Refocus on business to ride out 'grim' economy

The September 11 World Trade Centre attack is gradually turning companies on their head, creating an anxiety previously unknown to business in the developed world. However, IT executives should seize this opportunity to focus on getting business back on track, a Gartner senior vice president of research said.

Gartner believes that businesses worldwide are operating against a backdrop of "global war and a fear sustained by global recession", and struggling more to look for positive signs of recovery, IT managers needto "focus on what matters" in order to ride out what appears a grim economic period for the global economy over the next year or so, said senior vice president of research Asia Pacific, Bob Hayward, at Gartner's ninth annual Symposium in Brisbane.

Hayward said that the September 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington had significant strategic ramifications for businesses from all industries, forcing them to contemplate for the first time in historyhow severely an act of terrorism could eradicate a company's longevity if it employed weak business contingency plans.

According to Hayward, half of all companies do not have the resources to contain costs and deploy recovery plans.

"While we acknowledge this fact, businesses cannot afford to ignore taking some form of caution. Survival ofan enterprise depends on successful business contingency planning."

Companies have been so deeply affected by the WTC attack that many are more risk-averse with employee travel arrangements, either banning international travel, using privately chartered jets, or making more use of alternative forms of technology like instant messaging or video and audioconferencing to continue conducting business with some level of immediacy, Hayward said.

The WTC tragedy, he said, has important implications for IT managers, whom he said needed to stop and assessthe quality of their IT infrastructure and disaster recovery strategies, particularly because Australian organisations were some of the "least innovative" in the developed world.

"Particularly for those local companies who rely on the US as suppliers and partners and more than a third of the victims of [September 11] were American organisations - US companies are highly likely to be more insular now and focus more on dealing with tough domestic issues," said Hayward.

"The globalisation of multinationals will be conducted more at arms length through agents in the channel and high-profile companies may choose to do business only with those who they see as allies. Likewise, more manufacturing will be outsourced to specialist companies," he added.

In order to survive this period of a relatively more insular US economy, Hayward said businesses must perform a thorough risk assessment to cover the event of a complete destruction of one of their production sites.

In the short-term, Australia will roll back IT spend in areas already in decline, like PCs and printers, but more so in large-ticket items like big iron mainframes, Hayward said.

Longer term, he said companies will invest more heavily in digital technology, such as ID cards and biotechnology including iris scanners and fingerprint, voice and face recognition systems in order to tighten security measures against privacy breaches.

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