Open all hours

A few weeks ago Acumen moved to a new office. It’s in a multi-tenanted building on a business park on the outskirts of Evesham in Worcestershire. And very nice it is too.

The other night I left the office quite late and found that the front door, which is unlocked during the day but has an electronic lock that’s activated when the receptionist leaves at night, wasn’t locked. I suspected that the temporary receptionist, who was covering during the absence of the usual one, had forgotten to activate the lock on her way out. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the faintest idea how to switch it on.

I checked in the tenants handbook we were given when we moved in but there was no out of hours contact number in there. I asked several of the other tenants who were still onsite but they didn’t have one either. One chap said he knew someone who might have the office manager’s mobile number and offered to call them so, safe in the knowledge that our part of the building was secure, I cheerfully left it with him and went home.

Being the conscientious chap that I am (and the fact that I happened to be passing on my way to the supermarket on a quest for gin and tonic), I returned to the office at 9pm to check if the problem had been resolved. Two of the other tenants were still there, cheerfully playing with the door. Having ‘phoned the emergency number on the alarm panel they were waiting for an engineer to arrive. As my G and T was gently calling to me from my passenger seat I gave them my ‘phone number then left things in their capable hands and returned home.

I arrived next morning, fully expecting to find the reception area full of sleeping asylum seekers. I’m pleased to report, however, that everything was fine, the door having been secured sometime during the night.

And the point of this little story? Well, there are several things that it highlighted for me. For instance, the fact that…

    » Communication, and having the right information to hand to enable us to do so effectively, is so important – in this case, providing an out of hours contact number for tenants would have saved several people a fair amount of hassle, and the landlord the expense of calling an engineer out just to press a switch;
    » Not having the right information available caused a significant amount of time to be lost, when the issue could have been dealt with in minutes;
    » For all the sophisticated (in this case security) systems we put in place, these can all come to naught if people don’t follow processes;
    » We are often reliant on the actions of others, sometimes third parties, for things to operate as they should. And often, when we outsource things we lose much of the control that we previously had;
    » The assumptions that we make need to be checked and the best time to do this is before something goes wrong;
    » Some people are more interested in their social life, or in this case their gin and tonic (which, incidentally, was excellent), than sticking around to help out with the crisis!

All of the above apply as much to our business continuity planning efforts as they do to the situation that I found myself in the other night – including the last point!

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One Response to Open all hours

  1. Millington Gumbo May 19, 2010 at 3:53 pm #

    Excellent post. It is so true that in any system, the human element is more often than not, the weakest link.

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