IBM's India lab develops disaster management tool

Resiliency Maturity Index tells organizations where to best spend money to improve their ability to cope with disasters

IBM’s India Research Laboratory has developed the Resiliency Maturity Index (RMI), a framework that quantitatively assesses the ability of an organization to recover from a variety of disasters such as floods, power outages, software glitches, epidemics, and terrorist attacks.

The software tool, which IBM has used to assess the ability of its own global services delivery operations in India and Brazil to withstand disasters, also assists in telling organizations where they can best spend more money to improve their ability to cope with disasters, Guruduth Banavar, associate director at the Bangalore center of IBM India Research Laboratory, said Thursday.

IBM’s services business will offer to its customers services around the RMI framework that will help them assess and plan their resiliency to disasters, Banavar said. The framework developed by IBM is generic so that it can be used across a variety of organizations in a variety of industries with little customization, he added.

Besides a score that indicates the organization's overall resiliency to disaster, the model breaks the score down at different levels of the organization, from an individual score for each business unit, to a score for each component or sub-component in a business unit, Banavar said.

Components could include the network, email system, or even the transportation system. The RMI framework brings out the interactions between these components and their influence on the organization's overall resiliency, Banavar added.

The tool is expected to be useful for companies outsourcing work, as they can now use the RMI tool to assess the resiliency of the service providers they outsource to, Banavar said. Companies outsourcing work typically worry about the ability of their suppliers to withstand with and recover from threats or disaster. Service providers can in turn use the RMI tool to assess and improve their ability to cope with disasters, he added.

Despite the best efforts of organizations to create business continuity and disaster recovery plans, few will have considered the impact of say a widespread disease that would affect human resources, Banavar said.

IBM is working with the Information Technology Services Qualification Center (ITsqc) at the Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) to incorporate parts of the RMI assessment framework into an industry standard.

The eSCM-SP (eSourcing Capability Model for Service Providers) model, developed jointly by ITsqc and industry, is a "best-practices" model that is used to evaluate IT service providers along a number of dimensions, including their ability to withstand various threats or disaster. IBM’s RMI team has been interacting with Carnegie Mellon to understand how the RMI or parts of it can be useful within eSCM-SP.

IBM researchers have also developed a "Skills Planning" model for optimal allocation of skills and job roles across an organization's multiple sites, to minimize the impact of a disaster at any one site. This model takes into account various operational aspects, including critical workloads, skill levels, mobile workers, multi-skilled workers, cross-training, operations in shifts, wage costs, and multi-location communication or management overheads, IBM said.