H1N1 – Preparing for the Worst and Hoping for the Best Friday, Oct 9 2009 

Social distancing is a strategy that the federal government has included in the response plans for an H1N1 epidemic. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services states in its Guidance for Businesses and Employers to Plan and Respond to the 2009 – 2010 Influenza Season:

“If severity increases, public health officials may recommend a variety of methods for increasing the physical distance between people (called social distancing) to reduce the spread of disease, such as school dismissal, child care program closure, canceling large community gatherings, canceling large business-related meetings, spacing workers farther apart in the workplace, canceling non-essential travel, and recommending work-from-home strategies for workers that can conduct their business remotely.”

The guidance also states:

  • “Explore whether you can establish policies and practices, such as flexible worksites (e.g., telecommuting) and flexible work hours (e.g., staggered shifts), when possible, to increase the physical distance among employees and between employees and others if local public health authorities recommend the use of social distancing strategies. Ensure that you have the information technology and infrastructure needed to support multiple workers who may be able to work from home.
  • Identify essential business functions, essential jobs or roles, and critical elements within your supply chains (e.g., raw materials, suppliers, subcontractor services/products, and logistics) required to maintain business operations. Plan for how your business will operate if there is increasing absenteeism or these supply chains are interrupted.
  • Set up authorities, triggers, and procedures for activating and terminating the company’s response plan, altering business operations (e.g., possibly changing or closing operations in affected areas), and transferring business knowledge to key employees. Work closely with your local health officials to identify these triggers.
  • Plan to minimize exposure to fellow employees or the public if public health officials call for social distancing.
  • Establish a process to communicate information to workers and business partners on your 2009 H1N1 influenza response plans and latest 2009 H1N1 influenza information. Anticipate employee fear, anxiety, rumors, and misinformation, and plan communications accordingly.”

The impact on the business can be significant if the enterprise has not planned ahead. Key communication and collaboration tools (e.g. e-mail, instant messaging, web conferencing, and team workspaces) should be identified and evaluated for capabilities to help an enterprise to continue to function in the event that facilities are closed and large numbers of employees in certain geographic areas are ill or have to work remotely.

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The Power of the Blog Monday, Dec 29 2008 

As I research, review, and analyze collaboration technologies – like everyone else – I get caught up in the technicalities and sometimes forget that collaboration is first, and foremost, about people working together. This CNN article illustrates the power of blog technology making a difference. Something to ponder when technicalities bog you down…

Blog ‘miracle’ saves Christmas for hard-luck family

IBM Announces Lotus Notes Hosted Messaging Thursday, Oct 23 2008 

“And so it begins…”

That is the lead that Larry Cannell will use next week when he kicks off our telebriefing entitled “Software as a Service Enterprise E-mail: Get Ready to Go Beyond the Grind.” Today, IBM officially announced Lotus Notes Hosted Messaging. The three heavy weights are now in the SaaS e-mail ring: Microsoft, IBM, and Google. Cisco and Yahoo! have said they will be joining soon.

For many organizations, this means that SaaS e-mail services are now a viable option, especially now that the two primary vendors of on-premise e-mail (IBM and Microsoft) have a SaaS alternative. IT departments can realistically consider transferring the responsibility and headaches for this essential utility to a vendor and reallocate their stretched time and resources to other projects. 

Legal compliance and discovery will remain a concern for many organizations. Who owns, possesses, and accesses the data in e-mail is important. A significant amount of any organization’s intellectual property flows through its e-mail. However, I expect that concern will be resolved over time as legal precedence is set and the vendors become more compliance savvy in their SaaS offerings. 

Organizations will benefit from SaaS e-mail because it will spur more innovation by the vendors. The e-mail client is an example. The web client has made significant technological progress because of consumer web e-mail. It will likely replace the desktop client in the future because of the advantages it provides a SaaS e-mail vendor. A SaaS vendor will not want to, or possibly be able to, upgrade desktop clients – that is difficult enough today for organizations with on-premise deployments. 

The change in the delivery model also provides many benefits. For example, not many organizations can say today that they are providing e-mail services for less than $10 a month per user. The economies of scale that the vendors can bring to this market will make the price point of SaaS e-mail very attractive. In addition, getting e-mail off of IT’s responsibility list will free them to work on other projects that may lend competitive advantage to an organization. 

A price war is a possibility. There is a significant amount of revenue at stake in this market. IBM is starting at $10 per user per month for Lotus Notes Hosted Messaging. Microsoft Exchange Online is also $10 per user per month. Google Apps Premier Edition (GAPE) suite of tools for enterprises is starting at $50 per year per user. Cisco (PostPath) and Yahoo! (Zimbra) have yet to announce pricing. 

“So it begins, the great battle of our time.” – Gandalf, Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.

Note:  This is a cross-posting from the Collaboration and Content Strategies blog.