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.

Instant Messaging Interchange? Monday, Feb 23 2009 

One of the challenges for enterprises when implementing instant messaging is to decide whether or not to connect their enterprise instant messaging (EIM) solution with other instant messaging solutions. In order to make the connection, a gateway is generally implemented that permits the exchange of IM messages – providing the EIM solution selected has a gateway that supports the connection and translation required with the other IM system(s).

Thomson Reuters recently announced their launch of Reuters Messaging (RM) Interchange , a service which allows an enterprise to connect with other EIM systems. The service is currently limited to connecting Cisco’s Jabber XCP, IBM Lotus’ Sametime, and Microsoft’s LCS/OCS – although those are the big three in the enterprise instant messaging and unified communications market.

The idea of an IM interchange is interesting, but ultimately, vendors need to implement the standards (XMPP and SIP/SIMPLE) for the benefit of their customers and the technology. It has been said many times by many different people – IM messages should be as easy to exchange as e-mail and telephone. While the standards are only one barrier (others include security, compliance, directory, and controls) to interoperability, implementing them would hasten the fall of the rest.

It will be interesting to see how Reuters Messaging (RM) Interchange does in the market, as it solves the IM communication problem that the vendors have not fully addressed – but for a price.