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Friday, June 04, 2010

Oil and Banking Controls

Can we draw connection points between events off the Louisiana Coast and the financial meltdown of 2008? Hmm, let's see. So the blow-up of financial markets was largely triggered by the fact that regulatory controls over things such as the way in which mortgages in the secondary market could be packaged as institutional grade securities were substantially eased. No regulatory controls, the build-up of unchecked risk and kaboom!

Let's now fast forward to a rig in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. Lax regulations on drilling standards (why mandate the need to drill relief wells? we're okay), because it's just an added cost. Once a crazy build-up of methane encountered, the whole thing becomes a timebomb that explodes minutes after.

For the most part, Canada is a pretty dull place. Too many rules and not enough looseness. It's the type of place where the government likes to stick their fingers in places the free market thinks it has no place, like banking systems and oilfields. The regulators impose a ton of risk controls and compliance measures required to do business in these spaces and come down hard on those who choose to cut corners. It's a place where rigid controls over who gets mortgages and for how much are strictly enforced. It's also a place where any offshore drilling can only take place if relief wells are drilled.

So far so good in the Great White North. As for the issues that flying fast in the U.S.? Maybe sticking to the old line about Communist buggaboos will hold back that wolves.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Brand Risk Associated with Third Party Contracts

So the casual talk around the water cooler today is that given the costs associated with the clean-up in the gulf, when everything's said and done, BP will be done like dinner. Very unfortunate once the full dynamics of the situation are considered. Many will agree that BP's brand is tarnished forever, regardless of what happens, but actually, this represents an instance where brand damage was at least in some part associated with their collaboration with of a third party contractor Transocean, who owned the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig that sunk to the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico after two days after an explosion that occurred on April 22.

It's still too early to definitively pinpoint the cause (given the rig now sits on the ocean bed 5,000 feet below the surface, the cause will likely never be determined), but regardless of the outcome, it is the case of two business partners: a large multinational energy company with a highly visible brand, and a relatively anonymous owner of drilling platforms. It doesn't matter who's at fault, from the standpoint of public perception, all the blame and risk shifted over to BP.

Over the last few years, I worked for a large financial institution, whose global headquarters were housed in a multi-story sky scraper, with prominent company signage affixed to a facade just above the top floor. The building exterior was finished in marble slabs that had been affixed during building construction in the mid-1970's. I suppose the tiles can hang only so long before wear and tear take over. Two years ago, during a fierce windstorm, one of these tiles (approximately five feet by five feet) became dislodged, and came crashing down more than 50 floors to the sidewalk below. Fortunately, this occurred at around 6:30 in the evening, and miraculously, nobody was impacted at street level.

What happened in the next few hours was telling and indicative of the risks associated with unique third party agreements. The building, and its maintenance were the responsibility of the building owner, however, from the public's standpoint, this prominent landmark with bank signage prominently displayed on top was the bank's. The next morning, the major dailies splashed pictures of the building and the bank's logo on the front page. The truth of where the fault actually lay was irrelevant; in the eyes of the public, the blame lay totally on the shoulders of the company whose banner shined prominently on top of the building.

Circle this back to BP and the Deepwater Horizon. Moral of the story? Always beware of risks associated with third party contracts.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Business Continuity in Banking vs. Retail

For the most part, I've been an inactive blogger since taking a business continuity job with a large bank in 2006. Well, I just moved things along this past month, as I now moved to one of the country's largest retailers as one of the guys charged with developing an end to end business continuity program in that organization.

Interesting comparisons and contrasts between financial services and retail. By their very nature, banks are charged with the fiduciary duty of safeguarding their customer's assets, and this is the main driver of comprehensive risk management programs (business continuity now resides under this umbrella). Because of this, the programs tend to be some of the most rigorous in any given sector. But really, what is actually being safeguarded? For the most part it's all about adding a resiliency layer to the electronic movement of funds - clearing and settlement, it's called.

Now, think about what is being protected in a retail environment, especially for a big box retailer that provides a wide assortment of goods. Products are sourced from around the world using elaborate just in time delivery systems. The supply chain complexities involved in the global distribution of goods is mind boggling. Domestically, the corporation needs to create resiliency around its franchisee program. and create business continuity standards for its corporate operations. None of this has a regulatory body that provides oversight, so everything is driven purely by market forces.

In other words, if any significant disruption were to negatively impact operations for an extended period, it could have serious impacts on brand reputation.

If I can actually get myself to get back into the practice of blogging, I'll elaborate more. Feels nice to tap out a few lines again!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Parallel Addictions?

The recent volatility of oil prices has inevitably led to a broader discussion about our dependence on oil and the need to develop new sources of clean energy. Try as we will to avoid the topic, the facts continue to mount. Gone are the days when our insatiable appetite for oil was satisfied by the seemingly endless supply of light sweet crude gushing freely from the oil fields of Texas, and Happy Motoring was the mantra for a generation that believed the future had arrived (how else to explain the introduction of the AMC Pacer?).

Over the past 35 years the landscape has changed dramatically. Increased demand from developing giants like China and India combined with our love of SUVs has created oil shortages not created by oil producers’ desire to curtail supply, as much as it has by their inability to keep pace with an ever increasing global demand. Hence, it’s not surprising that when pundits look into a crystal ball and identify the one single point of failure in a system ensuring our long term stability and security, all points lead to our reliance or addiction to oil (I’ll come back to that).

Amidst the uncertainty, there are still those who doggedly cling to the belief that the auto industry is simply reacting to market demands; the “give the people what they want” mentality. In a particularly animated conversation in our lunchroom today, I debated this point with a colleague who saw no fault in the collective strategic decision making of Detroit. “Look,” he began, “some people like big cars and SUVs; Detroit is just giving people what they want.”

I quickly responded “Do you know how hard the auto industry in Washington has been lobbying lawmakers not to increase taxes on oil, and this in turn continues to fuel demand for big dumb cars?”

“Nor should they” my friend retorted, “that would impose artificial variables in the free market system.” At that moment I caught myself sizing up his graying temples, thinning hair, and expanding girth and realized that like me, he probably came of age when Ronald Reagan became President with his prescription that society’s ills would be cured when government stepped aside and let the free market run the show. Indeed, he could have been making a speech from an era when mousse transformed limp hair into a form that seemed capable of taking flight at any moment.

In the summer of 1991 I was a student at the University of Waterloo studying economics, when a wise professor, Wayne Thirsk began a lecture by asking the class if we knew what portion of the price we paid for gas went toward taxes. Frankly, I don’t remember whether that was 20% or 60%, but the entire class was perplexed by the notion taxes constituted such a large proportion of what we paid; apparently, the forces of communism hadn’t died when the Berlin Wall fell two years before, they only crossed the Atlantic and swooped in under radar. Dr. Thirsk rationalized this explaining the tax could be used to encourage drivers to curtail their driving habits, while using the revenues to fund the development of alternative energies.

During the same semester I took a political science elective and our professor gave us an open-ended assignment requiring we choose a contemporary hot-button issue and analyze it from a perspective where personal liberty conflicted with public good. One of the biggest issues of the day was the Ontario Government’s attempt to launch a sustainable program that would curtail smoking; two years prior it had enacted its first significant anti-smoking legislation banning smoking indoors and now the cost for a pack of cigarettes jumped from about $2.50 to $7.50; the province rationalized the additional tax revenue was a user fee for smokers (Ontario, like other jurisdictions in Canada has a publicly-funded health care system, so from a financial point of view it made sense to target smokers who imposed a disproportionate demand on health care resources).

