Americans’ view of the world changed after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. And those changing views led to three important developments for business leaders:
1. Risk management moved front and center.
While many organizations employed risk managers before 2001, the attacks that day led to a new sense of urgency for understanding threats to people, operations and assets around the globe. It also led to a proliferation of issues for executives like CIOs to tackle, and questions from corporate boards, line of business managers, employees and the public at large.
Before 9/11, executives who had been posted in other parts of the world — in the U.K. when the Irish Republican Army was actively engaged in violence, or the Middle East, for example — understood the potential for risk from terror attack.
Combined with the globalization trend in business, the post-9/11 environment made a panoramic view of risk both essential and inevitable.
2. Business continuity and disaster recovery plans emerged from storage and now covermore than hurricanes and earthquakes.
Make no mistake, the experience of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 would later show the value of natural disaster contingency planning. But in the immediate wake of 9/11, the uncertainty surrounding that day’s events, and the challenges of responding to an
unprecedented emergency, led disaster recovery managers (as well as emergency response experts, building architects and engineers) to expand their criteria for examining potential risks and outcomes. How can you communicate, keep track of employees, loved ones? And when the disaster event is over, how can you carry on?
Large companies with far-flung operations, like Wal-Mart and Starbucks have established sophisticated emergency control rooms to monitor people and operations around the globe, constantly scanning weather in the air, political conditions on the ground and assets in transit.
Considering the emerging challenges presented by substandard goods produced in China, it’s easy to imagine more companies building such facilities– or contracting with others to give them a global view of their operations risks.
This reality leads to the next point:
3. Technology now pervades security and disaster planning thinking and programs.
In a story assessing the first-year anniversary of Sept. 11, Sarah D. Scalet reported on the efforts of CIOs on Wall Street to carry on after their facilities were inaccessible. They discussed not only backup data centers but also negotiating for redundant data transmission lines in Manhattan in case one line was unavailable.
We’ve subsequently seen how surveillance systems helped London police identify four
suspects in the July 7, 2005 subway bombings one day after the carnage. And how transportation officials have used digital video analytics to not only watch for suspicious activity but also to make decisions about train service and train station staffing.
While IT, used for surveillance as well as data mining and pattern recognition is central to government efforts to prevent another terror attack, the practice of monitoring employees’ activities and access to data systems has pervaded the private sector, so much so that CIO.com recently published advice on How to Monitor Workers’ Use of IT Without Becoming Big Brother.