CATA taps insurance firm for crisis management help

The Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance has partnered with a U.S.-based risk and insurance services firm to respond to member request for crisis management best practices.

The recent power blackouts, the SARS virus quarantining hundreds

of employees, and other incidents have all raised the importance of business continuity at technology companies, according to a CATA official. With that need in mind, CATA said it will be working with Marsh Inc. to bring its Crisis Academy to Canada.

An e-learning solution for crisis management, The Crisis Academy, has been offered in the U.S. for two years and will be offered at a preferred rate to CATA members.

“There’s an awful lot of awareness today about things that can go wrong,” says Barry Gander, CATA’s senior advocate for public policy. “Recent events bring it down to almost a personal level.”

Gander says the Crisis Academy presents the global best practices for crisis management and emergency management, and as an e-learning tool it trains people without spending a lot of time tied up in an actual physical location.

“The Marsh tool has been gangbusters in terms of interest,” says Gander. “We’ve had phone calls and e-mails coming in, from companies that want to participate and companies that also want to offer tools to support that kind of program.”

The crisis management tools will complement a suite of other electronic tools and e-learning facilities available to members through the CATA Web site.

Lloyd Ellam, vice president of Marsh Crisis Consulting, says the biggest benefit of crisis management is the bottom line. If you manage a crisis effectively, the impact is minimized.

For example, much of the semiconductor industry is located in an earthquake zone, and a major earthquake would quickly ripple across the entire industry.

“The way you handle it, the way you respond to that crisis, makes significant differences to your financial situation going forward,” says Ellam.

Ellam says Marsh has been doing crisis consulting for some time. The company’s crisis consulting practice was set up by Paul Bremmer, now the U.S. administrator running post-war Iraq.

“It was his idea to take our expertise that smaller and mid-size companies can’t necessarily afford and put it in a format that people could benefit from, the Crisis Academy,” says Ellam.

Ellam says with the decision to focus on the technology industry CATA was a natural partner to help them bring the Crisis Academy to Canada.

There have been some modifications made to the courses to suit the Canadian market. For example, in the U.S. companies are focused on the internal market and compliance issues, while Canadian companies are concerned about complying with U.S. regulations for selling into that market from the other side of the wall.

“You can start it, stop it, go back to it after awhile and you can work at your own pace,” says Ellam. “It would be acceptable across the corporate spectrum, from the top to the bottom. Everyone would find something useful out of it.”

Ellam says while companies have been aware of crisis management for sometime, recent events have been building momentum and reinforcing for some companies just how important crisis management is.

“It’s defiantly been there, but you have to remember a lot of technology companies are risk takers by design, and it just becomes a question of how much are they willing to gamble,” says Ellam.

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Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras is a technology journalist with IT World Canada and a member of the IT Business team. He began his career in technology journalism in the late 1990s, covering the Ottawa technology sector for Silicon Valley North and the Ottawa Business Journal. He later covered the technology scene in Vancouver before joining IT World Canada in Toronto in 2005, covering enterprise IT for ComputerWorld Canada and the channel for Computer Dealer News. His writing has also appeared in the Vancouver Sun & the Ottawa Citizen.

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