This past Feb. 2, at 5:15 p.m., Alan Boehme, 47, VP and CIO of Juniper Networks, left his office and climbed into his black 2004 Infiniti G-35. He pulled out of the company parking lot and began the 90-minute drive to his home in Half Moon Bay, a coastal town in Northern California\u2019s San Mateo County. Boehme\u2019s work had been going well. In December, he had completed an ambitious restructuring of the $2.5 billion networking company\u2019s IT infrastructure, globalizing its operations and laying the foundation for its future growth.\n\nBoehme took California Highway 280 to Highway 92, a two-lane road about 10 minutes from his house. A few seconds later, a drunk driver in Boehme\u2019s lane hit him head-on.\n\n\n\n\nAlan Boehme\n\n\u201cThe person in front of me swerved off the road because he saw the guy coming,\u201d Boehme recalls. \u201cThe next thing you know, these headlights were coming straight at me. We hit headlight to headlight. I remember thinking, my wife and son are going to lose their husband and father.\u201d \n\nThey didn\u2019t. But the aftermath was ugly. \n\n\u201cI felt blood just gushing down my face and I was in a state of panic and shock,\u201d says Boehme. \u201cSomehow, I was able to get the seat belt off, kick the door open. I got out of the car and just started yelling, \u2018Help me, help me.\u2019\u201d \n\n\n\n\nJuniper Networks CIO Alan Boehme's 2004 Infiniti G-35 after the crash.\n\nA person who witnessed the crash helped Boehme to the side of the road. An artery in his nose had been severed and he was bleeding profusely. \u201cI had broken bones in my face, and my nose was turned sideways and crushed,\u201d he says. \u201cI ended up with a contusion of the skull and a fracture at the base of the skull, along with, we found out later, a series of injuries to the left side of my body, including my knee, where there were torn ligaments and a crushed kneecap, as well as a broken finger and torn muscles in the shoulder from the seatbelt.\u201d \n\nBoehme lay on the side of the road as EMTs attended to the drunk driver, believing his stomach wound was more life-threatening than Boehme\u2019s injuries. \u201cI was very upset that here\u2019s this person who for all I knew had ended my life, and at minimum had dramatically impacted my life, and they\u2019re rushing to save him,\u201d he recalls. Feeling cold and abandoned, Boehme asked the man who had stopped to grab his BlackBerry. He called his wife, Alisa , who arrived 20 minutes later with their 11-year-old son, David. They found Boehme lying on the roadside, still waiting to be taken to the hospital. \n\nLater that night, at Stanford Medical Center, doctors monitored what they believed was a fluid leak in Boehme\u2019s brain. They stitched up his face and put IVs in both arms. Boehme drifted off as the painkillers did their work. He awoke Saturday morning to find his BlackBerry by his side. \n\n\u201cI don\u2019t know if my wife picked it up or if they put it on my person,\u201d says Boehme, \u201cbut I e-mailed Danny Moquin [his VP of IT operations and infrastructure]: \u2018Been in a car accident. You need to take over.\u2019\u201d \n\n\nThe Importance of Succession Planning\nWhat happens when a key player in a company goes down? Who takes over? What effect will replacing an individual have on operations? While most businesses have org charts that map out what to do after disruptions\u2014whether they\u2019re caused by resignation, firing, retirement, sickness, injury or death\u2014these are often crude in format and live in dusty filing cabinets in HR. And because succession planning often falls under the categories of disaster recovery and business continuity, it frequently receives less attention than does preparing for sexier events such as hurricanes, earthquakes and terrorist attacks, even though these are far less likely to occur than, for example, a car accident. \n\nPlanning for major catastrophes also emphasizes information systems and the proprietary data within them and all too often gives short shrift to the people who manage it all.\n\u201cThe old question is, \u2018What if someone gets hit by a bus?