Browsing articles in "Business Continuity"

ASOS fire

Sep 29, 2014   //   by David   //   Blog, Business Continuity  //  No Comments

ASOS Fire June 2014

On 21/22 June 2014 a fire damaged the 650K square foot Barnsley warehouse of on-line retailer ASOS.  The Barnsley warehouse is critical to ASOS – every product it sells is checked there before being shipped by air, land or sea to be delivered.  About 70% of all stock is held at the site.

The firm posted a message on their website stating they had to take the site down due to the fire. No access of any type was available on-line at that time and there was no suggestion of when further information would be available. The website remained closed until early on Monday morning although the fire had no effect on any of the firm’s technology.

Approximately 20% of stock was damaged by the fire or by water from suppression systems. Estimates of loss of sales are around £30M.

The company were forced to have an immediate sale to attract customers back.

ASOS had been involved in a major incident in the past (the Bunsfield explosion) so did appear to have a plan to manage the incident

Lessons Learnt

The two key message from the incident were firstly that ASOS had all their eggs in one basket.  As everything outgoing had to pass through the warehouse they were unable to continue any of their operations while it was out of commission even though much of their back office operation was undamaged. Services such as Returns were actually unaffected (this was in a separate building) but this could only be discovered by posting a query on Facebook.

Secondly ASOS did not handle customer service well initially.  They closed their website completely, therefore customers who had orders which had been dispatched could not check on progress and those with ongoing queries also lost access.  Thus all customers were inconvenienced rather than only those who had orders not yet dispatched.

What should have happened?

Firstly ASOS greatly increased the risk of any incident seriously damaging their business by funneling all outgoing activities through a single building. This approach was very cost effective but was clearly a single point of failure.  In the end they were lucky that the fire did not cause greater damage. Separate buildings or sites would have greatly reduced the risk.

Their website should have been partitioned to allow new sales to be suspended while leaving all other functions running.

The communications surrounding the incident should have been more positive.  Although there was clearly damage, and delays would inevitably occur, the initial message could be interpreted that the business had failed (there were a number of posts to this effect on social media).

But we shouldn’t be too critical!

The fact that operations were running 48 hours later suggests that ASOS managed the incident very well indeed. The points above may be true with hindsight, but would many organisations have managed so well? Unlikely…..

BC for SMEs

May 21, 2014   //   by David   //   Blog, Business Continuity  //  No Comments

Janet Beattie recently spoke with business insurance specialists Premierline to give details of how an SME should approach Business Continuity.

The full article can be found here:

Have you really thought about getting ready for Winter?

Nov 8, 2011   //   by David   //   Business Continuity, Management, Reputation  //  No Comments

It’s that time of year again…. It’s November, the clocks have been changed and leaves are rapidly leaving the trees. Almost exactly 12 months ago we had the first falls of snow. Last year’s problems were that the temperature stayed below zero from November through to almost the end of January. So the snow became ice and even more snow fell. Repeat for 6 to 8 weeks and that’s what happened last year. I’m sure you remember the problems this caused with roads being gridlocked, trains and planes being stuck and a general sense of “oh no”. Sure, it gave us a nice white Christmas, but for many businesses it was a stressful period. Retailers suffered with a dramatically reduced footfall in what is normally their busiest season. Distribution businesses suffered because, although main roads had been kept open, many smaller roads were dangerous and even un-driveable for weeks. Healthcare was under pressure with many more slips and falls injuries than normal. I remember all too well the number of mornings I spent shovelling snow from my driveway. Roads closed, airports closed, schools closed, businesses interrupted. We’ve already seen the east coast of America having a severe snowfall which resulted in massive disruption.

The question has to be, have you actually learned the lessons from last year?

What have you done to ensure that your business is ready for winter? We all know what happens in the UK when there is a significant snowfall. Everything stops. Despite the latitude of the country we seem to manage to be taken by surprise – every year. Why? Why should it be a surprise that when it snows transport becomes difficult? It can only be because we don’t really think back to the problems of previous winters and actually make preparations. Although the weather forecasters can give us a decent forecast for the next 48 hours or so, we’re not good at taking it seriously. A statistic from a Transport Scotland survey is that 70% of journeys to work are by car/van/minibus. Public transport only accounts for 15% of journeys to work. So when the roads become difficult it’s no wonder there’s an immediate impact on workforces. Have you considered asking your staff how they commute to work? (look out the window at the staff car park and do a quick estimate of the impact road disruption will have.)

Last winter, one of the most challenging days in Scotland came on a Monday morning when there was a severe and heavy snowfall across most of the central belt between 07:00am and 10:00am. This snowfall was forecast, but when the morning commuter traffic started the snow hadn’t. It fell at the worst possible time and led to pretty much all of central Scotland being gridlocked and closed by lunchtime. It took several days to get the main roads clear again and many weeks before all the side roads were cleared. Much criticism of the local authorities and Government followed. Now, to be fair the Scottish Government has taken this seriously and has made plans to ensure that wherever possible they are better prepared for winter. There is an increased quantity of grit/salt available across the country. All in all, it is an encouraging sign that the Government taking the problems which we had last winter seriously. There is a Ready Scotland website which will be used as one of the communications channels : . Twitter feeds and various other real time information services will be used.

Regardless of the preparations being made by Government and other public sector bodies there are simple steps which can be taken by any business and by each and every one of us :

For Businesses/Organisations

  1. Be sure you know what your business critical processes and services are. Can you readily say what you will *not* do if the weather prevents your staff from travelling to work? If you can do this, by implication you must know what you *will* do.
  2. Be sure that you have an up-to-date and reliable (i.e. tested) way of getting a message to all staff outside of normal working hours. Likewise for suppliers and customers. Use your website or use Twitter (with care). Use a call-in messaging service for your staff, but make sure they know the number to call before the first fall of snow.
  3. Review your policies and procedures for staff working from home (if appropriate, and remember that employers still have duties under H&S law for staff working at home). Also review your staff absence policies. What decision will you make if schools are closed and staff need to look after children? How much pressure is your staff under to travel to work if the Police and Government advice is not to travel? It’s not easy, but war-gaming this scenario now could avoid considerable stress and problems later.
  4. Consider what you would do if your staff needed to stay overnight closer to their place of work. Can you help with accommodation?

For everyone who commutes by road (and surveys say that’s 70% of us)

If you travel to work by car you really should take sensible precautions to prepare yourself.

  1. Carry suitable clothing and winter shoes/boots in the car (and gloves, possibly a hat)
  2. Carry a suitable charger for their mobile phone in the car
  3. Consider buying winter tyres (most tyre dealers now have stock of common sizes. Some will store your “summer” tyres for you)
  4. Carry a grab bag of emergency resources – e.g. foil blanket, hi-visibility vest, torch/lightstick, bottle of water, something to eat –sweets maybe.
  5. Keep car fuel level higher than you may in good weather. Sitting idling for hours in traffic jam can burn more petrol/diesel than you’d expect.


This is probably the most common sense thing we’ve ever written about but…………



Me – I’ve bought a couple of plastic snow shovels and have them ready and waiting………. And my grab bag is in the boot of my car.


As usual please feel free to post your thoughts and comments on this blog entry.