City businesses plan ahead for the 2012 Olympics Games


With the London 2012 Olympic Games drawing closer, surveys are still indicating that most UK companies have yet to make any assessment on the impact of the Games on their businesses or staff. In light of this, a group of City businesses, including law firms, media organisations, underwriters and investment banks, came together to discuss their business continuity issues, with the help of The City of London Corporation, Frontier Technology and Citrix.

Potential Threats to Business Productivity

The benefits of the Olympic Games have been widely documented, with urban regeneration, increased employment and tourism set to occur.  However, the detrimental effects have hardly been publicised. From a business perspective, all meeting attendees agreed that there would be huge threats to productivity during the Games. The number of people in the UK is expected to rise by 300,000 with the number using public transport increasing by over 80,000.  All firms expressed major concerns about their staff getting to work, especially during the rush hour. Without remote working technology it was agreed that revenue loss was inevitable. Equally most delegates felt that the Olympic Games is a once in a lifetime event for many and that staff will want and expect to be able to join in with the celebrations.

“The London Olympics is obviously going to be a major event that we are all excited about, we need to find good balance so we manage staff excitement and maintain company productivity,” stated Stuart Purton, Personal Injury Team Manager, Hodge Jones and Allen LLP.

Gary Locker, Contingency Planning and Business Continuity Adviser at The City of London Corporation, spoke and answered business questions in the first half of the meeting.  He is all too aware of the challenges that the Games will place on the police and the local authority as they plan ahead to ensure a safe and secure Olympic Games.  In turn, he urges businesses not to leave it too late and to also forward plan so that they can maintain business as usual and be in a position to respond effectively to any incidents. The City of London is a key player within the framework of preparation for the Games; they recognise the need to build on the robust contingency plans currently in place. The requirement to have good communication processes in place is vital to providing appropriate information to City business and residents to help them to plan and prepare for and during the Olympic and Paralympics games.

The Games are not just set to affect London based companies; UK-wide everyone needs to prepare. Events are due to take place in 34 venues, and over 600 athletes’ training camps will be stationed nationwide.  Research has shown that only 13 percent of businesses have to date set up provisions to ensure that increases in workflow and staff absences can be managed carefully. All of the delegates envisaged the most disruption occurring during the marathon and opening ceremonies.  Organisations in and around Canary Wharf and the East of London were particularly anxious about the possibility of road closures, particularly for staff who work out of hours.

“Many of our staff work late, our firm is keen to learn more about the planned road closures and diversions to inform colleagues and clients. It is important to know the impact of the games so we can plan properly and ensure that our business will work efficiently.” Jeanette O’ Neil, Business Continuity Manager, Brewin Dolphin.

Mobile phone and blackberry reception also featured highly on the agenda.  The group expressed concerns regarding the potential loss of network coverage for mobile phones and PDAs. They were keen to speak in more detail to the major mobile network providers to see what they have scheduled to provide an on-going service during the Games.

Potential terrorism and risks to security were flagged as massive concerns for all delegates. Every firm expected to be targeted more during the Games and felt it necessary to stress-test their security networks. The security budget for the London Games was stepped up in December 2007, when an additional £238 million contingency fund was added to the £600 million already earmarked for the purpose. The London 2012 Olympics is set to be the biggest spend on security in Olympic history.

Safeguarding your Firm

Perhaps a lack of communication and media attention is the reason why many firms have yet to plan for the 2012 Olympics Games as of yet. However, all attendees felt that a seamless business continuity plan and a flexible workforce will provide the best solution to minimise revenue loss. Those who already had these in place were looking to strengthen security and stress test their contingency plans to ensure they are fail proof. All organisations also expressed the importance of carrying out due-diligence checks of all of their suppliers.

Alex Hill, Partner Readiness, from Citrix explained the tangible benefits of remote working and XenDesktop at all times but especially when facing business challenges to business such as the Olympic Games. He stated that as a company Citrix itself is very well versed in Disaster Recovery, given that its HQ is in Florida – a state which has suffered at the hands of hurricanes on many occasions. Alex also explained that businesses have already started to embrace desktop virtualisation, and take up is only set to increase further in the coming two years. Looking ahead to the Olympics and the potential disruption it could cause from a business continuity point of view, desktop virtualisation will enable employees to seamlessly access their exact work environment from any location or device.

Frontier Technology ended the meeting by stressing the importance of implementing a seamless business continuity plan and remote working. Edwin Wong, Managing Director, commented: “Looking back at other major events and the associated disruption, it is important to plan for any eventuality. Remote working and a seamless business continuity plan are essential measures for firms to safeguard their data and ensure maintained business continuity.” Frontier Technology offer hosted business continuity services and have data centres outside of London in Maidenhead and Milton Keynes. In the event of a business disaster, they offer their clients instant access to data and applications.

Unanswered Questions

The roundtable meeting brought up a number of unanswered business questions regarding the Olympics that the City of London, delegates and Frontier Technology plan to discuss in more detail. Another forum is scheduled on the 2nd September 2010 to explore the planned disruption further.