No Omen: IBM Launches Pandemic Assessment Service On 6/6/06

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It’s just a coincidence that IBM Global Services chose the date 6/6/06 to launch a services practice around pandemic assessment, said Brent Woodworth, worldwide segment manager of the IBM Crisis Response Team.

IBM has no knowledge of any unearthly events that may or may not occur today or any other day, but the IT giant wants customers to be prepared for the worst, Woodworth said.

“This offering is based on a lot of experience my team has had with business continuity and recovery services. My team has responded to over 70 international events,” including last year’s tsunami in Indonesia and Thailand and Hurricane Katrina, Woodworth said.

IBM developed the pandemic assessment services in part because of the increase in significant natural disasters in the past few years, Woodworth said. “With the potential risk of something such as the pandemic flu, that is another layer on top of natural disasters. This could have a significant impact on human capital, the personnel to conduct daily business and getting supplies. There are many factors that come into play,” Woodworth said.

“What we learned over time [was] there are huge benefits to being proactive in preparing for crisis events. The return is significant,” he added.

Woodworth cited a December 2005 Congressional report in which an independent agency found that for every dollar spent in predisaster mitigation, the cost savings was $4. “When you have 4-to-1 for predisaster mitigation, it makes sense. It’s like taking the car in for an oil change or going to a doctor for a checkup. An ounce of prevention equals a pound of cure,” he said.

IBM’s new service provides an assessment of businesses’ core functions, including communications, supply chain, IT, facilities, security, customer support and operations.

IGS plans separate offerings for small and midsize businesses, starting at $10,000, and enterprise/government customers, priced between $50,000 and $150,000. The enterprise solution includes a deep interview to identify trigger points within a company that would shut down operations because of an external impact, Woodworth said.

“Tough decisions have to be made. Everyone needs to understand their roles and responsibilities. There should be a pandemic risk management team for executives, visitors and employees,” he said.

IGS will market the service to end users but also will resell the offering through solution providers, as it would any other service, Woodworth said. IGS also could enlist third-party companies to fulfill the services, he added.

“This will be part of the bevy of services that those resellers can provide to their customers. For the small-business side, the entry point is $10,000. Even up to the $30,000 range, it’s still very reasonable for the quality of output and the benefit you get out of it,” Woodworth said. “If a small business has to shut its doors more than five to seven days, there’s a 50 percent chance they will go bankrupt. This may help them come up with a low-cost alternative strategy in event of a pandemic. Or it may even be how to diversify in times of crisis.”

The service is part of IGS’ strategy to help customers beyond meeting their IT hardware needs, an approach that other solution providers should follow, Woodworth said.

“You have to get to the core function of their business. IT is only one component of the major layers of running a business,” he said.

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