At the time, this seemed inconceivable. I grew up when smoking was socially acceptable, even sophisticated, but once the government determined to rid Ontarians of this addiction, it started a program that would never look back. Today, these efforts have resulted in significantly reducing the number of smokers, and marginalizing those who continue to light up. Smoking has in fact become a curious vestige from another era. It is interesting then to note that the pitch made by those advocating the development of alternate energies always includes the standard catch phrase: “we need to break our addiction to oil.” Sound familiar?

I used this as my analogy as I plead my case in the lunchroom and said that if all of our actions were calibrated to “give the people what they want”, then most of us would still be dragging to our heart’s content (a rapidly weakening one) on an endless flow of cigarettes, our kids could pick up a pack at the snap of a finger, and Joe Camel would likely have a series of instructional smoking videos out on YouTube. Oh, and a whole lot more of us would be dead. Sometimes, the government has to step in and create artificial mechanisms disrupting the flow of the free market and curtailing our individual liberties for the sake of the public good.

Quite the program, and not too dissimilar to the types of plans energy experts envision for steering us away from oil and adopting alternate energy sources. The similarities between our love of oil and tobacco are noteworthy. Their widespread popularity took off around the same time, until people started realizing these were actually unhealthy addictions. In breaking our habits, both programs begin by imposing taxes to curtail a certain behaviour, and follow up with steps intended to wean us off our powerful addiction. With oil, it is hoped that one day our past dependency will also look like another curious relic from a by-gone era.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Doughnuts and BCP Conferences

What a perfect day to get back to the business of blogging. It's a crisp -15 Celsius outside and with the wind, it feels like -30. Under these circumstances, you never know what can happen. I have been on somewhat of a self-imposed exile over the past year, but have spent the time getting only deeper into this field we call business continuity planning. Frankly, I'm amazed at how many of the ideas we pioneered within this field (e.g. blogging, webcasts before ubiquitous broadband connections) have become mainstream for so many organizations out to make the mighty buck.

Something seems to be missing in the dialogue. As much as BCP-types are using technology to get the message out, the actual message that is going out is about as fresh as cheap cigar. Time and time again, all we get is the same rhetoric with familiar refrains such as "Are we Prepared?" "What is the new normal" or value-pitch promotionals that inevitably begin with "9-11, Katrina, Blackouts, SARS - this could happen to you." Please, give me a break. If you think I'm the only one singing from the pulpit, believe me, there are others.

I was asked in a meeting yesterday by the head of a BCP committee who is eager to assume a key leadership position within risk the best strategy by which she can ramp up her knowledge. I tossed out a few suggestions, but she seemed really excited by the idea of conferences. My opinion? I think the premise of conferences is good, but year after year when you attend those conferences, you start to realize the speakers are recycling the same song and dance. Every once in a while, you'll find someone who has extrapolated earlier learnings into something great, but in general it all tends to be the same old stuff. I liken the conference circuit to the old economics analogy of the law of diminishing returns best illustrated by a box of a dozen doughnuts. The first doughnut you eat is heavenly; the second still pretty good; by the time you start nibbling on the third, you're already getting tired of it; by the time you get to the sixth, all the warm and fuzzy stuff you may have been feeling is out the window. Now, simply make a quick substitute: swap doughnuts for BCP conferences, and you start to get the picture.

In order for the dialogue to meaningfully advance, planners everywhere have to take stock in exactly how this field is evolving. The key is moving this field from one that is grounded in a compliance-based orientation into one that is much more strategic. When time permits, I will periodically fire up the old blog and share what I can in my attempt to help move things along.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Pandemic Influenza Mitigation

Interim Pre-pandemic Planning Guidance: Community Strategy for Pandemic Influenza Mitigation in the United States - Early Targeted Layered use of Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions

Mitigation guidelines issued by the CDC
February 1, 2007 (108 pages, PDF).

Coverage of the press conference at Avian Flu Diary.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Martin Luther King, Jr. & Gandhi

Mohandas K. Gandhi was born on 2 October 1869 into a family of moderate wealth in western India. Trained as a lawyer, he would go on to demonstrate against racism in South Africa and colonial rule in India, using a technique of satyagraha, or nonviolent resistance. A testament to the revolutionary power of nonviolence, Gandhi directly influenced Martin Luther King, Jr., who argued that "the Gandhian philosophy of nonviolence is the only logical and moral approach to the solution of the race problem in the United States."

... more ...

While in prison, Gandhi began a fast to protest the policy of separate electorates for untouchables—those who occupied India's lowest caste—within India's new constitution. The fast elicited public attention, helped to refocus attention on the problem of untouchability, and resulted in a major campaign. A resolution was passed by India's Constituent Assembly in 1947 making the practice of untouchability illegal. It was a historic decision that the New York Times compared with the abolition of slavery.

Despite Gandhi's urgings, on 15 August 1947, in the midst of violence and rioting, Britain transferred power to a partitioned India, creating the two independent states of India and Pakistan. Gandhi was dejected by the sacrifice of unity in India's independence, as he wrote, "it would be on the question of Hindu-Moslem unity that my Ahimsa [nonviolence] would be put to its severest test."

On 30 January 1948, Gandhi was assassinated while entering a prayer meeting in New Delhi. The man who demonstrated to the world the revolutionary power of nonviolence to counter racism in South Africa, colonial rule in India, and the economic exploitation of workers and peasants was gone; but Gandhi’s philosophy of nonviolence would go on to directly influence Martin Luther King, Jr. and the American civil rights movement, as well as many other nonviolent struggles throughout the world.

Martin Luther King, Jr. walking up to the Samadhi (cremation site) of Mahatma Gandhi, 1959. Royal Studio.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Homeland Security Report

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - More than five years after the September 11 attacks, only four big U.S. cities have emergency communications allowing police, fire and medical officials to coordinate fully during a crisis, a federal report said.

The Department of Homeland Security report, due to be released officially on Wednesday, listed Washington, D.C.; San Diego, California; the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area of Minnesota; and Columbus, Ohio, as the major urban areas that achieved "most advanced" status.

The study awarded the same status to the smaller metropolitan areas of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and Laramie, Wyoming.

Portions of the report obtained by Reuters said federal officials surveyed the emergency communications systems of 75 urban and metropolitan areas.

New York City, which was hardest hit by the 2001 attacks that killed 3,000 people, did not appear among those with the most advanced systems. Neither did Chicago, another city seen as a potential target.

The report ranked Chicago in the early stages of communications development and cited political divisions between the city and surrounding Cook County as the reason.

The inability of police and fire officials to communicate during the September 11 attacks was blamed for the deaths of New York City firefighters despite a police warning when the World Trade Center towers began to collapse.

The September 11 commission, which investigated the attacks, recommended "interoperability" of the communications systems of urban emergency services.

The new Homeland Security report said 75 urban and metropolitan areas have policies governing interoperability. But it said leadership and planning have lagged and emergency services in some areas were still in need of regular training.

Homeland Security awarded most-advanced status to areas that have standard procedures for interoperable communications, proven familiarity with the equipment during emergencies and a strategic plan for meeting further communications goals.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Happy Holidays

Students join sand sculpture artists to create a 30-meter-long (100-foot-long) Santa Claus sculpture on the Puri golden beach, in the Indian state of Orissa on the eve of Christmas, Sunday, Dec. 24, 2006. Though Hindus and Muslims comprise the majority of the population in India, Christmas is celebrated with much fanfare.
(AP Photo/Biswaranjan Rout)

Monday, November 06, 2006

The Carnival of the Capitalists

We're pleased to host the Carnival of the Capitalists at Gill Blog again this year. Remembering what a huge success last year's party was here, we planned ahead for a good turnout and hired this magnificent tent from Carnival Marquees in the UK, who we'd like to thank for the use of the tent. We'd also like to thank Igloos, the luxury travelling loo company, for the bespoke lavatories.

