Emergency preparedness is a big deal when you are a Traffic Manager in an earthquake prone environment. Even if you are not in an area susceptible to natural disaster, something as simple as a gas leak could require the evacuation of the premises for hours or even days. Computers still run, phones still work and infrastructure is unharmed but there is no access to any of it until whatever is keeping you out is resolved. Do you have a plan?
Business continuity planning minimizes the impact of certain circumstances by ensuring alternate processes are in place for key operational functions. Having a plan safeguards assets as well as an organization’s ability to achieve its mission, retain acceptable levels of productivity, customer service, and ultimately to stay in business. For Traffic, it’s all about getting the next days log out.
There are endless combinations created when all the software choices and workflow procedures within various organizations are factored in. It’s impossible to write a general how-to guide, but hopefully this article will serve as a guide or at least get you thinking about it. It should also be noted that a company wide business continuity plan is an enormous task. From team leaders to job functions to emergency supplies has to be considered. If your company does not have a plan, they should. Its the least expensive insurance any company can have. For now, we focus on Traffic.
Your plan should provide the ability to be able to get at needed applications and resources, even when access to your place of work is not possible. Servers, applications and databases are no good if you can’t get to them. Access should also be available when the office is no longer functional and the server infrastructure has been moved elsewhere.
A business process flow chart for the Traffic Department should be created, reviewed and updated often. Identify critical operations. In this case, getting the next days log out. Consider if you can perform tasks from a different location or from your home. Are there other markets in your organization that can be leveraged to build redundancy and hedge risks.
Start with the easy stuff, such as a call tree and login information. The trick is to be redundant. Store a second or third copy of the documents at an off- site location. Another option is a password-protected page on the company website as well as access to email. Also, create a contact list for existing critical business contractors. In crisis mode, it will be very beneficial to have contact information for your traffic software provider or automation software provider.
Over a decade ago, when I was still using disk based software, I would actually make copies of the next days log and take it home or email the traffic file to myself. Luckily, we now live in an age where traffic software vendors offer web based software. Web based traffic software offers flexible access and automatically cuts half the work and half the risk out in the event of an emergency. If you are using web based software, then it’s possible to work from anywhere as long as you have internet connectivity. Sales or the Traffic Manager could continue entering orders. The next days log could be organized. Copy could be built. Essentially, business as usual, just working from another location. If you are not on web based software, whats your plan? Do you have a way to access that information or are you at risk?
Automation can be a problem. Who sends the final logs to automation? While you may have access to your traffic software from home, can you get to automation to actually send the log? There are work-arounds by using products such as GoToMyPc or having VPN access. A virtual private network (VPN) is used by a number of organizations in their attempt to allow remote users to connect to the corporate network. Additionally, it’s certainly worth reaching out to your vendors and exploring if they offer off-site backup or support that includes remote access.
There are also a couple of daily workflow procedures that can mitigate risk. I’ve known Traffic Managers that work commercial logs 2 months out. Others that work day to day. Working logs in advance not only provides a clearer vision of inventory, but also protects against last minute chaos should an emergency arise. There may not be time to place bumped spots back on the log, resulting in lost revenue. I suggest having logs worked at least two weeks in advance. While this may require some additional time upfront, you’ll find comfort in knowing its taken care of. Another daily workflow procedure that may prove beneficial is creating an archived trial log. Do it first thing in the morning. This could be as simple as emailing yourself a pdf of the next days printed log. While you may not have an actual log file, you will have a structure to build upon.
Lastly, a structured walkthrough test should take place. Does the system you have in place really work? What ran smooth and what needs to change? Evaluate the process at each phase and make adjustments where needed.
Creating a plan that allows your organization to stand up against disruption is a gradual process. It’s not going to be perfect right from the box. Most of what I covered here can be accomplished in a weeks time, but realize it’s not just a project, but a long term goal.