As I write these words, Rutgers University is in the midst of a major kerfuffle. The abusive actions of basketball coach Tim Rice are almost impossible to believe. But something made the outrage metastasize: the lack of initial recognition by key people (Athletic Director Tim Pernetti and school president Robert Barchi) of the severity of Rice’s actions:
But crises are nothing new, even if being caught on video posted YouTube is. More than 30 years ago, for instance, J&J found itself at a crossroads. From a 2002 New York Times‘ piece:
It has been almost two decades since a consumer products company’s worst nightmare became tragic reality for Johnson & Johnson. In the space of a few days starting Sept. 29, 1982, seven people died in the Chicago area after taking cyanide-laced capsules of Extra-Strength Tylenol, the painkiller that was the drug maker’s best-selling product.
The debacle led many to predict the ultimate demise of Tylenol, a brand that “accounted for 17 percent of the company’s net income in 1981.” Astonishingly, “only two months later, Tylenol was headed back to the market, this time in tamper-proof packaging and bolstered by an extensive media campaign. A year later, its share of the $1.2 billion analgesic market, which had plunged to 7 percent from 37 percent following the poisoning, had climbed back to 30 percent.”
The question is not will your system or app go down.
It’s an amazing story and has been the subject of many an MBA case study. As many people have said, never waste a good crisis.
Social Media: Accentuating the Need for an Immediate Response
Fast forward three decades and the Internet has resulted in more than its fair share of damaging business crises. Last year, web hosting provider GoDaddy experienced a highly public outage that took down millions of sites. For many reasons, GoDaddy has plenty of critics, many of whom weren’t shy about using social media sites to vent their frustration. The barbs started almost immediately. My personal favorite is below:
On a broader level, regardless of the timeliness of a company’s response, people will start tweeting and venting almost immediately. You can’t put the genie back in the bottle.
Mistakes happen. Systems crash. Even expensive private clouds hosted by top-tier vendors experience problems. The question is not will your system or app go down. Rather, one should ask, “How will your organization respond when it does?”
What is your company doing to maximize up-time?
This post is sponsored by the Online VMware Forum 2013. To learn more, register for a VMWare webinar on this subject: Unleash the Power of Virtualization to Simplify IT.