By Marcus Leach

The ability of organisations in the UK to maintain ‘business as usual’ during London 2012 is in serious doubt, with three out of four IT decision makers admitting that they lack total confidence that their continuity plans will be effective during the Olympics.

A study, carried out on behalf of Resilient Networks, shows that 97% of businesses believe they could not maintain ‘business as usual’ if telecommunications were lost — a third felt it would in fact be business destroying — and yet the research reveals that voice continuity is the main vulnerability within the contingency planning and remote working initiatives of UK plc.

The Resilient Networks study, entitled ‘Preparing your business for the Olympics: ensuring voice continuity’ and carried out by Vanson Bourne and OnePoll, examines current business continuity strategies ahead of London 2012 and analyses how prepared businesses are to handle incoming calls during the anticipated widespread disruption of London 2012.

Despite an overwhelming response that the loss of telecommunications is incredibly damaging to operational effectiveness, the research reveals an alarming disconnect with the plans actually in place to protect voice continuity.

Nearly half (47%) of IT decision makers believe that their employees are able divert calls when they are away from or denied access to their normal place of work. However, contrary to this, 75% of employees in London do not believe this to be the case; in fact only 15% believe they have the ability to divert incoming calls themselves remotely. In addition to this half of all business continuity plans do not even cover inbound call handing for when staff can’t get to the office.

In terms of the level of disruption expected, the research revealed that 57% of businesses believe travel disruptions in the capital will have the biggest impact on operational efficiency and over half of London based workers who were surveyed said they also anticipate delays and will be unable to travel due to public transport, resulting in home working or irregular hours. While a quarter of businesses expect staff to call in sick during the Games, only three per cent of staff admit this will be the case.

“An alarming percentage of businesses risk losing contact with their customers, partners, suppliers and employees if they do not make the appropriate provisions before London 2012 kicks off,” said Andrew Bale, CEO of Resilient Networks.

“These results highlight the importance of telecommunications to businesses and yet they show that they are not communicating clearly internally and do not have the right infrastructure in place to withstand the scale of disruption anticipated. How do businesses intend to ensure ‘business as usual’ if something as simple as a phone call is not reaching the right person at the right time?”

The research also examined how employees handle incoming calls when they are away from their desk currently. A third of London based workers relying only on voicemail to manage calls remotely. Only eight per cent make use of a call forwarding function.

A further third rely on a company or personal mobile — which begs the question will callers know the mobile numbers of all those they need to contact in your business and will mobile networks suffer from congestion as they have done before during major disruptions.

“At the end of the day voice continuity is an essential part of ensuring a business can operate day to day. Afterall it’s hardly business as usual if your consumers can’t reach the right person at the right time to assist them. Businesses need to ensure they have covered all bases before the Olympics to avoid any downtime, they should communicate all procedures to staff to avoid the disconnect we have seen reported and play out scenarios before it’s too late,” concluded Bale.

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