• you can start preparing business contintuity now

    We are at stage 5 out of 6. one side of me says that it ain't that bad and the other side said that it is going very fast. we will be sure in two weeks time but I think nobody has a clear idea and some officials seem to start panicking or want to push everybody to take appropriate actions. We do that often with computer viruses - just to get attention and some action so it doesn't turn out to be that bad.

    * inform your workers and start distributing guidelines and start making plans in case that some cities or regions are put under quarantine. This quarantine is always in all the official plans for the next stage.

    * cancel all important business travel - you don't want your executives somewhere out there and not be able to come back. Invest in online conference services. People who are commuting in mass travel may be more vulnerable. If they are valuable you can ask them to stay home is the risk becomes greater.

    * prepare for telework schemes for your workers so they can log in from home if they are in a quarantained area - could be anywhere when we go one. They will need internet connections, good and secure pc material, some guidelines and access to a lut of stuff.

    * be sure that everything that is critical is documented. when we are one step further some staff may die or be too sick to do anything. And if there is nothing on paper who will tell how it works.

    * if people start getting sick make sure they stay at home and don't show up at work, better at home than infecting the rest of your offices

    * be sure that the contacts of all your personnel are corrected, collected and distributed or available so some at home workers can rebuild virtually their office.

    * if you shut your offices completely be sure they are not accessable and that they are secured at all times.

    * if some people are staying behind even if your city or region is under quarantine be sure that they will be able to stay in a hotel with good hygiene. You will have to reserve these. Don't worry most hotels are too many empty rooms.

    * follow the news at all time, this goes extremely fast, we have gone to stage 5 on a scale of 6 in around 10 days. I presume the US will be hit next. The panick can be bigger than the number of deaths but that is often the case.

  • Fear uncercainity Danger in the real virus world

    We know from our work in the computervirus world how panicks and preparation work and how to monitor and contain outbreaks - even if we (except a bit for Conficker) don't have any support on the same scale from governments and administrations - and are looking with astonishment to the facts surrounding the new real flu.

    1. Nobody has a clue

    "What makes this so difficult is we may be somewhere between an important but yet still uneventful public health occurrence here — with something that could literally die out over the next couple of weeks and never show up again — or this could be the opening act of a full-fledged influenza pandemic," said Michael Osterholm, a prominent expert on global flu outbreaks with the University of Minnesota.

    Security managers have one common reflex, where-ever they work (fire, health, banks, protection, computers) : be prepared for the worst and leave nothing to chance and be able to gradually but FAST heighten and lower security and monitoring as needed.

    2. There are plans but they are not executed by all countries in the same way

    It seems now that since last night the Belgian government is a bit changing course and asking all doctors to report each flu case. This supposes that somebody who has the flu goes to the doctor and doesn't think that it will go over.

    They say that they have experience because they have contained some ANIMAL flu outbreaks but animals are not like people. Animals can be contained and controlled. People have freedom of movement and action. If the population decides to buy more medicines and water or sugar (First Iraq war) or to distrust any meat or egg based products (dioxin crisis) than they will. It is for this reason - especially in this INSTANTLY changing interconnected NEWS Headlines environment - that you have to give the impression that you are on top and AHEAD of things.

    The cases that are found in the other countries seem for the moment to be better recovering than those in Mexico. As the research about this virus (and its possible variants and mutants) is only starting it is too soon to draw any conclusion.

    3. As an enterprise it is a good opportunity to test some procedures (even virtually).

    If for example everybody should stay at home would your 'work from home' infrastructure work or how many days would it take to set it up. Maybe you can think about cold 'standby' contracts with 'cold' access and other procedures for the firm in question ?

    A cold standby contract means that when needed a firm will activate an internetconnection (or upgrade it) or a hosting solution or a webservices platform for x number of employees and partners. The advantage is that when needed it can be activated very fast while installing and activating a new contract would take weeks or months, especially in big enterprises and official institutions. You could also start setting up your planning about how it would work in practice and prepare the information for the employees.

    The advantage is that this way you are in fact setting up a business continuity plan or testing it if you already have one.

    Another problem that comes to mind is knowledge sharing in the enterprise or network. What will you do if x number of employees become ill or die (in the worst case). Is all their knowledge on paper or on a computer and do enough people know how to access and interpret that information ? And is the information functional, can you actually do the things that person does or is some information missing (maybe because they are too obvious for the person himself but not for an outsider). And do you have a backup of that information on another physical location ?

    Such a strategic thinking also helps when you have to make people redundant without abolishing their functions.

    Virtual tests means that some people are doing the tests but - there is even some software and services that are being developed or on the market - that you don't have to disturb the whole production process.