With formalities out of the way, let's see who's at the party.

Jack Yoest at Reasoned Audacity has 7 Tips for Mass Marketing, earning the top spot in this week's Carnival of the Capitalists for, among other things, this pullquote:
A few months ago, Charmaine and I visited Tammy in her beautiful Georgetown home in Your Nation's Capital. She put up a tent in her back yard and had a few of her closest A listers over for an off the record party. OTR. Which means I couldn't talk about what Micheal Barone said about CNN nor who Chris Matthews was talking to. Contacts connected. Deals got done.

Carmine Coyote, on the Slow Leadership blog, looks at the place of creativity in business, and concludes it is often misunderstood and underrated.

Trizoko, a daily biz journal to empower company-builders to kick ass, explains how to price your brand's products.

Photon Courier has good news that MIT researchers have developed a modified gasoline engine said to reduce fuel consumption by 30% while also reducing engine size.

James Hamilton of Econbrowser suggests that the way to make sense of conflicting estimates of the employment situation is to combine the evidence from different sources.

The Boring Made Dull reports on Minimum Wage Shennanigans in Ohio.

Wisdom From Wenchypoo's Mental Wastebasket looks at the economics of a college education. Wenchypoo also has an interesting post about the revolt of the fairly-rich hard-working people with good educations.

Free Money Finance has some thoughts on the value of a college education, too.

Economic Edge, musings on investing, money management, life, and personal finance, advises How to Invest For High Returns & Avoid Losing Your Original Investment. This post is written in response to a reader's question on the "About" page. Ah, the power of the business blog.

Canadian Entrepreneur Rick Spence presents a post about telling good credit risks from bad, with information for anyone who wants to be able to tell whether a given small business is serious about seeking success.

Adventures in Money Making tells how individual investors can invest in the adult entertainment industry.

The Sharpener is trying to make a point with a post on the scary economics of Halloween.

Five Cent Nickel also has an economic analysis of Halloween. says venture capitalists adore fremiums this year.

Knowing what will cause financial failure is just as important as knowing what financial steps you should take so that your don't sabotage yourself. Personal Finance Advice makes note of 10 steps that will ensure financial failure.

Britain looks set to become the first western country to introduce a regulatory regime to support the domestic issuance of sukuk so-called "Islamic bonds", or those which do not pay overt interest. Mover Mike discusses this news he spotted in the Financial Times.

Bob Witeck and Wes Combs are the authors of Business Inside Out: Capturing Millions of Brand Loyal Gay Consumers. Their DC-based firm, Witeck-Combs Communications, Inc., works with uber cool, gay-friendly clients and their names are synonymous with thought leadership on LGBT demographics and marketplace trend spotting. Queercents asked them to respond with their thoughts about the myth of gay affluence, the behavior of queer consumers and a few personal questions to drive the conversation home.

If your boss leaves confidential salary info in plain sight, is it fair game? InsureBlog's Henry Stern thinks not; what about you?

David Maister asks and answers this question: "What can the Marines teach your business?" I would have thought the answer might be semper fee.

"Have you ever wondered what were your biggest mistakes in your professional career? Which things you should do another way or at least try to change?" At Software Project Management, Pawel Brodzinski candidly shares some of his biggest mistakes made during his professional career in different roles.

Becky McCray at Small Biz Survival has a review of the scoop on Google partnering up with Intuit, integrating several Google services into QuickBooks.

Michael Wade at gives a lighthearted look at film dialogue that matches management topics.

At Blog Business World, Wayne Hurlbert says, "Entrepreneurship has made a resurgence, in recent years, as a viable career option for many people."

How Do People Get Rich? Apparently, it's the power of compounding interest.

Dan Melson posted Sellers Lending to Buyers and Selling the Note at Searchlight Crusade.

Nike has expanded the marketing campaign for the new Air Zoom LeBron IV away from television into a variety of new media. Mark at SportsBiz says it may set the tone for consumer marketing of the future.

"Great for accountants. This is not so good for shareholders and the public," says Leon Gettler at Sox First, pointing out that Sarbanes-Oxley has been a gold-mine for accountants but that hasn’t stopped them pushing to get Government protection from shareholders who might want to sue them for doing bad audits. "And now it looks like the US Government, with the blessing of Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, is going to give it to them," says Gettler.

Anita Campbell at Small Business Trends points out that immigrants refresh the supply of small businesses.

How long should a sales letter be? Just as a 300 page book isn’t inherently better or worse than a 200 page book, a four page sales letter isn’t inherently better or worse than a one page letter, according to Jim Logan. But there is a danger in being both too short or too long...

On that thought, it looks like our Carnival of the Capitalists is about to wind down. For everyone who wants to continue the business blog carnvial, we recommend moving the party over to Political Calculations, which features the best of the business blogosphere every week On the Moneyed Midways -- including three excellent posts from last week's Carnival of the Capitalists.

Before we take down the tent, we should note that there's something else on a lot of people's minds this week -- midterm elections in the United States.

Inactivist, an unpolitical demonstration by deeply uncommitted inactivists, has evidence that the Investor Class is delighted with the prospect of a Democratic victory in the midterms and a return to divided government.

For more election coverage, we encourage blog carnival lovers to check out Blawg Review, the carnival of law bloggers, for the next two issues at Votelaw and the Election Law blog.

We'd like to thank Rob May and Jay Solo for the opportuntiy to host the Carnival of the Capitalists at Gill Blog again this year, and we look forward to having another chance to host the CotC again in the near future.

Go here to see who's hosting the Carnival of the Capitalists next.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Evian Flu

Evian Flu

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Structural Differences Between Avian Flu and Other Events

There's much discussion these days about how business should go about addressing avian flu, should a global pandemic break out. More often than not, business continuity planners continue to lump avian flu with a number of other events of mass disruption. I think, however, that avian flu should be approached differently. In fact the dynamics of avian flu are completely different than the dynamics of most other events, regardless of their impact. Consider the following illustration:

This chart shows that avian flu differentiates itself from an other type of event based upon two criteria: event duration (whereas other events can unfold in a moment or a day, allowing recovery to take place when the event is over, the duration of an event such as avian flu can continue for weeks or months; receovery cannot take place until after the event is over), and the way in which anxiety levels of people which are usually at their highest point during a more "traditional" event and gradually decrease over time will actually increase over time.

The chart is fairly self-explanatory. Take a look at it and make sure your planners understand this dynamic and calibrate their planning strategies accordingly.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Managing Business Risk

The Sourcing Innovation blog reports on a Business Continuity Planning presentation given by Francis Borromeo of Shell Oil Canada at a recent conference.
Business continuity planning and risk management does not have to be ridiculously expensive. The key is that you

1. have a business continuity plan with
2. prioritized risks and recovery plans that you can use to
3. manage the recovery process in order to
4. transition to business as usual in a manner that permits an
5. after action review to allow you to improve and thrive.

A business continuity plan not only provides a framework for the recovery of the critical business processes, but it allows you to safeguard your brand and reputation.

But it's probably last on your management priority list. After all, you only see a return when a major disruption or disaster happens. However, considering that Aberdeen recently found that your average international company experiences two significant disruptions per year, it is critical that you have one. So how do you get the support and resources you need to initiate one?

Read Michael Lamoureaux's post to find out.

Of all the noteworthy business blog posts reviewed this past week on the Political Calculations blog, this post was awarded the title "The Best Post of the Week, Anywhere!"

