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Volume 30, Issue 3

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Introduction

Who are the stakeholders in the continuous operation of an information system? Stakeholders, as the name suggests, are those that have a stake in the system’s continuous operation. They may be affected by a discontinuity, or may be responsible for ensuring continuity.

An information system may have a large number of stakeholders. These stakeholders may be part of the information system, of the organization to which the system belongs, or of the environment in which the system operates. Put differently, they can be anywhere in an organization’s value chain.

How relevant is a stakeholder? Some stakeholders have a very broad constituency. They are relevant to many industries, organizations, departments, and decision-makers. CEOs, stockholders, and technology vendors are examples of such stakeholders. On the other hand, some stakeholders have a very narrow constituency. They are relevant to particular industries, organizations, departments, and decision-makers. The Joint Commission for Accreditation of Hospitals (JCAH), for example, is relevant only to the healthcare industry. Similarly, the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) is relevant only to the financial services industry. Stakeholders with a broader constituency can be said to be relatively more relevant than those with a narrower constituency.

How important is a stakeholder? The consequence of a discontinuity is more severe for some stakeholders than for others. For example, the production department may be more severely affected than the human resources department by a discontinuity in the information system. Obversely, some stakeholders affect IS continuity more than others. The CEO’s priorities can have a greater impact than that of the CIO, for example. All the constituents – industries, organizations, departments, or decision-makers – may not agree on the importance of a stakeholder. Thus, the overall importance of a stakeholder is the average of the importance attributed to that stakeholder by the constituents, excluding those that do not consider the stakeholder to be relevant.

Stakeholders that are both highly relevant and important are the most significant ones. On the other hand, those that are neither relevant nor important are the least significant ones. Stakeholders that are highly relevant but not very important and those that are not very relevant but are very important are of intermediate significance.

IS continuity planning will be more effective if the stakeholders are correctly identified, and their relevance and importance quantified. Such knowledge can help prevent errors of omission – wherein significant stakeholders are considered to be insignificant, and errors of commission – wherein insignificant stakeholders are considered to be significant. Benchmarking such stakeholder data at a universal level, at an industry level, at a company level, and at a departmental level will help compare and contrast the needs of different constituencies. Such benchmarking will help an organization learn from its own and others’ IS continuity planning.

Following are the results of a preliminary web-based survey to benchmark stakeholders in IS continuity. It summarizes the relevance and perceived importance of different stakeholders to a broad group of respondents. Although the results cannot be generalized because of the non-random and small sample of respondents, they provide a good beginning for benchmarking stakeholders in IS continuity.

Presented at the 23rd Annual Conference of the National Association for Rural Mental Health

Grand Forks, North Dakota, August 10, 1997
 
 In June of 1996, a wild fire near Big Lake, AK destroyed over 300 homes. A national disaster was declared and national resources became available to supplement the overwhelmed local capacity. Mental health disaster counseling services had a critical role in the response to the disaster. In addition to the obvious risks of the existing service system being overwhelmed by the fire, there also was a need to manage the assistance that arrived in a storm of their own. The Alaska experience was positive. Suggestions are made to make the best use of outside assistance and to avoid more help than was helpful.

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to describe the initial experience of the mental health system in Alaska to a wild fire in Big Lake, Alaska. The roles played by partners in the ongoing mental health system are contrasted with the additional help that came with the disaster. Managing the resources in the disaster was a pragmatic challenge. How the assistance was accepted offered choices that supported local autonomy with national expertise and experience. An interesting phenomena during a disaster is that everyone wants to help during the initial phases; during later phases, many are too exhausted to help. Balancing resources can be a challenge. In small states where mental heath disaster planning is likely to be a part-time function, the balance of management choices is not likely to be anticipated. Suggestions are made to assist in making the best use of outside assistance and to avoid more help than was necessary or helpful.

Living at latitude 45'N means winters can be almost Hobbesian — nasty, brutish, and in this case, long. But even by Canadian standards, the storms that kicked off the new year north of the border were particularly wicked, giving a new meaning to the old Bob Dylan lyric "a hard rain’s a-gonna fall."

Days of non-stop rain and temperatures hovering around freezing left southern Quebec and eastern Ontario blanketed by several inches of solid ice, halting virtually all travel, shutting down businesses, cutting off power to more than three million residents, and socking the Canadian economy with business losses estimated at $1.1 billion, or 0.2 percent of GDP.

It could’ve been worse.

Of all the disasters President Clinton has had to declare during his tenure, he has yet to address the one which could be the largest disaster of all. There should be no doubt that he and other leaders in government and industry should consider the Year 2000 crisis a disaster of epidemic proportions and take appropriate measures to avert it.

No, it’s not a major flood claiming hundreds of lives or a hacker attacking another U.S. government computer network, but it’s a disaster nonetheless – a disaster that is virtually certain to affect each and every American citizen in decidedly unpleasant ways.

Imagine being told that you can no longer receive your veterans benefits because the checks can no longer be issued properly. Imagine the IRS coming to a halt, unable to collect or process the tax revenue needed to run this country. Imagine the truly destitute unable to receive food stamps, or banks calling in student loans immediately because of computer glitches that erroneously inform bank staff that loan payments are overdue. In many cases, systems simply will not recognize "00" as a valid year date, and shutdowns will result. For those systems that continue to function after 1999, the validity of the data they produce will be in question – because if the system assumes the date refers to the year 1900 instead of the year 2000, the resulting corrupted data could create a host of additional problems.

"There’s a tremendous amount at risk," says Nancy Petersen, vice president responsible for developing Year 2000 business with the federal government at CACI, a consulting and integration firm. Benefit and entitlement systems – such as those at the Social Security Administration, as well as school lunch and food stamp systems – are very date-intensive and are doomed to failure, she says.

Three years - three major disasters, and all of them north of the 49th parallel! 1996 - The Saguenay Floods. 1997 - The Red River Floods. 1998 - The Great Ice Storm. And the uncertain consequences of the ‘Millennium Bug’ await us in 2000. Being prepared is still necessary, but not sufficient to cope with the increasing frequency of expensive disasters in Canada. Following the lead of FEMA and Emergency Management Australia, Canadian officials are beginning to explore the role of mitigation in emergency management, and the potential for a National Mitigation Strategy to realize a significant reduction in losses. What follows is a brief discussion of disaster trends in Canada and a preliminary report on how a Canadian mitigation policy is beginning to evolve.