\u2019 Well, we know the answer to that now,\u201d says Moquin, who took over for Boehme during his two-and-a-half-month convalescence. Your Succession Toolbox\n Get help capturing employee skill sets and experience \nA 2006 report by Aberdeen Research notes that 62 percent of companies operate their succession planning in a paper-based, spreadsheet format. Prior to CIO Alan Boehme\u2019s car crash, Juniper Networks largely worked on that model. Now, Boehme says he hopes to implement an HR solution from Oracle\u2019s PeopleSoft that will help capture more employee data. Other companies might consider similar systems when forming a comprehensive plan, but Kevin Martin, an Aberdeen analyst, notes that there are very few vendors dedicated solely to developing software for succession planning. However, here\u2019s a list of ERP and Human Capital Management (HCM) software that he says could help:\n\n ERP Solutions \n\nOracle (PeopleSoft)\nInfor\n\nHuman Capital Management Solutions \n\nSilkRoad Technology\nSoftscape\nSuccessFactors\nMeta4\nSapien\n\u2014C.G. Lynch\n\n\nCompanies often lack succession plans that reach beyond their C-level officers and their direct reports. In a report by Aberdeen Research, 82 percent of the companies surveyed claimed to have a succession plan for their executives, while only 17 percent did for lower-level workers and just 12 percent for their IT staff. This leaves less-visible (and often younger) employees stepping into managerial roles after a disturbance in the head ranks, often without sufficient training or preparation. \n\n\u201cIdeally, it starts with the C-level and the direct reports, but it can\u2019t just stop at the management level,\u201d says Sam Bright, an analyst at Forrester Research. \u201cThere are key people on the technical side that if the company were to lose them, it would have a huge impact on performance.\u201d \n\nToday, after the collision on Highway 92, Boehme and his staff know that no matter an organization\u2019s size or how solid and well thought out its processes, individuals matter. \n\n\u201cObviously, a well-run corporation isn\u2019t about a single leader,\u201d says Boehme. \u201cBut still, what are those unsaid things that a person does or that a person contributes to that are not in the process? Those are the hard things to measure, and those are the hard things to plan for.\u201d \n\nThe Pre-Crash Plan\nIn the year leading up to his crash, succession planning had come up in conversations Boehme had had with his direct reports. They had a plan laid out on spreadsheets. The document, which resembled a standard org chart, lived in HR. It covered Juniper\u2019s C-level officers, IT executive team, and their direct reports\u2014and not much else. This type of succession plan is typical in the majority of America\u2019s top companies, 62 percent of which use the same method, according to the Aberdeen survey. While Juniper\u2019s HR stored r\u00e9sum\u00e9s on its system as well, Boehme says \u201cyou couldn\u2019t just press a button to get what you need.\u201d \n\nThe reason Juniper\u2019s plan went no farther was not laziness; it was, says Boehme, time pressure. During his first year and a half as CIO, Boehme restructured Juniper\u2019s operations and infrastructures in Asia, Europe and the U.S.\u2014each with its own networks and systems\u2014and put them all under one umbrella. This was not just about technology for Boehme; it was a managerial challenge. The direct reports he inherited after he came on board in 2005 were, he says, lukewarm about the integration. \n\n\u201cChange is difficult,\u201d Boehme says. \u201cSome people self-selected themselves out of the organization. I literally replaced the entire leadership team of the IT organization, all of my direct reports, with the exception of one.\u201d \n\nAs Boehme\u2019s some 300 IT employees and contractors adapted to a lot of change, it was hard for him to focus on a formal succession plan, at least until he conceptualized their new roles and established a new chain of command. \u201cBecause we\u2019d just gotten through the restructuring, we\u2019d just started to move to standardizing the job ladders,\u201d he says. \u201cWe\u2019d done some of the work, but [at the time of the car crash] it was basically a work in progress.\u201d \n\nSince his return, Boehme has made installing Oracle\u2019s PeopleSoft software, which logs employee data for succession planning, a high priority. However, he says he won\u2019t implement it until Juniper has collected sufficient information about his employees\u2019 skill sets and work histories. Experts say that\u2019s wise. An automated solution of this type is only as good as the information put into it. A lot of companies don\u2019t have enough information about the skill sets, leadership skills and experience levels of their employees to warrant spending on an automated system, notes Kevin Martin, research director of human capital management and analyst at Aberdeen. \u201cThe primary reason that companies are still paper-based is that they don\u2019t have the succession planning process nailed down yet,\u201d he says. 3 Key Succession Planning TipsExpert advice on how to leave your business in a position to move forward when the predictably unpredictable occurs \n\n1. Extend succession plans as far down the chain as possible. When a disruption occurs, \u201cit cascades through the entire organization,\u201d says Kevin Martin, an analyst with Aberdeen Group. \u201cYou should be prepared at every level, two to three people deep.