Made in IBM Labs: IBM unveils new disaster management tool for building resilient enterprise

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NEW DELHI and BANGALORE, India - 20 Jul 2007: Bandhs, rains, outages, pandemics and acts of terrorism are true risks that cannot be ignored. If your employees were forced to not come to the office tomorrow, how well would your business operations continue to run? How well are you prepared to respond and continue operations in the face of disruptions… without losing momentum? IBM today announced that its researchers at India Research Laboratory have developed Resiliency Maturity Index (RMI), an innovative framework for building a resilient enterprise.

This new RMI framework consists of an innovative model to assess the end-to-end organizational resilience and quantitatively compute the resiliency score of the organization. The model helps executives understand how varying the resiliency of different components impacts the overall resiliency of the organization.

RMI can enable an enterprise to dramatically change the response and recovery capability from being an afterthought to an essential business imperative that will greatly enhance recovery efforts. The framework can be utilized to make investment decisions by quantitatively viewing the impact of an investment in a specific area on the overall resiliency score of the organization. The model provides a ‘drill-down’ view of the resiliency score at different levels of the organization, namely a resiliency score for the overall organization to an individual score for each business unit to a more granular view of defining a score for each component or sub-component in a business unit.

Researchers at the IBM India Research Laboratory designed the Resiliency Maturity Index to enable quantifying the effect of failures on an organization. This study recently published by the researchers demonstrated the utility of the RMI for multiple scenarios, including (a) making investment decisions to reach a target RMI score, (b) assessing the impact of expanding the organization, and (c) making a decision or sales pitch concerning outsourcing (e) Helping clients understand how various service providers compare in terms of Resiliency prior to making an outsourcing decision.

The RMI framework is built on top of the Resiliency Maturity Assessment Framework (RMAF) developed by IBM Zurich Research Lab and IBM Global Technology Services. The RMAF breaks down an organization into its components which can be assessed independently for Resiliency. The RMI framework extends the RMAF by bringing out the interactions between these components and their influence on the overall organizational Resiliency.

This is significant since, in a recent survey of financial investment firm managers, 66% said risk management should be a strategic business function and embedded deeply into the fabric of the organization. Unfortunately, less than 45% of companies surveyed have ever conducted a company wide risk assessment or have a sound continuity of operations plan in place.

“Businesses and governments operating in today's environment require capabilities across all three phases of crisis: readiness, response and recovery," said Dr. Daniel Dias, Director, IBM India Research Laboratory. "Organizations face a growing number of threats from natural and man-made disasters or disruptive events that have costly, far-reaching impact."

"Business leaders are faced with the challenge of keeping their enterprise running and growing-no matter what. Unfortunately, not every business is worried about continuity issues and maintaining a world-class continuity program. But failure to deal with risk, stay agile and prepare to plan for business continuity can have disastrous consequences on operations, revenue, even intangibles like the company's brand. Understanding what your risks are, where your exposure lies, and getting the business continuity process integrated throughout the organization are critical for your business," he said.

“In the age of outsourcing and globalization, enterprises need to rapidly adapt and respond to internal or external dynamic changes – opportunities, demands, disruptions or threats – and continue operations with limited impact to the business. Failures or threats that can test the resiliency of an organization can range from relatively simple power and network failures, to massive breakdowns from terrorist attacks, natural disasters, and pandemics,” says Dr. Guruduth Banavar, Associate Director, IBM India Research Laboratory, Bangalore.

Organizations need a comprehensive way to analyze the resiliency of their operations over a wide variety of failure modes. In addition, an organization is sometimes dependent on suppliers’ and partners’ services to accomplish its activities. In such cases, the resiliency analysis of a service provider organization ought to include the capabilities of the external entities that it is dependent on. For instance, pandemic planning requires the organization to consider the implications of a failure to customers and employees first and physical assets second. Despite the best efforts of organizations to create business continuity and disaster recovery plans, few will have considered the impact of a widespread disease that would affect human resources more so than technical survivability.

The value of the RMI framework to customers are that (a) it can help customers determine the resiliency benefits of moving from an in-house operation to an outsourced service vendor, and (b) it can help customers evaluate the relative resiliency of multiple service providers. IBM is now working with the Software Engineering Institute (SEI) at the Carnegie-Mellon University (CMU) to incorporate parts of the assessment framework into an industry standard.

In a related effort, IBM Researchers developed a "Skills Planning" model for optimal allocation of skills (job roles) across an organization's multiple sites to minimize the impact of a disaster at any one site. This model factors in various operational aspects that occur in practice, including critical workloads, skill levels, mobile workers, multi-skilled workers, cross-training, operations in shifts, wage costs and multi-location communication or management overheads.

IBM is already a leader in traditional workplace recovery services for front-office and back-office operations and this new solution is a logical progression that offers additional choice and flexibility as enterprises look at all dimensions of their continuity program.

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