--> Gill Blog: June 2003

Gill Blog

Thursday, June 26, 2003

13th World Conference on Disaster Management: It's Over

I didn't have any definite expectations when I registered for this Disaster Management Conference. Frankly, after recent conferences in Toronto were cancelled because of concerns about SARS, I was just hoping that this wouldn't be a complete disaster itself. I am pleased to report that this conference was quite successful. It was a great opportunity to immerse in discussions with the world's leading experts and relate their experiences to ours.

After the first few sessions, patterns began emerging from these discussions. Business Continuity Planning, a field that began about twenty years ago to ensure that organizations' data was well protected, has been shocked by the tragic loss of life in the terrorist attacks on America and is charting a new course that recognizes the importance of every organization's people. The first response was to standardize the procedures associated with disaster management, i.e. create a strategy that integrates all levels of emergency services to effectively manage the immediate after-effects of events of mass disruption.

But, in the years since the World Trade Center attack, the discipline has developed to ensure that critical businesses continue to be operational. As Ralph Dunham, Manager of Business Continuity & Recovery Services of IBM Global Services suggested in one of our sessions, "It's not about recovery anymore, its all about continuity."

Business Continuity Planning is being energized by advances in technology and new ways of thinking. Whether we're looking at scenario modelling, through simulations such as The Business Continuity Strategy Game, presented by Ian Charters, Director of Continuity Systems Ltd., or considering advanced theories of corporate impact analysis, as presented by Damian Walch, Vice President of Consulting for T-Systems, it is clear that the disciplines of disaster management and business continuity planning are converging.

Please join the discussion about the 13th World Conference on Disaster Management.

Tuesday, June 24, 2003

Be Prepared for the Absolute Worst

Today's Telegraph reports on a pamphlet, called Expecting the Unexpected - Business Continuity in an uncertain world, produced by the British Home Office, which says businesses should produce a disaster recovery plan.

The pamphlet contains some very interesting statistics that come out of the British experience with terrorism over many years before 9.11. The 32 page booklet says that 40% of the businesses affected by the IRA blast in Manchester in 1996 went under; and that "current estimates suggest that between 40% and 80% of small businesses would never reopen their doors if disaster struck." In an uncertain world "you owe it to yourself" to be confident of being back in business in the shortest time, it adds.

We are looking at Real Estate Continuity as an integrated component of Business Continuity Planning in the UK, as well as the US and Canada. Each of these governments has established specific websites to coordinate information about the wide range potential emergencies. Our readers from these countries should be familiar with their own national and local initiatives, but might find information of value from the others. It's interesting, also, to compare the differing attitudes with regard to these common problems, as expressed in these government sponsored websites: the British UK; the American; and the Canadian

Monday, June 23, 2003

13th World Conference: Day 1 Notes

A great opening day at the conference with plenty of fodder for great conversation. The conference kicked off with an address by Bob Runcimen, the Minister of Public Safety and Security for the Province of Ontario (Canada). He reminded the audience that the ultimate purpose of terrorism is economic disruption and that its perpetrators are very sophisticated in identifying the channels that support and disrupt economic activites. He noted that Canada is the the largest trading partner of 38 of the 50 states in the US: that striking an unsuspecting target, an act that would close borders, would serve the end goal of terrorism. Something for Canadians to think about.

Vice Admiral Michael L. Cowan, Surgeon General for the US Navy delivered a fascinating speech that put the whole field of disaster response and business continuity into its proper historical context. Did you know that the event that launched this broad field was the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, when the US Army in the Pacific was called in by the Mayor and the Governor? Interestingly, the field made no significant advances until, if you can believe it, the late 1980's! Its no small coincidence that this roughly coincided with the end of the cold war. The irony here is that at the conclusion of the cold war, people around the world thought the world was safe, but in fact it has become a much more complicated and dangerous place. Hence the need for robust planning that addresses both short term disaster recovery, as well as longer term planning. We have always maintained that Real Estate Continuity is long term in its scope, thus a key component of the latter strategy.

Friday, June 20, 2003

13th World Conference on Disaster Management

The 13th World Conference on Disaster Management commences this Sunday in Toronto, as industry professionals from around the globe gather to learn about the latest developments in the field. As the media suggests, this is a huge event. It will be interesting to see how some of the participants have addressed the issue of real estate within their existing business continuity planning programs. The recent SARS pandemic demonstrates the need to make business continuity planning more complete by integrating real estate strategy into the decision making process. The fact that we are further removed from the events of 2001 and are aware that events of mass disruption can take on a number of forms, might indicate decision makers have a clearer sense of objectivity, enabling them to think more hollistically about the short term and long term strategies that contribute to sound disaster management policy.

Tuesday, June 17, 2003

Business Continuity Planning 101: An Initial Survey

Here we are in the middle of 2003, and still business continuity planning seems to be a new concept that has just become an "organizational strategy du jour" in some places we would normally assume have had comprehensive plans in place long before they were considered in North America. I recently came across this piece in the Guardian, and was suprised by the rudimentary approach taken by the writer in describing the nuances of the field. After all, hasn't urban terrorism been a phenomenon that has affected places such as London long before it even registered in the North American consciousness? This report posted on last summer seems to support our suggestion that UK firms have not demonstrated the same level of preparedness as their counterparts in the US.

Tuesday, June 10, 2003

Outpost No More: The Vision of Canary Wharf

Wait a minute. Aren't we in the midst of a soft period for commercial office property values? Hasn't demand for office space globally gone down? When it comes to Canary Wharf in London's Docklands, you can forget about how the market is supposed to act, as its stock price has increased over 50% in a week. According to Reuters, a number of prominent players including Morgan Stanley, Brascan Corp. and GE Capital are lining up to bid on the property - stock prices have risen accordingly.

To anyone familiar with the saga of Canary Wharf, this would seem improbable. For most of the 90's the complex had difficulty attracting tenants, given its distant proximity to central London. The developers had the audacity to think they could succeed in building an alternate financial district, which would compete with London for world-class tenants. The whole idea seemed absurd at the time. Initially, tenants didn't bite. However, since 1997 occupancy rates have risen dramatically.

So what's driving the demand today? Could it be that, in developing a brand new complex with its own amenities and transporation infrastructure at a distance from the central core, the developers created the perfect secondary, decentralized location for institutional tenants that, previously, would never have considered moving away from the core?

Thursday, June 05, 2003

Bain Survey Confirms Importance of Business Contingency Planning

The issue of business contingency planning barely registered on the radar screens of most Canadian corporations two years ago. No longer - the following article appearing in this week's Globe and Mail paints a very different picture. One of Gill's central messages is real estate strategy needs to be better integrated into business continuity plans to create a more complete solution.