\u201d \n\n2. Encourage people to step in for others during vacations. This builds expertise. \u201cIt\u2019s like trying to tell if someone can ride a bicycle when you\u2019ve never seen them ride,\u201d says William J. Rothwell, a consultant who deals with HR management and succession planning. \u201cAn excellent way to find out is to let them ride the bicycle for short distances.\u201d\n\n3. Assess employee skill sets. This could prevent you from having to go into the market and overpay for talent you might already have in-house. \u201cThere are so many skills in demand,\u201d says Sam Bright, an analyst at Forrester Research. \u201cIf you have to go outside, you\u2019re going to pay a premium. You need to know what you have in-house.\u201d \n\u2014C.G. Lynch\n\n\n\nThe Ripple Effect\nIn Moquin, Boehme had the benefit of a fairly obvious replacement while he was recovering. As a friend and colleague (they worked together at GE Energy, a $20 billion division of the company that Boehme worked for from 1999 to 2003), Moquin was put in charge of Juniper\u2019s IT operations and infrastructure when he was hired by Boehme in June 2006. \u201cIt was pretty clear that Danny was going to be the person we went to,\u201d says Bill Skeet, director of IT communications and Web technology, one of Boehme\u2019s direct reports. \u201cSometimes, it\u2019s just enough to know that when someone is absent, there is a \u2018Number One\u2019 that fills in, taking the Star Trek analogy.\u201d \n\nApproval processes were shifted to Moquin, who began sitting in on the senior leadership meetings that Boehme normally attended. Almost immediately, however, Moquin noticed something obvious but inescapable: His old work didn\u2019t suddenly go away. \n\n\u201cThe eye opener was that as I started taking on Alan\u2019s responsibilities, especially his strategic ones, I had to look to my team and start delegating both some of Alan\u2019s work and some of my own,\u201d he says. \n\nThe consequences rippled through the entire IT department. And as work was passed down the chain of command, it became clear that simple delegation had its difficulties. For instance, one IT lieutenant, Brian Nichols, senior director of business program management, was charged with overseeing an upgrade to a business process management software project that had hit some snags in Boehme\u2019s absence. But because some of Boehme\u2019s responsibilities had trickled down to him, Nichols found himself with an overflowing plate. Although it would have been desirable for him to pass the BPM project on to one of his reports, he didn\u2019t feel that any of them had sufficient management expertise to handle it on their own. \u201cI had to step in when I would have liked to have delegated,\u201d Nichols recalled. \n\nNichols now says he recognizes the importance of giving his direct reports the same type of leadership training that he, Moquin and other director-level reports have received. Analysts say this is especially vital in a field like IT, where technical workers usually have the requisite skills to do the job but often lack the necessary managerial expertise.\n\u201cYou need to encourage employee development beneath the managerial ranks,\u201d says Forrester\u2019s Bright. \u201cWhen attrition occurs, you can\u2019t take the time to catch people up when you have a gaping hole to fill.\u201d \n\nBoehme says that before the accident, Moquin was in the process of laying out a training program for managers and people who aspired to be managers, but \u201cwe had been somewhere between the beginning and mid-stages of laying it out.\u201d He adds they plan to continue with the program in the future to develop a deeper bench. \u201cYou need it from the bottom up as well,\u201d he says. \n\nClout That\u2019s Hard to Replace\nMoquin says the momentum Boehme had established kept things moving forward after the crash. \u201cHaving everyone within the organization focused on the same goal made it easier to carry on,\u201d he says. \u201cThere weren\u2019t a bunch of different agendas.