  • the most stupid letter Leterme ever wrote

    THe prime minister had enough of those insinuations that his cabinet had interfered with the fortis trial (he had lost). He wanted to make it clear for the public record that there was nothing wrong and that he did nothing wrong. By doing so he has violated several laws of political crisis communications

    * do not give more information that could be used against you (why all the details, just the first phrase should be enough)

    * do not say things that you are not 10000% sure about (he said that no one in his cabinet did anything wrong in this case)

    * let the subordinate take the heat (the letter is written by the prime minister himself)

    * you do not involve other players that could be pressured to give more information just to defend/save  themselves (the letter involves also 2 other important ministers (Finance and Justice))

    * do not kill all alternatives for your helper in this case (the judge that tried to stop the decision to side with the shareholder and not with the government by saying that she was sick will now be disciplined, will not be promoted and will have big problems to convince anyone that she is independent). She can become desperate and somebody with nothing to lose can be very dangerous.

    * if you go into detail, you should use all details (the letter only mentions gsm traffic, not the direct phone lines, the (lunch) meetings and the emails). Without this it will be impossible to proove the absolute things that are being said in the beginning of the letter. "that there was no contact....."

    In our ultracommunicative times it is very hard to be sure of anything in those cases.

    Why do you think that Al Qaida doesn't use electronic communication for its operations ? Why do you think that there are special ways in which to use mobile phones to contact people without leaving too many traces ? Just for pretending or fun ?

  • Why Obama should learn from Leterme and throw away his blackberry

    * Leterme is on picture showing mails and SMS to other politicians around him

    * Leterme went before parliament (congress) reading aloud mails and SMS's he got in the ongoing debate/investigation about the political pressure on the judges responsable for the FORTIS takeover by BNP (which was put on freeze)

    * Leterme wanted to defend himself against those rumors by making a list with all the phonecalls and mails from his cabinet and with his own blackberry. The problem with that is is that his blackberry can now become an object of investigation by forensic investigators for the Special investigation Commission that the parliament will set up to look into the case.

    This has three big problems

    * they will find/see information that is very confidential or secret or very personal

    * they will find/see information that can lead to other investigations

    * even things that may have been deleted are open to investigation (and so all the communications between him, his cabinet and the other people involved)

    And last but not least important, it makes you look like a consultant and not like a leader if you are all the time on your phone/blackberry. A leader lets his messages be handled by his staff who put them also in context. A leader chooses himself when he is going to contact someone or who may contact him. Someone walking around with a blackberry at his head all the time doesn't look like a leader. A leader needs time to think and overlook the whole issue, not being occupied with chatter and blatter all the time.

    I have read somewhere that the absolute symbol of power is to have no phone or computer with you but having people around you that handle that.


    BNP has to take over Fortis now because Fortis has now  a lot of cash and BNP needs that cash because its cash ratio/position seems to be quite low in comparaison with other banks. BNP has not augmented its capital nor seeked new fresh investments in the hope of closing the Fortis deal soon enough before everybody notices its cash position. Today is the most important shareholders meeting ever for BNP.

    The advantage for BNP is that negative judgement from last week will have to be revoked because it is now clear that it was the subject of blackmail and interference. This means that the 'difficult' judge that presided the court will have to be replaced. But it will be difficult for another judge to come to another conclusion without having an extensive objective legal argumentation for that. So if BNP takes 'it easy', the whole thing can be at its advantage. Problem is that you need a government to close the deal, but maybe even if the government falls, the parliament can give the interim-government explictly the task of closing the deal - taking into account the consequences of an eventual breakdown of the take-over deal before the alternatives are done.

    Belgium has to find a solution for Fortis because Fortis is bigger than the government can guarantee, so it has to save/find a bigger bank to take it over or to mend partnerships so that its market position is stabilized. An alternative is being developed in case the shareholders from BNP decide not to take Fortis over. They shouldn't be surprised to see their stock tumble afterwards...

    Leterme has to manage this crisis himself and the best way to do it is to let it now be managed by specialists and to take it out of the political context. The political context and the possiblity that today or next week his government will fall can have a big impact if the technical/administrative decisions aren't taken soon. Fortis that seemed to have survived Leterme is now the reason for his downfall. Even if he survives this crisis it will become harder to manage the next banking crisis that according to some sources is coming our way in january.

  • So many financial punks

    You could see all those people getting their money off the bank and dumping their stock as if they are financial punks that are singing something like this.

    * I don't trust the government, they are all liars and I don't believe a word they are saying. I get my money and it is my money and you can't tell me what to do. F....  you

    * I don't trust bankers and investors, they are all crooks and I don't believe a word they are saying. I sell all my stock and you can't tell me what to do. F.... you

    * I don't trust journalists and analysts, they are all the same and work for the government and bankers and I don't believe a word they are saying. I just do whatever I want and trust whoever I want and you can't tell me what to think. F.... you

    * NO I won't spend any more money in this consumer society, I'll keep it for me. It is mine and all your advertising and promises don't impress me that much. F.... you

    And if that gets us into anarchy, frankly my dear, I don't give a damn (it was your too expensive incompetence that has created this mess in the first place but your world will be GONE WITH THE WIND)

    note : These are really interesting times we live in, so revolutionary without revolution, so many unexpected enormous changes nobody foresaw and that have to be invented on the spot but also very frighting if you think of it. As long as our leaders keep their cool...