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Impact of Global Warming on Financial Services

At a recent conference in Australia jointly hosted by The Insurance Ombudsman Service, Financial Industry Complaints Service, and the Banking and Financial Services Ombudsman, Bill Peck, General Manager Risk Management and Compliance for AON Australia, delivered a paper with an interesting PowerPoint presentation on Global Warming - Impact on Financial Services [pdf].

Friday, October 06, 2006

Risk Management Insures Against Terrorism

Representing business insurance policyholders throughout the construction, entertainment, manufacturing, real estate, retailing and transportation sectors of the economy, the Coalition to Insure Against Terrorism (CIAT) is seeking a long-term solution to make comprehensive terrorism risk insurance coverage available and affordable after the expiration of the Terrorism Risk Insurance Extension Act at the end of 2007.

On this organization's blog there's a link to a recent interview in which Terry Fleming, Director of Risk Management for Montgomery County Maryland as well as a member of the Board of Directors of the Risk and Insurance Management Society (RIMS), sat down with the hosts of The REIT Report podcast to discuss the current state of terrorism risk insurance in the United States.

The Real Estate Roundtable has links to testimony given recently to committees of Congress by Roundtable Chairman Christopher J. Nassetta on behalf of the Coalition to Insure Against Terrorism.
His testimony emphasized three points: that the market conditions necessitating creation of a federal terrorism reinsurance backstop in 2002 have not changed; that, as demonstrated in 14 other nations, there is a need for a long-term, public-private partnership with a role for the federal government; and that consumers of terrorism insurance stand ready to assist Congress in devising a workable, appropriate solution.

The Risk and Insurance Management Society has information about the upcoming 2006 Intergovernmental Forum on Risk Management: Case Studies of Effective Implementation in Ottawa, Canada on October 24-25, and the 2006 RMIA National Conference of the Risk Management Institute of Australasia scheduled for November 12-14 in Melbourne, Australia.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Remote BCP Using VPN

Our latest article connecting remote work to business continuity has just been published in the innaugural issue of the Journal of Business Continuity & Emergency Planning in London (more details to come). Yes, it is indeed gratifying to know that the message we have been pushing for some time now - i.e. how telework plays a key role an integral part of business continuity - is being recognized, but as it does, it requires that we drill down to more granular levels of detail that force us to offer specific solutions.

One topic that has garnered a fair bit of discussion is how is it that organizations that deal with very sensitive data can risk putting this data out over networks that run the real risk of being hacked? The answer is increasingly being found in private networks. I came across this press release this morning that really drives the point home:
A new remote access business continuity plan, based around SSL VPNs, is being launched in the UK by SSL VPN vendor Array Networks and its new value added distributor Wick Hill.

The Array Business Continuity (ABC) Flex Plan allows workers to access business critical applications and resources on the corporate network anytime, anywhere, when circumstances prevent them getting into the office. This may be due to natural disasters such as avian flu, terror threats or other business interruptions such as transport disruption, bad weather, or seasonal events (e.g., student registration).

By no means does this represent the one killer app that will revolutionize the space, but is presented to illustrate what is sure to become a growing area.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Kimveer Gill a Disaster Waiting to Happen

The 25-year-old man who opened fire at a Montreal college yesterday has a very common surname, Gill, that has attracted a lot of attention to Gill Blog, which is not related to Kimveer Gill.

Media attention has focussed on the gunman's blog postings on, which apparently contains numerous photos and comments that, in retrospect, should have been taken very seriously by authorities with regard to weapons displayed.
The blog, posted on an online hub of goth culture, paints a dark portrait of the 25-year-old man published reports have identified as the trenchcoat-wearing gunman who opened fire on students at Montreal's Dawson College Wednesday, killing one and injuring 19 others.

Gill's image gallery, which contains more than 50 photos, depicts the young man in various poses holding a Baretta CX4 Storm semi-automatic rifle and donning a long black trenchcoat and combat boots.

Kimveer Gill, who is known to other users on the website as Fatality666, describes himself as Indian, 6-foot-one, who was born in Montreal on July 9, 1981, and refers to himself as the "Angel of Death", a disturbing moniker.
The shootings recalled Marc Lepine's murderous rampage at Montreal's Ecole Polytechnique school on Dec. 6, 1989, when he opened fire and ended up killing 14 women.

[Police Chief Yvan] Delorme said the lessons learned from the Montreal Massacre about the need to co-ordinate emergency services and act promptly helped save lives.

"Before, our technique was to establish a perimeter around the place and wait for the SWAT team," he said. "Now the first police officers go right inside. The way they acted saved lives."

While such incidents are not classified at "terrorism" by law enforcement authorities, it seems that rapid response teams that are geared up for terrorist attacks are better prepared to handle random acts of violence by mentally disturbed individuals without any apparent political motivation.

The latest shooting has also triggered memories of the 1999 Columbine massacre in the United States, where two teenagers killed 12 other students and a teacher, before killing themselves.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Be Ready Camp for Kids

When one hears of Huntville, Alabama, the big news often centers on the Space Camp at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center.

This week, as part of the federal Homeland Security Department's National Preparedness Month, Space Camp hosted "Be Ready Camp" where 80 area sixth-graders helped triage and evacuate the victims of a mock disaster.
Since Monday, the students from Huntsville, Madison and Madison County schools have been learning about the importance of having a family emergency plan and what to put in a preparedness kit.

The students are also visiting fire stations, the Madison County 911 headquarters and the Emergency Operations Center, among other tours.

The real focus of Be Ready Camp is to teach the students about individual, family and community preparedness," said Tracey Ayres, communications director for the Alabama Department of Homeland Security in an interview with The Huntsville Times.

Ready Kids is the web-based experience for children presented online by the federal DHS at

Monday, September 11, 2006

The Dust At Ground Zero

In her first appearance on 60 Minutes, Katie Couric reports how the dust at Ground Zero affected first responders.
In all there were about 40,000 people who worked on the pile — a collection of firefighters, policemen, construction and utility workers. One of them was 30-year-old New York City Police Det. James Zadroga. When the planes hit the World Trade Center, he drove straight to ground zero and stayed for weeks. His father, Joseph Zadroga, says he remembers that shortly after that his son started getting sick.

"Every morning he would wake up and he said he would be coughing and hacking, and this black stuff would come up out of his lungs," Det. Zadroga's father remembers. "And he just didn't know what was happening to him. He couldn't figure out what was happening to him."

If you missed it, you can read the story and watch the video clips at the 60 Minutes website, including an interview with Christine Todd Whitman, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Five years later, Ground Zero is "The Hole in the City's Heart" described in great detail in a 24 page feature article in today's New York Times.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Wireless In Toronto

The big news that got all the mainstream media attention this week was the long-awaited launch of Toronto Hydro Telecom's One Zone wireless network in Toronto's downtown core. Toronto joins a handful of other cities in Canada and around the world, including San Francisco, Philadelphia and London, England, that are setting up such a network.
"This is a watershed moment that will put Toronto on the leading edge of the telecommunications industry nationally and globally," said Toronto Mayor David Miller. "It sends a strong signal to investors, researchers and other business partners that we see Toronto as a hub for innovation, investment and continued prosperity."

One Zone™ will be free to all users from September 6, 2006 until March 6, 2007. After that time, three different packages will be offered:

1. A pre-paid monthly subscription priced at $29per month
2. A daily rate including 24 consecutive hours of use priced at $10
3. An hourly rate at $5

For more locations where free wireless access is provided at key hotspots in Toronto check out The WT Blog at Wireless Toronto, a not-for-profit group dedicated to bringing no-fee wireless Internet access to Toronto. Did you know that Yonge-Dundas Square is an Internet hotspot?

