As I was trolling through my piles of old magazines before throwing them out the other night I came across a great article in the May issue of Inc. magazine. It´s about a company called Elcometer in Rochester Hills, Michigan which makes testing equipment for paints and coatings (whatever that is). The company´s headquarters were hit by lightning in 2001. That fried the electrical equipment and reduced the company´s servers to smoking plastic and steel. The company was out of commission ten days while they were getting everything replaced and back on line. The lost production and expense of replacing everything likely cost them a fortune, even after any insurance they may have had.
The next year, if you can believe it, the company was hit by lightning again. Same story — everything that was plugged in was wrecked and it took ten days of lost productivity and great expense to get back into the swing of things. Again the servers the company used for operating and administrative functions were fried and had to be reconstructed from backups. Ouch.
You aren´t going to believe the next part. 2003 brought Elcometer a gift from above — a third lightning strike. The first thing the company should have done at that point was look to the sky and figure out what they had done to anger whoever they had angered. Same story, same fried electrical system, but there was a huge difference — the company was only out of commission for a couple of hours instead of several days. What had changed? The company had come to the logical conclusion that they weren´t in the server maintenance (and post-catastrophe replacement and restoration) business, so they moved everything that had been stored on those servers to an offsite, internet-based provider. That meant that all the staff had to do after suffering the spite of a powerful force yet again was head home or to Starbucks or anywhere else where they had internet access, log in, and they were back in business like millions of volts had never rained down from above.
My point? First, check your lightning insurance. After that, though, what I like about this story so much is the adaptation. It took a while, but Elcometer realized that doing things the same way were creating the same results, and in this case those results were very costly and unacceptable. By making a fundamental change in how they did things they were able to avoid the same outcome in the same situation. Even if lightning had never struck again, though, the courage to make a fundamental change saved money by dramatically cutting their IT costs, and it provided far more flexibility for working, including easy access to work material while on the road. In short, they became much more productive, and they avoided incurring the same problems again and again. Sometimes it takes a fundamental and scary change like this to do that.