With arrival of swine flu, have an IT plan in place


POSTED: Sunday, May 10, 2009

With the recent news that the swine flu has hit our shores, many folks are scrambling to prepare for the worst. While there are certainly many pressing considerations, preparing your businesses or organizations for a pandemic should be high on the list of things to take into account. More specifically, many information technology-related items should be addressed.

In fact, the federal government has published a Web site, pandemicflu.gov, which provides a wealth of information about the swine flu. It includes checklists for federal, state and local government organizations, individuals, schools, health-care institutions, communities and businesses. IT-related items are prevalent throughout all of these lists but especially for businesses.

Some key excerpts include:

» Put together a plan that identifies essential employees and other critical resources, such as computer systems, that are required to maintain business operations. Systems often require human intervention for regular maintenance, so some representation of IT staff is almost always critical.

» Anticipate an absence rate and prepare an ancillary work force. If your own staff can't come in, perhaps contractors, employees in other positions or former employees can fill in. With respect to IT, arrangements can be made in advance so that the replacement employee or contractor can be brought up to speed prior to the actual need.

» Establish flexible work-site policies. By now many companies have facilities to provide for telecommuting. Typically, though, such provisions are not robust enough to handle a large percentage of off-site workers. Businesses need to strongly consider enhancing their technical infrastructure to support heavy telecommuting.

» Establish an emergency communications plan. Identify key contacts and backups, as well as a chain of command and processes for communication. E-mail, text messaging, cell phones and other technologies will be vital here.

Along those lines, while it is no small endeavor, businesses should consider some type of system to assist with collaboration. Such systems help to facilitate work flow when people cannot meet face to face.

Microsoft's Sharepoint Server (http://www.microsoft. com/sharepoint) is currently the 800-pound gorilla when it comes to software of this type. Its competitors include OpenText's ECM Suite (http://www.opentext. com) and O3Spaces Workplace (www.o3spaces.org), among others. O3Spaces is an open-source offering; its entry-level Community Edition is free to download.

John Agsalud is the director of professional services, Pacific region, for Decision Research Corp. Reach him at 949-8316, ext. 171., or at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).