Not Quite Y2K for IT, But Prepare for the London Olympics

Today in a quick conversation with a colleague we discussed the importance of preparing for the London Olympics for those firms serving markets that will be affected by the Olympics. In addition to the expected transportation crunch around London, there will be peaks in many service areas from ATMs to local financial transactions and purchases to inquiries for information. If your firm is serving the London or UK market, or is a 2012 Olympics Sponsor, I have compiled a quick checklist and schedule of activities to ensure your systems and operations are prepared. You can also use this checklist of course if your firm is engaged in similar events such as the World Cup or Superbowl or just for general improvement of performance at peak times.

To ensure you have your services ready and able to operate smoothly during a peak such as the London Olympics, you should you first perform a capabilities analysis of those services and operations that will be under load. This entails having a good set of service volume (both normal and current peak), service performance, and service quality (how many transactions fail or have issue). Your business should have forecasts for the additional peak load during the event. Similar to the recent royal wedding, which was the busiest debit and credit transaction day in the UK, for services used by consumers expect higher load. It is likely that this load will be greater than what systems have previously support, and last thing you (or your business) would want is a failure in the middle of the Olympics with the lost revenue and reputation implications. And remember to not just look at your systems but also ask key suppliers for their plans. This includes higher level services provided by third parties but also basic ones such as network and cell phone carriers. Find out what planning and testing they have done or will do prior.

Once you have gather the data for your systems and operations, and projected a forecast, the next step is to test. You likely will want to do this testing subsequent to the normal business peak of the upcoming season and yearend — so plan for January and February to do extensive testing. Look to uncover at what point your system breaks and what breaks it. If you system shows significant signs of stress at current peaks or fails at only 5 or 10% load above current peaks, you should work quickly to remediate and improve the performance and capacity. Take this time to also address wherever you see significant defect rates in your systems or operations. Is there a high number of retries? Are sessions lost being lost? Are calls being dropped or abandoned? Any elevated level of defect should be addressed as these could skyrocket in a high peak situation, effectively a very public and impacting outage even if the system is still running. Once you have corrected the defect and performance bottlenecks, retest to ensure that there is not a performance issue lurking immediately behind the one you just fixed. And plan to implement you change at least 2 months before the event so you are not trying out an updated system for the first time on highest peak load.

Your final step is event preparation. Here you need to ensure you have adjusted your change practices and schedules as you would for any critical period (i.e., perhaps a change freeze for systems underlying key services at least a week before and throughout the Olympics). Ensure you are fully staffed (the Olympics is during vacation time) so that if something occurs you do not have a gap in key man coverage. Ensure additional capabilities (such as greater language coverage in call centers) have been planned and implemented. Either leverage your current command center of put in place a command centre as you would for a critical implementation. Have the command center manage both a business channel and a technical channel where you report a regular, appropriate intervals, the volumes and performance of the critical services. If you do have an issue, you will improve your time to respond and hopefully to restore as your command center will already be on top of it.

This should lead you to a successful Olympics (and perhaps a gold medal!).

As you wrapup, ensure you capture the peak data so you can understand how your systems and operations behave under stress. This will enable you to pinpoint where you should invest your next set of monies to get improvement (this is always helpful).

I look forward to your success and quiet delivery (staying out of the newspapers).

Best, Jim

About Jim D

Jim has worked in the IT field for over 25 years and as a senior leader for over 15 years. He has successfully turned around a number of IT shops to become high performing teams and a competitive advantage for their companies.
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