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5/11/2006
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Preparing for the Unimaginable

The Avian flu was back in the news the past few weeks as the Federal government unveiled some of its plans to continue operations in the event of such an emergency and the American Broadcasting Company presented a made-for-television movie on what could happen if the bird flu mutated into a virus that was transmitted easily from human to human.  The government plan notes that 40% of federal works might be sick for extended periods of time, out caring for loved ones, or deceased - and that it will be impossible to predict who will fall into which category.  (For an in-depth look, I recommend reading Strenghening Corporate Pandemic Preparedness and Response.)

The model of having a Collaborative Business Environment, the knowledge worker's workplace and nexus of knowledge sharing, collaboration, and business, is slowly but surely becoming part of the IT landscape.  But continued external threats to business continuity, whether SARS, terrorism, or now, a pandemic influenza, highlights the fact that having a Collaborative Business Environment can be essential to the continued operation of companies of all sizes.
 

SARS struck millions of people with fear in impacted areas, from Hong Kong to Singapore.  Worried that merely leaving their apartments would increase the likelihood of infection from exposure, thousands of employees who never dreamt of telecommuting before began working from (sometimes makeshift) home offices.  A pandemic influenza would make the SARS episodelook like a head cold.

In order for work to carry on under such conditions, there are certain aspects of collaboration that need to take place. These include:
  •  Communicating with members of the team or other team's members and partners
  •  Access to documents and tools needed to complete tasks

Preparing for business continuity in the knowledge economy entails creating a work environment in the home.  As simple as that sounds on an individual basis, it is far from simple for the global enterprise where hundreds or perhaps thousands of employees are suddenly going virtual.  That's why it is important to plan this before it becomes a necessity.  Of course, world crises do not happen often but, given what scientists have found, one simply cannot ignore the possibility of a pandemic.  If the Avian flu should arrive on the scene, having a Collaborative Business Environment in place that will allow a company to continue operations, may mean the difference between staying in business and closing the doors.  In an age as ugly as ours, with crises happening with increasing frequency, and every enterprise focusing on survival - in a literal sense, not only within the marketplace in which it competes - everyone needs to be prepared.

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