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Hurricane Katrina Anniversary

The 52nd Carnival of Hurricane Relief this week marks a year's worth of blog posts concerning relief efforts and recovery. Way back on November 30th, three months after Katrina, which we thought was then something of a post-Katrina milestone, we hosted the Carnival of Hurricane Relief on Gill Blog.

It's hard to believe it's been a year since Hurricane Katrina made landfall; hard to believe that there still remains so much work to do in recovery and rebuilding, and so many people still need help.

The effect of Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans was catastrophic and long-lasting.

Katrina: the good, the bad, and the ugly

The Katrina Timeline

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Mile High Club

The Transportation Security Administration advises that, due to enhanced security measures, liquids, gels, lotions and other items of similar consistency will not be permitted in carry-on baggage. Generally, those types of items must be packed in your checked baggage. There are exceptions.

Members of the Mile High Club will be interested to know that personal lubricants up to 4 oz. are permitted for those who like to carry on. I can't tell you how difficult it is these days for a guy who looks like me to get into an airplane lavatory with a woman and 4 ounces of personal lubricant. Frankly, I'm more likely to cause a flight delay by dropping my new iPod in the toilet.

Monday, August 21, 2006

When the Levees Broke: A Spike Lee Film Review

When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts, a four hour HBO documentary set to debut over two nights, Aug. 21 and 22, just in time to mark the first anniversary of Katrina's landfall is reviewed by film critic Joe Leydon in Variety and on his movingpictureblog.
Charged with profound sorrow, galvanizing outrage and defiant resolve, Spike Lee's extraordinary "When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts" renders the worst natural disaster in U.S. history -- Hurricane Katrina's unforgiving assault on New Orleans and other Gulf Coast communities -- as a perfect storm of catastrophic weather, human error, socioeconomic inequity and bureaucratic dysfunction. The four-hour HBO documentary will debut over two nights just in time to mark the first anniversary of Katrina's landfall. Unfortunately, as Lee and his many interviewees repeatedly emphasize, rebuilding and recovery in the Crescent City have only just begun.

Read the review, watch the documentary, and share your thoughts and experiences. Comments are open.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

In Vino Veritas

Truth in advertising by Hugh MacLeod, famous for his cartoons on the backs of business cards, from a new series of wine labels for Stormhoek.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Welcome CBS News Blogophiles

If you've just arrived at our humble corner of the blogosphere this morning from this wonderful link on CBS News, we're pleased you stopped by to check out our blog.
With millions of sites floating through the blogosphere, who really has time to peek at even a fraction of them? Blogophile reads them for you and presents a weekly roundup of the buzz on must-read blogs. Blogophile appears new each Wednesday, and is written by's Melissa P. McNamara.

Blogophile leads with the buzz about satirist Stephen Colbert, who likes the wikiality of Wikipedia. Who's to say Brownie wasn't really doin' a heckuva job? Let's see if it doesn't say so here in the Wikipedia. There, see? It's there now. ;-)

Gill Blog can't compete with Stephen Colbert for buzz, but we know truthiness when we see it.
Bloggers are concerned that people are unprepared. "Are you ready for the next natural disaster or terrorist attack?," Michael Hampton asks at Homeland Stupidity. "If you're relying on the Department of Homeland Security’s Web site, or think the Federal Emergency Management Agency will be able to help you, then you aren’t ready."

Melissa McNamara has kindly mentioned our blog below the fold, as real newspaper journalists say, at the very bottom of her article to ensure that only her most conscientious readers are referred to the Gill Blog.
But Tony Gill points out that DHS has said the Federation of American Scientists is woefully misinformed and the Really Ready website is likely to confuse the public. So perhaps preparedness is in the eye of the beholder?

Thanks for the link love, Melissa. I'm adding Blogophile RSS Feed to my blog reader right now. Good stuff.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Google Earth a Disaster Management Tool

Disaster control experts are discovering Google Earth as a powerful tool in their work, according to a recent article in Spiegel Online.

Google Earth wasn't really intended for scientists. The Google search engine's extraordinary globe, which is made up of hundreds of thousands of satellite photos and aerial images, was initially meant as a game for virtual hobby pilots. Users discovered that it was fun to fly over their own homes, swing up into space and, within seconds, swoop back down into the depths of the Grand Canyon. But now the scientific community is discovering how useful the software is for their own work.

Homeland Security applications include:

* Critical infrastructure vulnerability assessment and protection
* First responder site familiarization and planning
* Pattern visualization of surveillance data

Google Earth solutions for homeland security include professional Google Earth Enterprise Solutions and Google Earth Pro.

When Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast almost a year ago, people across the country and around the world wondered how to help. Many donated money; others lent their homes to dislocated survivors. A group of Googlers lent their expertise by leveraging the power of Google technology.

Over several long nights, the teams from Google Earth and Google Maps created satellite imagery overlays of the devastation in the affected region, which showed more accurately the scope of the disaster.

Soon after, Google was told that rescue workers and the U.S. Air Force were using Google Earth to find people who were stranded.

And last week, Google received formal recognition from the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. Members of the NGA presented the "Hurricane Katrina Recognition Award" to the Google Earth team, as well as the Google Enterprise and Global Support groups, for their direct support during the Katrina disaster. [via]

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Really Ready or Not?

Today the Federation of American Scientists launched, a comprehensive emergency preparedness website developed in nine weeks by FAS intern Emily Hesaltine.

Modeled after the Department of Homeland Security's, addresses the inaccuracies and incomplete information on the DHS site. includes clear and accurate information to help individuals, families, businesses, and individuals with disabilities prepare for and respond to a variety of threats. A thorough analysis of is also available on the site.

"I know it isn't good to laugh about such a serious topic, but when I saw the graphic on suggesting that when a nuclear bomb goes off a hundred feet away you might want to protect yourself by walking around the corner, I just couldn't help myself," said Ivan Oelrich, Vice President of Strategic Security at FAS. "After three years and millions of dollars, taxpayers should expect a better website from the Department of Homeland Security."

The appropriate reaction to a nuclear attack is to hide from the light and heat of the blast, then walk perpendicular to the wind away from the dust cloud. Accurate information like this, not available on, can be found on Modifications were also made to repetitive, lengthy, and generic material to make it easier to use and remember.

A section was added to help Americans with disabilities prepare for and respond to emergencies. The section, developed in collaboration with the National Organization on Disability's Emergency Preparedness Initiative, is titled "ReallyReady Disabilities" and answers questions like how to create a support network to help you in an emergency and how to develop an evacuation plan.

"The Department of Homeland Security has declared September National Preparedness Month. It would be shameful if they could not get into shape before then," said Michael Stebbins, Director of Biology Policy at FAS. "It took an intern two months to make, DHS should be able to make a useful site in less than a month."

Sources at DHS say the Federation of American Scientists is woefully misinformed and the Really Ready website is likely to confuse the public.

Which disaster preparedness webiste do you think is better? or

Monday, July 31, 2006

Canadian Municipalities Missing From Disaster Planning

A report on the impact of federal government activities related to public safety and emergency preparedness on municipalities was recently published by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.

Here's the backgrounder:
Municipal governments need a voice in decision-making if they are to ensure the safety and security of their communities, according to “Emergency: Municipalities missing from disaster planning,” a new report commissioned by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM).

The report, prepared for FCM by the National Security Group (NSG), focuses on the roles municipal governments play in managing emergencies.

The report says it is imperative for municipal governments, the first responders in more than 90 per cent of all emergencies, to have a voice in shaping the policies that legislate and regulate security and emergency preparedness.

