THE GREAT UNKNOWN
When terrorists attacked Mumbai,
India, it was major headline news. But
such events are relatively low on the risk
scale for most companies parceling out
“Although the potential for deep
civil unrest arising from the current economic downturn is not to be underestimated, terrorism targets are often
Western tourists rather than industrial
infrastructure,” Mr. Desbarats explains.
“The main disruptions tend to be natural, such as the SARS epidemic and
Getting through the chaos requires a
solid fallback plan. “Even during the
SARS epidemic, things kept moving,
but there was less face-to-face contact
and more audio conferencing,” he says.
When developing contingency plans,
the first line of defense lies with the outsourcing partners themselves. Take
Exilesoft. The Colombo, Sri Lanka-based
software development company mandates all key software developers have
Internet access at home—just in case.
“If there’s a national emergency or a
curfew, people can continue to work at
home,” says Thushara Wijewardena,
PMP, project director at Exilesoft.
Likewise, investment in robust communications is prudent. At the time of
the December 2008 Mediterranean
undersea cable outage, Exilesoft, like
many businesses on the Indian subcontinent, was affected.
“For a time, performance slowed
down, and until we established alternative communications, some online tools
became difficult to use,” she says. “But it
wasn’t a showstopper—there are nearly
Some companies also seek out larger
outsourcing partners that offer multiple
offices, often spread across widely dispersed geographies. Should one country
be affected by trouble, the option exists
for work to be moved to another.
Although Tata Consultancy Services
is based in India, for example, 40 percent
of its work takes place outside the subcontinent, says Abid Ali, Tata’s Dallas,
Texas, USA-based North American vice
president of global delivery and services.
The company has “a significant presence” in a number of other low-cost
economies—including China, Brazil,
We try hard to
deal with known
are too many
up as software
—Thushara Wijewardena, PMP