IT Disaster in the Making

By Edward Cone  |  Posted 06-05-2008 Print Email
Too few businesses see IT disasters as business continuity threats. CIOs need to change that mindset--fast.

It's likely that your company is not well-prepared for an IT disaster--and doesn't view IT disasters as business continuity crises. To make matters worse, your CEO and board probably don't give these issues enough attention. The CIO needs to do something about all of this--and quickly.

That's the outlook from Accenture's Gil Brodnitz, senior executive in the strategic IT effectiveness practice, and Gary Curtis, global co-lead for technology consulting, who say that disaster planning is usually focused on the lessons of 9/11 instead of what comes next. Companies are prepared for site failures, but they aren't war-gaming other scenarios that could destroy them.

Brodnitz cites Nassim Nicholas Taleb's "black swan" theory, which holds that massive hard-to-predict events can crash onto the scene with huge consequences.

"People are fighting the last war," says Brodnitz. "What if the sites were fine, but all the people were gone?"

Think avian flu. Then consider what an empty data center could mean for your firm.

Contingencies can be anticipated. Curtis worked on hurricane preparedness with a company in Florida. The data center was built to withstand wind and water, but there's also a plan to get workers to the site after a regional disaster and provide them with necessities like fresh water.

IT takes the lead in architecting such plans, but the responsibility must be shared with corporate leaders. At most companies, Brodnitz says, "That's not sinking in." Accenture predicts a coming crisis. "We haven't seen a major company go down because of a database failure, but it's been close," says Brodnitz. "Something like that might have to happen for this to be a board-level issue. And it will happen."

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