Which breach virus or pandemic will put you out of business
The retailer Target experienced a significant data breach earlier in the year. Thousands of customers had to have their credit cards reissued. The firm suffered reputational damage and lower sales.
Home Depot suffered an even bigger breach. Reportedly, when their IT staff asked for more funding for security, managers refused saying “we sell hammers.” The NY Times stated “security experts were flabbergasted that Home Depot, one of the world’s largest retailers, was caught so flat-footed after the breach at Target…”
Then a few months later JPMorgan Chase reported a data breach affecting 76 million households and 7 million small businesses. The extent of the damage is still being calculated.
What should organizations take away from these instances? Most assuredly they have to learn that their infrastructure should be better protected from hackers and other sophisticated security threats – but that’s not the only lesson here.
The comedian Mort Sahl used to tell a joke (which I’m significantly cleaning-up) about an elderly, religious man living alone in his home when a dam broke and a big flood was on its way. He turned away the first set of rescuers explaining he was a religious man and god would protect him. He turned away the second set of rescuers for the same reason. After his first floor was flooded forcing him upstairs he turned away a rowboat of rescuers, again with confidence god would protect him. When the water forced him to the roof a helicopter dropped him a rope ladder which he again refused. After he drowned and went to heaven he asked god why he didn’t protect him. God replied “Idiot! I sent two cars a boat and a helicopter!”
When organizations are surprised by disasters no one saw coming we can all understand that that they do the best that they can. However, when organizations are given clear warnings yet lack either the skills to recognize them or the will to act, they have only themselves (or their poor management) to blame.
If you believe that these incidents of hacking and breaches are now a known issue and this won’t happen again…well, you’re mistaken.
The Ebola virus has caused the biggest health crisis in modern history. The loss of human life is staggering. Western Africa was all but crippled. Approximately 400 health workers trying to assist those stricken also contracted the disease – over 200 of them have died. While many global businesses have been downplaying the problem as something happening somewhere else, the virus did what viruses do – it spread. A patient at a hospital in Dallas, Texas, USA was diagnosed with and died from the virus. According to published reports he may have come into contact with over 100 people – and some were quarantined. An NBC News cameraman has also contracted the virus. His reporter and crew had to be quarantined due to the exposure.
Will Ebola force US or European businesses to face the same kind of multi-day shut-down that Sierra Leone used to try to inhibit the spread of the virus? We all hope it won’t come to that of course, but can we risk ignoring the warning signs? Whether it’s Ebola or the recently spreading Enterovirus, or some other pandemic – can your organization risk shutting down because employees can’t or won’t get to the office? This episode is as much a warning to enterprises as the security breaches I mentioned earlier.
I’ve written for years about “Smarter Working” – how smaller office footprints and collaboration technologies allow knowledge workers to be productive from wherever they are, and allow organizations to realize great savings and increased productivity. One side benefit of these plans and technologies is that they let your organization keep operating when employees have to work remotely. Organizations that have embraced collaboration technologies can utilize them as one part of a robust and appropriate business continuity pan.
So here’s the key question. Is your organization – from SMB to Multi-National Firm – able to reach all your employees tomorrow and tell them to work remotely till the next crisis passes? Or will you be the next Home Depot that should have invested in the appropriate technology and planning at the first warning signs of trouble?
My firm would maintain our business operations (and global leadership) if for some reason we suddenly couldn’t get to an office. We work remotely as needed every day. Personally, I help firms design effective collaboration strategies – blending best-in-breed technologies and best-practice processes to achieve desired business outcomes. Of course please reach out to us if we can help – but if it’s us or another technology partner, don’t wait till it’s too late to embrace an effective collaboration strategy that supports Smarter Working and remote employees. Learn to read the warning signs. Get in the boat.