Additionally, the report calls for a plan to guide the allocation of all funding for public security and emergency preparedness. Such a plan would require that municipal governments be recognized, consulted and properly funded so they can fulfill their responsibilities as first responders.

The report says there has been a serious increase in threats facing Canada and its municipalities and that little of the $9.5 billion spent by the federal government on security since 2001 has gone to municipalities.

Although municipalities have received some funding through federal programs, including the Joint Emergency Planning Program (JEPP) and the Heavy Urban Search and Research (HUSAR), this funding has been limited.

The NSG report updates an earlier report by Global Change Strategies International for FCM in October 2004. The earlier report demonstrated the critical role municipal governments play as first-line responders in emergencies and outlined the challenges they face in ensuring the security of Canada’s cities and communities.

The NSG report confirms many of the earlier findings and examines trends in potential hazards as well as the escalating costs resulting from them. The report takes an in-depth look at the 2003-2004 operating budgets of 12 municipalities and the proportions dedicated to emergency management and protection.

The 12 municipalities dedicated 19 to 20 per cent of their budgets to protection, with the proportion of overall expenditures dedicated to protection predicted to continue increasing.

The report makes a number of recommendations, including the need for better cooperation and coordination among governments on planning and response capabilities; municipal involvement in setting the policies and programs for emergency response; and appropriate funding.

The report is available here in pdf from the FCM website.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Katrina: What Went Wrong?

The Wall Street Journal reports on what went wrong, and publishes a free chapter of Chris Cooper and Robert Block's new book on the subject, Disaster: Hurricane Katrina and the Failure of Homeland Security. "Cooper and Block's reporting does seem to suggest that this column may have been right about the focus on terrorism and its effect on our ability to respond to natural disasters," adds Glenn Reynolds.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Video iPod

Now that I'm turned on to Video iPod, it probably won't be long before we're podcasting and vlogging here on the Gill Blog, er, vlog. Stay tuned.

While we're disovering the secrets of videoblogging, you might enjoy the latest Rocketboom video.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

9/11 at the Movies

I just watched the movie trailer for World Trade Center, directed by Oliver Stone, which opens on August 9th. Don't know if the trailer's one to download to my iPod, but the movie reviews are encouraging:
Movies like "World Trade Center" - and "United 93," which preceded it - don't come along very often. More should.

There are many scenes that will cause audiences to reach for the tissues, but the last one is a true resurrection moment. As Jimeno, first, and then McLoughlin are lifted out of what could have been their graves, they are passed from hand-to-hand along a gauntlet made up of their colleagues, more than 50 of whom are real-life members of the PAPD, the NYPD and FDNY who were flown to Los Angeles for the scene.

Whatever one thinks of Oliver Stone, the man knows how to make movies. This is one of his best. It deserves an Oscar in so many categories. It also deserves the thanks of a grateful nation. Go and see it beginning Aug. 9 and make him a large profit so he might consider inspiring us again, as his predecessors so often did during Hollywood's Golden Age.

I'll be seeing both United 93 and World Trade Center in the next few weeks, and will collect my own thoughts here on the blog.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Comic Book Adaptation of 9/11 Report

Comic industry veterans have turned The 9/11 Commission Report into a graphic novel, hoping to get the information contained in the government report out to a younger readership.

According to this review in the Washinton Post:
The book condenses the nearly 600-page federal report released by the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States to fewer than 150 pages, and the creators say they hope their book will help attract young readers and others who might be overwhelmed by the original document. With sans-serif captions, artist renderings, charts and sound-describing words such as "Whooom!" and "R-rrumble," the adaptation recounts the attacks with parallel timelines of the four hijacked planes.

But can a topic as massive and sobering as Sept. 11 be dealt with effectively in the pages of a comic book?

The comic book is aimed at the "kids, teenagers and adults" unlikely to read the government's nearly 600-page version, says illustrator Ernie Colón.

Creator Sid Jacobson, publisher Thomas LeBien, 9/11 Commission member Slade Gordon and others were on hand at Comic-Con on Friday to discuss the 9/11 Report, the adaptation, and another potential 9/11 movie. Here's the video of their press conference.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Blog Censorship in India

We're saddened by press reports that Gill Blog, our business blog concerning disaster planning and workplace continuity, may be blocked in India inadvertently as a result of governmental censorship in a democracy.
The country's 153 internet service providers (ISP) have blocked 17 websites since last week on federal government orders.

Some of these sites belong to Google's Blogspot, a leading international web log hosting service.

Indian bloggers say that the decision is an attack on freedom of speech.

A number of them have started filing petitions under the country's new landmark freedom of information law which gives citizens the right to access information held by the government.

Bloggers say the ban has meant that people do not even have access to blogs like the one set up to help the relatives of the victims of the recent train bombings in Mumbai (Bombay),

We might be back online for our readers in India soon, according to India Times:
The Internet Service Providers Association of India, the body representing all internet service providers, on Wednesday instructed all its members to lift the blockage at the domain level.

This means that if you have a blog where the domain level is Blogspot or Typepad, this blockage will no longer apply to all users, but only at the sub-domain level. At the sub-domain level, only those 17 blogs which have been blacklisted by the government will continue to be inaccessible.

Hopefully then, blog readers in India will be able to read posts on Gill Blog, like "Mumbai Bounces Back After Blasts" our most recent post concerned about India.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Mumbai Bounces Back After Blasts

I've really been giving a lot of thought to the Mumbai bombings over the past few days, and have been principally pondering what type of effect the bombings will have on its white hot economy. Already, there are many who are predicting that this event could create a serious setback for India's outsourcing community and questioned how well outsourcing partners in India can maintain the continuity of their operations:
In the wake of the attacks, outsourcing providers in Mumbai scrambled to make sure employees and customer data were safe and secure. Meanwhile, outsourcing customers sought reassurances that their Indian partners could handle future unforeseen events.

The terrorist attack in Mumbai—and conflict between Israel and Lebanon for that matter—raise a series of questions for companies sourcing technology globally.

Do you know the disaster recovery plans of your offshore services provider? Are their plans integrated with yours? And how prepared are these providers?

Despite such ominous predictions, and after weighing multiple scenarios in my head, I can still answer this in a word: little.

Surely, this is not the first time that India's financial capital has seen a terrorist attack, but it is the first time this has occurred during India's new period of being an economic powerhouse. In the past these types of incidents had much to do with terrorist factions, particularly from Kashmir who wanted to destabilize the country to the point where war became a distinct possibility. The underlying assumption that somehow the outsourcing industry in India will fly south as a result of the attacks has one crucial flaw: it assumes the economy will continue to be driven by low end service functions such as call centers, without recognizing the country's massive potential to move up the business value chain. It is for this reason alone that more measured analysts remain bullish about India's long-term prospects.

Despite the actions of scattered terrorists, my gut tells me that nobody's going to take the bait and undo all the good things that have happened - there's just too much going on to let this disruption get in the way of something that can rightly be described as an economic miracle. Since the last time terrorist bombs ripped through India, a middle class has been firmly established, multinationals are lining up to jump into India, and the India-Pakistan cloud that has been hanging over the continent for decades is dissipating, especially because their respective leaders, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and General Pervez Musharraf genuinely seem to like each other.

What are the lessons that can be learned from a business continuity perspective? In short, there is much to be learned from the resilience of the Indian people, who perhaps as a result of living through decades of turmoil, conflict and uncertainty have exhibited a striking ability to dust themselves off and continue to move forward. Although there are some who believe its not enough to laud the efforts of the residents of Mumbai, we in the west should pay particular attention to it.

