IT projects feel Sars impact

A Meta Group analyst has warned that large IT projects face delays as a result of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome spreading...

A Meta Group analyst has warned that large IT projects face delays as a result of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome spreading throughout Asia.

Kevin McIsaac said said important global projects, often staffed by only a few external specialists, are being delayed, and exacerbated as staff eleswhere have been banned from travelling to the region.

Consequently, Sars has forced companies to explore more collaborative solutions for their staff, and use instant messaging and web conferencing tools to overcome geographical barriers to communication.

These solutions provided simple ways of reducing process cycle times and enhancing workforce productivity, McIsaac said. But the onus still lay with IT and business managers to prove bottom-line improvements such as reduced travel costs and productivity gains when proposing the staff use such solutions, and buying new applications not out of fear, but need.

Smart companies in the Asia-Pacific region have prepared for the worst, assessing how they can minimise face-to-face contact with overseas colleagues, clients, suppliers or partners to reduce the risk of spreading Sars.

More employees have chosen to work from home, forcing companies to reassess whether they can provide adequate resources for teleworking, such as VPNs and video- and audio conferencing facilities.

Gartner research director Dion Wiggins cited the Hong Kong Shanghai Bank whose Hong Kong headquarters splits its customer service staff into two shifts each day. "In the event that one shift got infected, the other could continue servicing its customers, " he said. The number of HSBC branch customers visiting the bank has also dropped with fewer willing to do face-to-face business.

Sydney-based AMP's management is holding board meetings involving regional staff via teleconferencing, McIsaac said. Australian-based Abbott Pharmaceuticals has cut all nonessential travel to the Asia-Pacific region and recently banned a corporate trainer who had just returned from Asia from training its Australian staff. IT executives in Australia are also dusting off their video-conferencing technology just to be on the safe side.

But the extent to which organisations will innovate and adopt more face-less work styles depended on their culture. McIsaac believed companies with a global, collaborative, technology-intensive and mobile culture will easily adjust to the need for less face-to-face communication.

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