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IT Departments Unprepared For Pandemics

I'm attending Service-now.com's user conference in San Diego this week, and was asking Rhett Glauser, the company's spokesman, whether fear of the swine flu had kept anyone away. What I learned was surprising -- the swine flu did keep a few people away, but not for the reason you'd think.
I'm attending Service-now.com's user conference in San Diego this week, and was asking Rhett Glauser, the company's spokesman, whether fear of the swine flu had kept anyone away. What I learned was surprising -- the swine flu did keep a few people away, but not for the reason you'd think.It turns out, several companies kept their IT folks home because they were needed to help work on a pandemic preparedness plan in case the disease spread and employees were asked to work from home. This is pretty amazing considering that SARS provoked a similar panic as recently as 2006, and IT departments were supposed to be preparing their companies for lots of remote work then.

Laura DiDio, then an analyst with the Yankee Group, told me, "if you don't have a contingency plan at this point, you have to be living under a rock."

The problem, I learned, is that companies do have contingency plans, but then people move around, systems are changed and the contingency plans are never tested. Even if people learned their lessons back during the 2006 SARS scare, they're still unsure they're properly set up for when something like the swine flu hits in 2009.

The people who had to cancel attending this convention are Service-now.com customers, which makes IT management software-as-a-service; you'd think a SaaS implementation would have simplified matters, or at least made it possible for them to work remotely. The fact that they couldn't may say something about the limits of even Web 2.0.

Meanwhile, Glauser told me that Service-now.com met earlier in the day with an informal group of customer-advisers who asked the company to consider adding a Twitter-like function as part of the product's feature set. One purpose would be so that IT managers could broadcast things like maintenance windows to only those people who wanted the information, rather than through a mass email.

Makes me believe Twitter as an idea may well outlive Twitter the company.

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