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Are you prepared for the Pan Am productivity dip?

The upcoming games will take over Toronto this summer — which means businesses need to think about the potential impacts


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The 2015 Pan Am and Parapan Am Games is the largest multi-sport event in Canada’s history… yes, even bigger than the 2010 Vancouver Olympics or any other event before it.

It is a source of pride for Canada, and the many host cities in the Greater Toronto Area, attracting people from 41 countries to an area where multiculturalism is the norm.

While this event will have many, positive impacts to the area’s economy, there is significant potential for distruption to business operations.

In fact, history tells us that many businesses aren’t prepared for a sudden surge in congestion.  The last time we saw a major disruption in Toronto was the 2010 G20 Summit where more than 10,000 protesters took to the streets and many businesses had no choice but to close their doors over two days causing economic impacts to the tune of millions of dollars and displacing many people.

Examples of the impacts were the Art Gallery of Ontario closing shop for the weekend, Mirvish Productions suspending its shows for an entire week leading up to the summit and even the Toronto Blue Jays adjusting their schedule to stay away from the city during this time.

With many businesses unable to continue operations during this time, many employees were left with no choice but to take vacation days or simply unpaid leave.

The good news is that technology enabled in the right way can alleviate, or in some cases eliminate, the pressures on businesses to ensure continuity in employee productivity.

Here are three ways businesses can leverage technology right now to prepare for the Pan Am & Parapan Am Games or the next inevitable disruption on the horizon.

  1. Enable remote workers first.  Without a doubt, the fastest way to protect your business from a disruption is to equip employees with the tools to work from an alternate location from their primary office – be it at home or at a satellite office.  When considering communications (email access, office phone, instant messaging applications, etc.) your employees’ productivity can remain unaffected during a disruption when they can seamlessly move their office to an alternate location and remain connected.  Many IP-based telephony and infrastructure platforms have been successfully connecting remote workers for years.  If your businesses hasn’t taken advantage of this first step, you’re at a distinct competitive disadvantage when a crisis arises.
  2. Continually streamline communications.  “Convergence” was a popular buzzword around the same time IP infrastructure was taking a foothold as the norm in business.  It promised to simplify communications and provide efficient cost-savings to businesses.  As an ongoing initiative, it’s important to look at the cost impact of managing multiple networks – voice, data & internet – as separate entities vs. consolidation on single, IP-enabled access.  This is especially beneficial beyond cost-savings to enable a more integrated approach to your business applications (think CRM integration with phone, email and mobile devices).  For multi-location businesses, convergence coupled with “survivable” infrastructure at each locaiton ensures continuous business operations on-the-fly as outages and disruptions occur at any location.
  3. Have a long-term data strategy.  How you manage and secure company data should be on everyone’s technology roadmap.  Offsite data storage services are becoming the norm in allowing centralized access to critical information for employees.  Enabled by automatic data replication services, your business is capable of surviving any temporary disruption or major catasrophe in a predictable, secure manner.

Planning for the Pan Am & Parapan Am Games has been underway for years with new games-specific venues built in all corners of the Greater Toronto Area, transit improvements  in the region and host cities pouring millions of dollars into new infrastructure projects that will accommodate long-term population growth.

With technology becoming more affordable and ubiquitous in the business landscape, every IT department should have an ongoing technology roadmap to ensure continuous business operations.  The upcoming games will see 10,000 athletes, coaches & officials, 20,000 volunteers, and countless spectators crowd the area for more than a month.  If you haven’t already considered the business impacts, now is a great time to start!

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