\u201d \n\nThat may have been true, but after Boehme\u2019s crash, Juniper\u2019s IT projects didn\u2019t all move forward with the same momentum they had in the past. Juniper employees say this wasn\u2019t due to a lack of leadership at the top; everyone contacted for this article lauded Moquin\u2019s leadership. But they say Boehme\u2019s C-level pull across the organization just couldn\u2019t be replaced, particularly with senior executives. \u201c[Boehme] has relationships and understands the needs of business partners at the senior VP level,\u201d says Nichols. With Boehme out of commission, communication at that level was compromised, Nichols adds. \n\nFor example, Juniper was in the process of implementing a new document management system. The decision to begin the project had been made at an executive steering committee meeting that Boehme had attended. After the decision was made to do the upgrade, Boehme placed Nichols in charge of implementing it. Nichols found a company that had the appropriate software and bought the licenses. However, when he began implementing it during Boehme\u2019s absence, a problem arose. One of the user groups didn\u2019t want it, preferring a homegrown system. \u201cWe had some pushback,\u201d says Nichols. \u201cI had to fight that battle without Alan and without knowing the context within which the decision was made. Normally, Alan would have taken care of it.\u201d \n\nWithout Boehme\u2014and without a subordinate with Boehme\u2019s full authority and knowledge of the situation\u2014a conflict that normally could have been resolved in a few hours took much longer and absorbed more energy than it needed to. \n\nBack to Normal?\nBoehme takes the train to work now. His days of driving fast, sporty cars are over. He recently bought a BMW X5, which is \u201cprobably the heaviest SUV I could find short of getting a [Chevy] Suburban,\u201d he says. He attends physical therapy sessions two to four days a week. Doctors tell him that his brain injury will take up to 18 months to fully heal. Since the crash, his blood pressure has risen and he now takes medicine for it. He still hurts. He gets tired earlier in the day. \u201cI come home from work and the first thing I do is sit down and rest for 20, 30 minutes before I can continue with my evening,\u201d he says. \n\nBoehme\u2019s injuries kept him out of the office for two and a half months. He admits that when someone misses that much time, it\u2019s not like coming back after a vacation. It\u2019s disorienting. In fact, he spent a lot of time planning his reentry with Moquin, COO Stephen Elop (to whom Boehme reports) and with Juniper\u2019s HR department. Boehme says he couldn\u2019t pick up where he had left off. \u201cIt wasn\u2019t like all of a sudden, I\u2019m back,\u201d he says. \n\nSuccession planning, however, has risen on the list of Boehme\u2019s business continuity priorities. He says he has nearly 45 people working on the new PeopleSoft HR system. It will include areas that log employee history to help Juniper executives and managers make a more comprehensive succession plan, from top to bottom and across the whole company. \n\nOther companies seem to be moving in that direction as well. According to Aberdeen, 39 percent of companies report now having a fully or partially automated solution for succession planning. \u201cAlthough [Juniper\u2019s] was paper-based and it worked, the accident wakes you up to realize that it can be much more efficient if it is systematized,\u201d Boehme says. \n\nBoehme reiterates that Juniper will continue to train workers at all levels in leadership and managerial skills to create a deeper, more agile bench. Analysts on succession planning and human capital suggest mentoring programs that have lower-level technical workers shadow their bosses from time to time and make connections with other leaders in the business. \u201cEstablishing political relationships helps grease the wheel,\u201d says Forrester\u2019s Bright. \u201cThey\u2019ll have established credibility.\u201d And perhaps that will help avoid situations like the one Nichols found himself in with the engineering group on the document management project. \n\nFor now, Boehme is working on regaining his energy while adjusting his schedule. He works at home more. He\u2019s set up a special router in his house that will ensure a secure connection to Juniper\u2019s network. He uses videoconferencing to help communicate with other Juniper sites across the globe. But more time working at home doesn\u2019t mean taking it easy; he says he\u2019s now as busy as ever. \n\nThe crash has given Boehme a new understanding of and appreciation for the human side of business continuity planning. \u201cWhen you think of business continuity and disaster recovery, you tend to think of earthquake and tornadoes and events,\u201d he says. Today, Boehme thinks about what most people don\u2019t want to think about: what can happen to a person in a bad moment. \n\n\u201cWe don\u2019t personalize these things,\u201d he says, \u201cbecause you don\u2019t want to wish what happened to me on anybody.\u201d \n\nAssociate Staff Writer C.G. Lynch can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.