Given the state of fear that we have become accustomed to accepting, there is much to be admired from the resolve the Indian people. Little wonder they are doing as well as they are.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Urban Telecommunities

Urbanization is a feature topic in the Harvard International Review this month. The lead article, The Future of Urbanization, is written by N.J. Slabbert who, among other engagements, is an advisor to the Telework Coalition, a Washington DC-based ressearch group.
Urban Telecommunities As Regional Growth Engines

A good microcosmic example is an initiative to develop the town of La Plata, Maryland, into a pioneering telecommunity (E-Burb or wired suburb), presenting significant implications for the future of greater Washington, DC, as well as for urban regions throughout the United States, for which the La Plata project offers a growth engine model. The project envisages a telework community in which many residents will remain physically in La Plata while working virtually in DC or elsewhere, linked around the clock by fiber-optic internet and video. The project's controlling idea is a telecommunity concept developed by Dr. J.J. Hellman.

This "urban telecommunity" is not telecommuting as commonly understood—employees working from home occasionally or a loose network of geographically separated people linked periodically by the internet—but a formal group of substantial size, whose members, both remote and proximate, are continuously connected via a combination of on-screen and other contacts for public or private purposes of collegial cooperation, with most members sharing a common geographical locale. The idea of a dedicated social organization using teletechnology in this way to support a widely distributed urban workforce, metropolitan services infrastructure, and rurally located small community is an innovation of far-reaching practical and theoretical importance. It brings into useful illustrative convergence a cluster of concepts that together portends a new era in urban philosophy, embracing information technology as a positive and crucial contributor to both the social and infrastructural architectures of community.

Read the whole article to learn more about how teletechnology is shaping a new urban order.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Is Your Business Ready for a Flu Pandemic?

Ford & Harrison attorneys, and F&H Solutions Group, have an interesting article posted on the firm's website as a Legal Alert:
In light of the extensive news coverage given to the possibility of an Avian flu pandemic, many employers are concerned about their operations as well as potential legal obligations should such a pandemic occur. This Alert provides guidance for developing a plan to help ensure the safety of the workplace should a pandemic occur. Having operational as well as communication plans may also prepare the organization in the event of other emergencies...

6. Identify your company policies and how they would be affected by a pandemic.

What is your company's policy on sick leave? To what extent are employees able to carry over or share/bank accrued sick leave? What are the implications of such a policy under wage payment and benefits laws?

What is your company policy on medical leave? Have you considered developing leave policies to be used in a pandemic situation that encourage employees to remain at home if they are sick or are caring for sick dependants? Such policies should be clearly worded to apply only in situations that implicate the use of your emergency management plan, to ensure they do not affect your day-to-day policies. Limit the contours of your plan to prevent it from working against you .

Do you have a telecommuting policy or at least an emergency telecommuting policy? Have you addressed any possible security concerns (through technology and through agreements creating binding legal obligations) if more employees are forced to work remotely?

Do your company policies address issues that may arise in a possible pandemic, such as: quarantine policies, social distancing policies, and increased sanitation policies to ensure a healthy work place?

You can find the complete article here. This is a very clearly written article that would be a good outline for discussions about company preparedness amongst any corporate executive group.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Lucknow Flood Evacuation Relief Efforts

A mouse rides on the back of a frog in floodwaters in the northern Indian city Lucknow June 30, 2006. REUTERS/Pawan Kumar

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Pandemic Planning Websites

As governments and private enterprise are becoming more aware of the urgency for pandemic plans to be put in place, many are now setting up dedicated websites to not only provide up to date information on planning, but setting out specific guidelines to follow. A good example of this can be found at Mercer Consulting's dedicated site.

I came across two government-sponsored sites as well this week that are worth a closer look. The first was put up by the State of Pennsylvania and it provides a number of useful links that might help planners organize resources and begin mapping out a plan. Similarly, the Province of Ontario has undertaken a similar strategy with its own site (you may want to download the 15-page PDF which provides a very good summary).

It's good that everyone's now getting on board with this issue. The challenge now is to take the concepts that are presented from a 40,000 foot view (such as the information offered on these sites), and take it down to a level where the rubber actually hits the road.

Monday, April 24, 2006

David Letterman Weighs in on Avian Flu

As more people start to understand the importance and urgency of a potential avian flu pandemic, it's little suprise that the whole notion of what to do should emergency strike is being tackled on several fronts. Here's David Letterman's take on the subject.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

A Global Alliance for Survival

Next month, I'm off to Las Vegas to attend a conference on business continuity, security and emergency management planning. The event, CPM 2006 West, is organized by CPM Group, whose website at is on our list of important business continuity planning links in the sidebar on the right of this weblog.

Subscribers to the CPM-Global Assurance newsletter got a special introduction to the upcoming conference that includes discussions by some of the presenters, including an article of mine on the importance of pandemic planning. "Learning from the Past: How SARS can create a valuable planning proxy for avian influenza" is an introduction to my presentation on Workplace Continuity, a subject we focus on and discuss often on the Gill Blog. But there's nothing like getting together face-to-face with experts from other disciplines and catching up with many of the interesting folks I've met through this weblog and at other industry functions.

So, it's off to Las Vegas next month for some fun work and serious play. Make a note in your calendar to attend CPM 2006 WEST and form a Global Alliance for Survival. Come together with your peers to interact in an educational forum and take away the knowledge to save your organization. Gain a new network of support from the industry experts, thought-leaders and professionals who attend. Please give me a call, or drop me a note in an email, if you'd like to meetup at the conference in Vegas.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Journal of Facilities Management

Journal of Facilities Management is a strategic level journal for Heads of Facilities and Corporate Real Estate. The journal features a combination of theoretical and practical articles, complemented by a wide range of case studies and regular features, identifying key implications for senior practitioners in Facilities Management.

"Workplace continuity: how risk and technology will affect facilities strategy," an article of mine published in the latest issue of the Journal of Facilities Management, has just been made available online from the publisher, if anyone who is not already a subscriber to the journal is looking for nicely printed copies. Here's the gist of it.
Abstract: Purpose – To provide a summary of factors contributing toward the movement toward decentralized workplaces; this will largely be driven by the need to principles of business continuity, as well as the increasing ubiquity of broadband.

Design/methodology/approach – This takes a chronological approach to the development of a few previously separate organizational movements (i.e. business continuity, telework, advances in remote technology, facility strategy) and demonstrates how recent events have caused a collision of these factors. The result of this has been to energize the movement to alternative workplace models.

Findings – The paper demonstrates how the concepts presented move from a theoretical construct to a practical one based on factors including reduced implementation costs, a greater need to protect human and physical capital, the need for organizations to remain competitive, as well as the need to address work and lifestyle balance needs of employees.

Research limitations/implications – Enterprise-wide applications of business continuity are still relatively new, and the penetration levels of broadband are not quite at the point where change will occur immediately.

Practical implications – Real estate professionals can effectively redefine their responsibilities and enhance their strategic profiles within the organizations they represent by understanding and integrating basic principles of workplace continuity.

Originality/value – This provides a blueprint for planners considering fundamental changes in workplace configuration.

The publishing policy here at the Gill Blog has always been to give away our ideas for free, leveraging the efficiency of the Internet. Please help yourself to our previously published work here, and feel free to come back as often as your like for more.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Managing Mobile Technology

How much is too much? This is the theme of this recently published article that highlights some of the downsides associated with being too plugged in to the gadgets that create the anywhere, anytime office. Just how many options do we have today? Consider the following:
Consider how many devices and technologies are used to stay in touch: wireless e-mail devices; Wi-Fi laptops loaded with e-mail, office suite, time entry and various practice applications; cell phones; hands-free headsets; a lot of cables (laptop power brick, modem, Ethernet, universal serial bus, FireWire, audio, iPod charger, cell phone charger and personal digital assistant charger); home, office and cell phone voice mail accounts; professional and personal e-mail accounts; office, PC and Internet faxes; text messaging; instant messaging; replicated e-mail account on your laptop’s hard drive for offline reading; Virtual Private Networks, Citrix or other remote access software; camera phones, digital cameras and portable scanners; and a prepaid Starbucks card (for a liberal dose of Wi-Fi and caffeine).

