are not discarded. We worked hard to create a seamless defense against 'the bug', but we know further challenges lie ahead. Here are a few areas we might all benefit from thinking about, before the next unpredicted disaster disrupts our business operations. 1. Cooperation: How many of us found the silos breaking down over the last year, as the highly integrated nature of business suddenly became more apparent, underlining the necessity of cooperation? The impossible was realized, competing factions ' within companies and industries ' worked together, shared information, and sought solutions to keep not just the corporate ship, but the whole industry afloat. Build on these relationships, establish a lasting dialogue, and let people know how well it works.

2. Intelligence Network: There is a bit of a spy in all of us; it's human nature to be inquisitive. Year 2000 gave us a reason to dig deeper and search wider, to spread our information net in strange and unusual places to collect valuable tidbits. It also taught us the need for careful analysis and filtering to turn a mass of data into decision-supporting information. With a little reorientation, this network will continue to produce good ideas and a few gems that you will wonder why you didn't have them in your plans and processes from the beginning. We all did this ' now we need to formalize our intelligence network ' and keep it active.

3. Communications: If Y2K gave us anything of value, it was a much clearer recognition of the importance of a strong and reliable communications capability ' internally and externally ' to all our stakeholders. Yes, we knew it was important long ago to collect and distribute information and directions, quickly and effectively. But somehow it never moved forward, stuck due to corporate inertia and a lack of buy-in. Y2K broke the logjam and gave communications elevated profile and a key role on the continuity team. Don't loose the momentum in this area; if lost, it will be hard to win back.

4. Infrastructure Dependence: Similar to business silos that move boldly ahead, regardless of what the rest of the organization is doing, continuity planning efforts often thought no further than the building perimeter. Y2K highlighted, like nothing else has, how dependent we are on the modern urban infrastructure that provides power, communications, transportation, etc. A continuous supply of electricity, water, gas, telephone, data, internet, and out-sourced services are essential to our organizations, not just on January 1st, but on every day of the year.

5. The Integrated Society: To misquote John Donne, "No organization is an island". Not only is each organization dependent on the basic infrastructure, but also a myriad of other services and organizations that are themselves dependent on other services, and so it goes, a chain that eventually links us all. Whether you call it a 'supply chain' or a 'service chain' our Year 2000 work has underscored the criticality of linkages, the web of interconnectedness that ties organizations together, creating strength and vulnerability. In light of this awareness, more redundancy may be needed to create a greater resilience to the domino effect initiated by the failure of one weak link.

6. Command Centers: So what was so bad about the local coffee shop? Many of us now know what a Command Center really looks like and are glad we never had to really use the old one. Organizations have invested heavily in the past couple of years in proper command centers with either dedicated space or rapid deployment set-up. The value of this knowledge and experience should not be underestimated. A well-organized command center is the critical beginning to effectively managing a crisis ' any crisis

So the challenge that faces us after our Y2K "stand down" is to retain the ability to reactivate these valued components quickly and with little or no warning. Without a clear strategy to do so, and to keep them exercised, they will atrophy and be useless when next needed. History has shown repeatedly, that effective leaders plan for the next challenge while the front line troops are recuperating from the last one ' can we do anything less?

If, from your Year 2000 efforts, you have identified other "pearls" you plan to keep and nurture, let us know ' we'll include a list in the next article. We need to share to grow ' this is a great opportunity. Do it. Now.

Next in the series - Mopping Up: A Y2K Retrospective



Reader comments are welcome. Please send to John Newton, Fax:416.929.3621 / This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or Rex Pattison, Fax: 416.866.5706 / This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

This article Printed in Volume 13, Issue 1