The huge influx of visitors to the London 2012 Olympic Games will be a huge headache for businesses in London.
While the Games will see a number of technology firsts, the Olympic organisers have also been urging firms to update their business continuity planning for months, and to test them in the run up to the Games.
Where the impact of the Games will be felt
The biggest impact of the Games will be felt in and around competition venues and across central London, but other events are taking part in Weymouth and football stadia in Cardiff, Coventry, Glasgow and others, which means the impact of the Games will be bigger than just London.
And it’s not just congestion on the roads that firms are worried about: London’s wired and wireless communications infrastructure will also be under serious strain.
For example Locog, which is running the Games, warns there could be internet outages and slowdowns because of the huge number of people accessing it. Businesses may even face bandwidth rationing, it has warned, “ISPs may introduce data caps during peak times to try and spread the loading and give a more equal service to their entire customer base.”
Despite additional capacity, mobile phone networks are also likely to feel the strain, so while you should be able to make a call, don’t expect to be able to download big files or images on the go.
As a result, it has warned businesses to check with their ISPs as to their contract and the likely service they will be able to offer during the Games – including any measures they may introduce to manage peak demand.
Corporate networks will also feel the strain, with more staff working from home networks may buckle under the strain of video-conferencing as well as staff catching up on the Olympic highlights when they ought to be working.
“In developing your business continuity plan for the Games you will need to ensure that any increase in homeworking is supported by appropriate IT, and that internal systems and ISPs (ISPs) have been engaged in the planning process so that the demands on the system can be understood and managed.”
Government already has plans in place: 16 departments across Whitehall have agreed to work flexibly to cut the amount of travel – whether commuting, business travel and deliveries – in the centre of London during the Games period. This might involve changing the time of travel or making better use of tele-conferencing, or working remotely.
Are businesses ready for the Games?
Not all businesses have got their plans in place, or told their staff: research by SunGard Availability Services, found that while four out of five businesses claim plans in place to combat Olympic disruption, only half have told their staff about them – which is perhaps why nine out of ten employees still feel in the dark about Olympic working policies.
Disruptions to their supply chain – and the break down in productivity that will come from employees watching the Olympics – are the biggest concerns, tech based disruptions such as network failures and security breaches close behind.
One company that already got its plans in place is talent measurement company SHL. It is going to be directly affected by the Games, as the Olympic cycling road race will go directly in front of its location in Thames Ditton, Surrey.
Robert Stephens, CTO at SHL said the company has been planning for the fact that it will be “difficult, if not impossible” for its 320 staff to get the office. “We’ve known this has been coming for a while and have been having to plan for that.”
Stephens said one factor in the company’s favour is that in the last few years it has become ISO 9001 and 27001 certified which has required it to do very specific business continuity planning: “Each of our departments there have had to build business continuity plans in which they had to describe how they would deal with a situation such as this, or a catastrophic type situation where they couldn’t be in the office. Now we’re going to be enacting those plans in a real-world scenario.”
SHL has moved all business critical systems – such as email and finance -out of its local offices and into a resilient datacenter, giving staff access via VPN. It has also given all staff laptops so they can work from home. It has also worked on internal and customer communication to make sure everyone knows what is planned. “What’s nice with the Olympics is that we have warning,” said Stephens. “Hopefully we can pull this off with absolutely no impact.”