--> Gill Blog: February 2006

Gill Blog

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.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Naked Conversations

How Blogs are Changing the Way Businesses Talk with Customers—a book by Shel Israel and Robert Scoble, provocatively titled Naked Conversations, is virtually flying off the shelves of

One of our favorite business bloggers, Richard Edelman, bought 243 copies online to give to his senior managers. Edelman is the president and CEO of the world's largest independent public relations firm, with 1800 employees in 40 offices worldwide. And he's one of a growing number of C-level executives who appreciate the benefits of corporate blogs and company bloggers.

Here's an excerpt from Naked Conversations quoted on
These are the Six Pillars of Blogging:

1.Publishable. Anyone can publish a blog. You can do it cheaply and post often. Each posting is instantly available worldwide.

2.Findable. Through search engines, people will find blogs by subject, by author, or both. The more you post, the more findable you become.

3.Social. The blogosphere is one big conversation. Interesting topical conversations move from site to site, linking to each other. Through blogs, people with shared interests build relationships unrestricted by geographic borders.

4.Viral. Information often spreads faster through blogs than via a newsservice. No form of viral marketing matches the speed and efficiency of a blog.

5.Syndicatable. By clicking on an icon, you can get free "home delivery" of RSS- enabled blogs into your e-mail software. RSS lets you know when a blog you subscribe to is updated, saving you search time. This process is considerably more efficient than the last- generation method of visiting one page of one web site at a time looking for changes.

6.Linkable. Because each blog can link to all others, every blogger has access to the tens of millions of people who visit the blogosphere every day.

Should you read Naked Conversations? Michael Mclaughlin, of Mill Valley, CA USA, reviewing the book on, says,
The short answer to that question is yes.

Don't miss this book even if you and/or your organization haven't yet jumped into the blogosphere.

Scoble and Israel hammer home the point that blogging and other forms of social media are transforming how businesses communicate with customers, suppliers, and all their constituencies.

But this isn't a one-sided, navel-gazing tome on the virtues of blogging. This book is full of hard-hitting advice from dozens of successful bloggers on what makes some blogs work and others flame out.

The book itself is like a blog on steroids, but with a natural thread through the topics that leads the reader easily from one subject to the next. It's more of a conversation than a traditional book.

Throughout the case studies, the authors let the voices of the bloggers shine through, giving the reader a sense of the issues each company faced. When the authors agree or disagree with how a business handled a situation, they let you know-in a civilized way.

Scoble and Israel boil down their research and experience to help businesses understand the nuts and bolts of blogging without going geeky on the reader. They've got eleven tips for a successful blog, how to blog your way through a crisis, and an update of Scoble's Corporate Weblog Manifesto.

Make no mistake-this is a business book. If you're blogging now, read it for the hundreds of insights you'll uncover. If your organization isn't blogging, use this book as a discussion starter for deciding whether blogging is right for your company.

Does your company belong in the blogosphere? Katherine Heires, in an article on the Harvard Business School Working Knowledge website, says blogging helps a company and its executives:
Influence the public "conversation" about your company: Make it easy for journalists to find the latest, most accurate information about new products or ventures. In the case of a crisis, a blog allows you to shape the conversation about it.

Enhance brand visibility and credibility: Appear higher in search engine rankings, establish expertise in industry or subject area, and personalize one's company by giving it a human voice.

Achieve customer intimacy: Speak directly to consumers and have them come right back with suggestions or complaints—or kudos.

The article goes on to recommend that companies maximize the use of blogs by having a distinct focus and goal, and an "authentic" voice that doesn't smack of a PR department, creating a "conversation" that allows readers to comment.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Provide Mobility, Not Just Mobile Homes

Hindsight is 20/20, so it's easy for the news media, even the most fair and balanced, to see the problems with FEMA's expenditure of $300 Million on more than 10,000 mobile homes being stored in, of all places, Hope, Arkansas.

This past week, Anderson Cooper was "keeping them honest" by airing segments on CNN about the response to Katrina, and now a few hundred of these mobile homes are en route to Baton Rouge. On his 360 Blog this week, Anderson Cooper asked readers,
"What could you do with $300 million? That's how much money the federal government has spent on a ghost town of empty mobile homes sitting in Arkansas."

A prescient article that appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle on September 18, 2005 raised this important question, "Could the government's main plan for housing the victims of Hurricane Katrina—the creation of a vast network of rapidly constructed trailer parks in Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi—actually delay survivors' return to normality?" Bruce Katz and Mark Munro of The Brookings Institution saw the problem with mobile homes well in advance.
The problem with FEMA's trailer camps is that they are a slow-moving, geographically fixed response to the diverse, changeable needs of human beings who are beginning to want above all to reintegrate into mainstream life, wherever they can find it.

Along with a roof over their heads, Katrina's victims will soon crave more than anything family and community, stable employment, and a shot at salvaging the rest of the school year for the kids.

They are in a hurry to rebuild their lives and already fanning out—many of them—over a dozen states and hundreds of cities to do it.

However, don't expect huge convoys of double-wides and RVs to immediately roll down the interstates to Gulf region and immediately line up in new cities to provide shelter. It will take time to manufacture, assemble, and install the new units.