Inevitably, we will move toward a more mobile office, but as this happens, it is important to manage the transition. This piece provides an excellent roadmap.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Is Business Ready for a Flu Pandemic?

That's the big question raised in an article in the New York Times today that looks at the impending bird flu pandemic from a different perspective.
Governments worldwide have spent billions planning for a potential influenza pandemic: buying medicines, running disaster drills, developing strategies for tighter border controls. But one piece of the plan may be missing: the ability of corporations to continue to provide vital services.

For the past few years, ever since SARS arrived in North America via Toronto, we've been looking at ways companies can prepare for the next flu pandemic.

If you have been following the blog, you know that we have been discussing this for over a year. However, since we did our December webcast specifically on this topic, the reality of the effect of pandemic on business is really starting to sink in.

The official US Government website for information on pandemic flu and avian influenza can be found at, which is an indication that this is not just media hype, and should be taken seriously by corporations. Get informed. Be prepared.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Professional Services Megatrends

Ross Dawson is a business futurist, bestselling author, keynote speaker, and CEO of Advanced Human Technologies.

His weblog, Trends in the Living Networks, offers high-level commentary on developments in our intensely networked world, and how it is coming to life, and in a White Paper and a recent series of excellent posts he discusses:

Seven Megatrends of Professional Services

#1 Client Sophistication

#2 Governance

#3 Connectivity

#4 Transparency

#5 Modularization

#6 Globalization

#7 Commoditization

Great stuff. Ross Dawson's business blog has been added to the list of blogs we read regularly.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Bird Flu and Pets: Cat Carrier

"Cat curfews imposed amid bird flu scare" warns the headlines of European news media after a cat was found dead of the Avian Flu virus H5N1.
Four European countries today imposed restrictions on the movements of cats after a dead cat in Germany was discovered to have been infected with bird flu.

The dead animal was found yesterday on the Baltic island of Ruegen, where more than 100 wild birds have died of the deadly H5N1 strain of the virus. Experts say that the cat probably fell ill after eating an infected bird.

As experts in many European countries took to the airwaves to offer advice to animal owners, alarmed that they might catch the human form of the virus from their pets, the German Government announced that all cats must be kept indoors in bird flu-affected zones. In addition, dogs must be kept on leashes, and all animals watched for signs of strange behaviour.

If you think for a moment that human behavior won't get strange if the avian flu virus mutates to a human-to-human transmissible strain and spreads to North America, you only have to observe the panic among pet lovers in Europe. As much as we love our pets, things could get really crazy in the workplace.

"Businesses need to plan on having 40 percent of workers out" warns the headlines of American news media. No one can say if the virus will evolve into a form that passes easily among humans, but WHO and other experts say a pandemic of some disease is inevitable and that planning now will not be wasted.
“We have seen, in the past several weeks, a remarkable acceleration of the pandemic in birds,” Dr. Rajiv Venkayya, special assistant for biodefense to President Bush, told the conference.

“It’s something short of inevitable that we will see a case of H5N1 here in the U.S.”


“At the peak of the pandemic each company must be prepared to sustain absenteeism of up to 40 percent,” Venkayya told the conference, sponsored by the Trust for Americas Health and Fleishman-Hillard public relations.

Some businesses will be able to get by with letting employees work from home. “We need to understand the role of telework,” he said. But others will have to be encouraged to stay home.

“We need to change our approach to absenteeism,” Venkayya said.

This may be tough, others told the conference. “Half of America’s workers have no sick leave,” said Jeffrey Levi of the Trust for America’s Health.

“We are going to ask people to stay home.” But if workers face losing pay if they do not show up, they will come out while sick and will spread influenza, Levi said.

“The approach of most organizations is you go to work whether you have a cold, whether you are half dead,” said Dr. Myles Druckman of International SOS, an international medical assistance firm.

“They are going to have to change their whole corporate culture.”

Companies should make permanent infection-control measures that can reduce absences from illness in any year, not just a pandemic, Venkayya said.

Pandemic Plan points us to this month's issue of Inside Counsel magazine which quotes Laura Franzke, business development director of Logistics Health Inc., a Wisconsin company that provides governments and businesses with medical readiness services, who expresses concern about corporate America’s laissez faire attitude toward the avian flu. Franzke outlines a Canadian case study in preparedness at the corporate level.
The Alcan Way

The risk to employees and a company’s operations, however, is far too great to ignore. “If the pandemic occurs, you need a plan on the shelf that addresses how to handle it at both the employee and customer level,” Fanzke says. “Some companies—mainly in Europe—have already stockpiled basic supplies, such as respirators, gloves and face masks. We should be doing it too.”

Fortunately, such plans aren’t hard to put in place, and a company can implement them within a matter of months. For instance Alcan Inc.—a $20 billion Canadian aluminum manufacturer with approximately 70,000 employees in 55 countries around the globe—developed and implemented a detailed, global response program in just two months. The company began the process in September 2005 when it convened a committee comprising corporate security, environmental health and safety, and communications representatives from Europe and Canada. In November the committee introduced a companywide program that covers everything from stockpiling medical supplies and quarantine procedures, to telecommuting and foreign travel policies.

The company’s travel policy includes daily avian flu status reports that inform employees of the current situation by country and, if necessary, tells them what areas to avoid. At the plant level, the company has developed flu-screening processes including procedures to backtrack and identify anyone who came in contact with an infected individual.

Should the virus begin to spread, the company will implement the plan in stages according to four color-coded alert levels: green (non-contagious); yellow (spreading remotely in other countries); orange (spreading locally); and red (infecting employees). Each stage triggers specific instructions for employees.

“Right now we’re at the green level, so we wanted to provide basic medical advice to employees without scaring anyone,” explains Manoel Arruda, Alcan’s EHS director. If conditions reach the red level at any facility, the company will shut down and send employees home.

“At some locations, shutting down will only take a few minutes,” says Mivil Deschenes, Alcan’s chief security officer. “But with an aluminum smelter, it could take four days to ramp down to a complete stop. We’ve conducted drills with crisis management teams from all five business units.”

What's your company's plan?

Monday, February 27, 2006

Birdflu, the Avian Flu H5N1 Virus

A recent issue of SEED magazine reflects on sobering advice on public health—from bankers.

An Investor’s Guide to Avian Flu: It is perilous to forecast the economic implications of an unprecedented event, though economists at BMO Nesbtitt Burns are obliged to do so....[PDF] Dr.Sherry Cooper, of BMO Nesbitt Burns, offers an economist's view of pandemic flu. [PDF]

Faculty at the Wharton School have recently published yet another interesting article "Avian Flu: What to Expect and How Companies Can Prepare for It" about the risks of an avian flu pandemic.
With the news over the past few weeks that the flu has moved into a number of additional countries, faculty members at Wharton, health care professionals and risk consultants say it is important that companies assess how their organizations could be harmed by a pandemic and take preventive measures to mitigate the damage and keep their enterprises operating. Indeed, experts say companies should actually be planning for all sorts of risks and include efforts to prepare for a possible flu pandemic within that broader strategic plan.

In the months ahead, we'll continue these conversations about the impact of a "potential" flu pandemic on workplace continuity.