As the war with Iraq progresses, businesses and IT leaders should be carefully gauging how world events might affect them and move to protect their supply chain, communications and workers.
Those were the recommendations today from a group of industry analysts from Gartner, who participated in a conference call about the effects of the war. In addition to the discussion, titled "Conflict in Iraq: Key Issues for Business and IT," the company also offers information for businesses online.
One of the keys for companies, said analyst Roberta Witty, is to re-evaluate and modify existing business continuity plans that deal with technology disruptions. The war, terrorism threats and recent public health alerts for a killer pneumonia "all present new scenarios that companies have to address" beyond the norms of typical IT disaster planning, Witty said. "Planning for these takes a whole new skills set," including quickly allowing people to work from home.
Including emergency management policies in business continuity plans and figuring out how to protect and keep track of workers in the event of attacks or other problems are also important, she said.
Analyst Diane Morello said that as employee fears and tensions increase because of uncertainty about world events, she expects to see "a lot of companies that will make or break their reputations" with how they help workers handle the stress.
John Girard, a mobile networks and security analyst, said businesses should make sure that remote access systems for telecommuting workers are ready, easily scalable and up to the task of providing uninterrupted access for a protracted period.
Those users, he said, should also have access to several ways of getting into a corporate network, such as using broadband and dial-up connections as backup should one or the other fail to work.
Analyst Dave Neil said it's a "major concern" that 18 months after the September 11, 2001, attacks, many businesses still use only one telecommunications backbone provider and have no backup arrangements they can quickly implement if needed. To ensure that they stay connected with workers in the event that primary systems are lost, companies should look at video and voice conferencing, voice-over-IP systems, wireless LANs and other means of alternative communications, he said.
Analyst Robert Goodwin said companies should also check their business supply chains to ensure a smooth and continuous flow of materials. Companies should contact vendors and suppliers ahead of time to be sure they can meet expectations and find alternatives now in case of disruptions in the chain, he said.
Because of the war, some previous legal arrangements can become null and void, said analyst Dan Miklovic. "There are potential disruptions you should be aware of," he said.