Moreover, by their very nature, the coming encampments—whether in state parks or military bases or adjacent to existing mobile home facilities—will cluster the homeless in dedicated new congregations that could well prolong their isolation from family ties, job networks, and good schools. Such clustering, ironically, could well delay some families' progress into a more settled life by plunging them into make-shift new zones of concentrated destitution.

Read the whole article.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

A Failure of Initiative

A Failure of Initiative: The Final Report of the Select Bipartisan Committee to Investigate the Preparation for and Response to Hurricane Katrina found a "litany of mistakes, misjudgments, lapses, and absurdities all cascading together, blinding us to what was coming and hobbling any collective effort to respond."

Saturday, February 11, 2006

5 Years Later: A Return to Where it all Began

Business development plays an important role in any enterprise. Over the past three years, I am often asked what the spark was that ignited my interest in business continuity and risk management. More times than not, I will tell the same story about being outside New York in a Connecticut coffee shop a day after the 9-11 terror attacks where displaced workers from Manhattan were trying to make heads or tails not only of what had happened the day before, but of what their futures would hold for them in an era of uncertainty that instantaneously dawned. I won’t repeat the whole thing, but if you are so inclined you can read the full details here.

As my trip up the Bosnywash corridor concludes, I thought an appropriate place to gather my notes and collect my thoughts would be in that same coffee shop where that first spark took place. On September 12, 2001 – the last time I was in Koffee? there were tables, chairs, condiment stations, and a bunch of confused people. On that day, the degree of on-site infrastructure required to carry out work remotely consisted of a laptop or two where someone may have been working on a Word document, a few cell phones, and for the really technologically-savvy, a Palm Pilot.

Five years later, I walked into a place that had been transformed into a place than not only oozed with atmosphere, but had now assumed another function that had clearly developed after I last visited: Koffee? had become a very efficient and productive workplace. More than half the customers were enjoying their latte or coffee while working on their computers, but almost all were working on web-based applications. The coffee shop has become a Wi-Fi hotspot, and now draws all sorts of people – students, business owners, salespeople – pretty much the whole spectrum.

Near the front of the shop, there was a gathering led by a casually, yet confidently dressed woman who was making a presentation to two others, whose interest was palpable given how feverishly they were taking notes. This meeting wasn’t taking place in a boardroom, but in leather chairs positioned right by a window with a decorative coffee table placed in the middle. On the other side of the window, another woman with a briefcase was tying her dog to a hitching post where it could have a drink while she came in for a brief meeting.

When I walked to the back of the shop where a large south facing atrium floods the brick and beam structure with light, there was a law student who seemed to be taking a break from reading a fairly substantial body of reading, to sit back turn on his iPod, and sip a coffee. Two tables over from our lawyer to be, I saw something that really caught my attention: a thirty-something knowledge worker conducting a live videoconference using a webcam and connected with three other participants. He was composed, mellow and appeared to be someone very much in control. It was truly an awesome site.

The last time I visited Koffee? nobody had any tangible idea of how the world would evolve particularly in light of what had happened the day before. It seemed somewhat ironic that this place, the place where many people shared a common experience of horror and chaos not so long ago, and wondered where the future would take us actually would deliver us this very place. What became a safe haven for people requiring human contact on a trying day actually was where the dust would end up settling. Making my return to original scene of the crime vividly showed how much actually has changed, and how resilient and resourceful we as human beings actually are.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

The Real Heroes of Katrina

I have had an excellent trip this week to Washington and New York to glean some of the latest perspectives on risk management, business continuity and emergency management. This morning, I took in the keynote address at the International Safety and Security Conference in New York, where I heard Rich Cooper, a Senior Official at the Department of Homeland Security.

Mr. Cooper provided a blunt assessment of the agency's role today and the measures that will need to maintain it's relevance on a going forward basis. One of the key messages in his speech was simply this: the effectiveness of Homeland Security will only be realized if close partnerships are formed with innovative firms in the private sector. In fact, when describing the response to Katrina, Mr. Cooper was unequivocal in his praise for private sector participants such as Wal-Mart, Target, Rite-Aid, Home Depot and FedEx.

In fact, he said, despite the occasional toxicity of the mere mention of the word Wal-Mart in some communities, they were in fact responsible for saving thousands of lives by providing food, shelter, water and medical supplies to displaced residents of the Gulf Coast before federal officials could make it to the scene. In addition to providing these needed staples of life, Wal-Mart also used its global distribution channels to amass millions of dollars in relief funding before such funding came in from the Federal Government.

It was an illuminating discussion and one that I will try and deconstruct over the next few posts.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Integrating Risk, Continuity, Preparedness at ISSC 2006

As I have been feverishly preparing for a trip this coming week to Washington and New York, I was notified by the main organizers of the upcoming International Safety and Security Conference in New York (where I will be speaking this week about connection points between business continuity and real estate strategy), that one of the main themes of the gathering will be integration. By this, they are intending to take preparedness and continuity planning to a level where many functional areas are connected on a uniform platform.

This seems to be the direction where things are headed in this space. Before too long, planners will have a much better understanding about tangible connection points between business continuity, emergency preparedness, disaster recovery, risk management, and even real estate policy converge in one plan.

Should be an interesting gathering and I'll be sure to provide some highlights upon my return.