August 23, 2006
With the potential for a pandemic, the increase in terrorism, and the potential for more natural disasters, the way we work is changing. No longer can we count on travel as a way to interface with others. Organizations are now planning on how to continue working even if employees cannot make it to their offices. Is yours?
Since avian influenza was first widely reported in 2005, many organizations have been tracking the disease to determine the threat it may pose and to determine steps to take to be prepared.
The World Health Organization classifies global pandemics into six phases, and the world is currently at Pandemic Phase 3 which is defined as "human infections with a new virus subtype, but no human-to-human spread, or at most rare instances of spread to a close contact".
In the event of an influenza pandemic, almost all aspects of human activity will be affected:
• Medical facilities will be overwhelmed
• Government services at all levels will be strained
• Essential services (water, food, sanitation) will be disrupted
• Travel will be severely restricted.
The federal government recently urged Americans to stockpile food, water and medicine in an effort to prepare for what officials warn could be widespread disruptions in the event of an influenza pandemic. A checklist that calls on individuals to plan for transportation disruptions, as well as work and school closings has been prepared and is available at http://www.pandemicflu.gov/plan/tab3.html.
In addition to the above, we are all going to want a way to communicate and need to turn our planning towards collaborative conferencing technologies in order to stay in touch. There is a growing need to be able to communicate with others without being in the same room, and often times without being available 24 x 7. Audio conferencing, real-time collaboration tools (like web conferencing and white boarding) and videoconferencing are technologies that are quickly being viewed as necessities and no longer as just niceties.
It is time for organizations to have not only a Chief Technology Officer, but also a Chief Collaboration Officer, who can look at the organization and identify the right technologies to meet specific business needs. What could be more pressing than the need to communicate when one can’t travel, or doesn’t wish to, due to a crisis?
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