The Olympics: be a winner in business continuity

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For all the upsides that the Olympics will bring to London, transport chaos, absenteeism and just a frustrating inability to get things done pose a real challenge to business continuity. You had a taste of what’s to come with Diamond Jubilee – to avoid a repeat on an even bigger scale follow this UC News guide.

Between the 27th July and the 12th August 2012 and the 29th August and 9th September 2012, London’s business community – and anyone whose business entails travelling to London – faces a challenge of Olympic proportions Something approaching 8.8 million tickets are theoretically available for the Olympics, of which the organisers estimate than about 75% (or 6.6 million) will actually be sold.

With 16 days of competition, the live Olympic audience on the move will average just over 400,000 – a staggering addition to the already overstretched London transport network. Aside to the challenge of even getting to a London office with up to a million extra cars on the road on certain days, consider the impact on the business when work halts every time there is a significant event. Think also about the consequences for the company network when dozens or even hundreds of employees suddenly switch to the BBC iPlayer.

Colin Farquhar, CEO of Exterity, argues that without proper organisation, even those who battle their way through traffic will be hampered in the way they carry out their daily tasks. “2012 sees one of the biggest global events hitting London, but with much of the UK being at work during the Games, there will be an increase in employees wanting to view live as well as on-demand video content at their desks to ensure they don’t miss key moments,” says Farquhar.

“With this surge in video being viewed, there are likely to be concerns from IT managers about the impact this is having on the network and bandwidth. We will see a rise in enterprises ensuring they are sufficiently equipped to enable video content to be distributed across the IP network, giving staff the ability to view Olympics’ content without impacting other network services.”

Scale of the problem

So with some planning, there is a way of reducing the impact of the Olympics for those watching events while at work, but about those who won’t be able to get to their offices at all?

The county of Kent has warned about traffic congestion as an extra 250,000 cars per day travel along the county’s major roads, the M2, M20 and M25. Parking to London and taking the train in doesn’t seem to offer much relief. Ebbsfleet, built specifically for the HS1 high-speed rail link, has been designated as a car park for Olympics officials.

The advice from government is “if you don’t have to travel, don’t bother.” Transport Minister Norman Baker said: “The Games will be a once-in-a-generation test for both our transport system and our adaptability. As we edge ever closer to the Olympics, hand-in-hand with new investment must go new solutions.”

“I am the first ever transport minister to have official responsibility for alternatives to travel and the Olympics will be a key time to really embrace these ideas. It’s time to oil the creaking bike, dig out the walking boots, work out how to use the video conferencing equipment, and fire up the laptop gathering dust at the back of the cupboard.”

Moderating factors

Fortunately, those a little more in touch than Norman Baker have already taken steps to provide themselves with the means to work from home. Figures from the Office for National Statistics report that 720,000 business professionals work from home full-time and a further 1,680,000 use ICT to work from home at least once a week.

Home business expert Emma Jones estimates that there are now more than 2.1 million home-based businesses in the UK, and more than 1,400 new companies are started from home each week. Home-based business is worth £364 billion in turnover to the economy of the UK and more than 5.5 million people in the UK use their home as their primary place of work. This figure includes not only those who run a business from their home but also people who spend much of their time travelling and use their home as a base for the days when they are not on the road.

The likelihood of a total economic meltdown in London and the south east during the periods affected by the Games is slight, and even any impairment in the ways that business is conducted can be further reduced. While a sizeable number of business professionals has the capability of working from home, it is the collaborative aspects of their business life that could suffer.

Flexible collaboration

To provide a solution to an ad hoc requirement for business collaboration enable UC vendors are positioning flexible solutions that can be rolled out and scaled as needed. VideoMeet, for example (see the review on page 7 of this issue), is a Cloud-based solution that can be deployed independently, or via existing video conferencing technology. It will interconnect any kind of video conferencing system from established providers such as Polycom and Cisco through to desktop endpoints such as Skype, Google Video Chat and Microsoft Link. The only requirement is an Internet connection.

There are a number of Cloud or Software-as-a-Service collaboration solutions available today that can be deployed quickly and in accordance with the needs of a business. You can find a buyers’ guide in this edition of UC News (page 22) with some suggestions and hints-and-tips on choosing the right one. In addition, you can gain an insight into the ways that Cloud-based solutions can be used to supplement an installed video communication solution in a piece by Ian Heard, global client strategy director for visual communications at Dimension Data (page 20).

And, if you are in any way responsible for business continuity in London and the south east and you don’t think this applies to you, let me finish with an extract from the official Olympics business continuity guide:

“The Olympics is the equivalent to having Wimbledon, two cup finals and the G20 Summit on the same day, every day for two weeks. The Games will be watched by four billion people worldwide, will be covered by 40,000 journalists and broadcasters and will be the largest ever peace time security operation in the UK.”

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