I’ve known Peter Brockmann for many years as he used to work for 3COM on the NBX product line. This product line was one of the first PC PBXs in the space as you may recall.
Peter recently began his own business, Brockmann & Company focused on enterprise communications research. My mission is to uncover what enterprise users are doing.
His first report is called First Communications and was released earlier this week. The focus is on disaster recovery priorities.
I thought this was a great idea to see what makes Pete tick these days. I wondered what drove him to launch his own company for example. Here is the Q&A:
What prompted you to start your own research company?
Like any entrepreneur, it’s about seeing an unfilled need and taking the steps to fill them.
Having been a marketer at a number of large and small companies, it became clear to me that high tech marketers really need to learn from their customers, and the alternatives’ customers. The only thing better than testing the relative positioning of ideas in a market research process, is to sell the product for real. Customer research provides a mechanism for a ‘market proxy’ that can give the clever marketer the tools to decide how to approach the market and how to win, more often than flying by intuition.
Of course, others have been offering this kind of service for a long time, but not with my unique methodology.
Why pick disaster recovery as your first report topic?
This is not really my first report topic. In recent months, I’ve written others on fixed-mobile convergence, unified communications and WAN services. But these were for other companies. In this report called "First Communications", published about 600 days after Katrina, I wanted to contribute to the industry dialog on what should have gone better in the post-disaster period. So, I asked folks to imagine their town being struck with a natural disaster and to choose the most important communications service from a long list. Then I read everything I could on the response post-Katrina.
Did anything surprise you while researching it?
Yes. There were several surprises. I was surprised by the FCC Independent Panel which reported that communications repair crews were not assigned first responder ranking so they were not allowed into the flooded areas until days later, so their generators powering the towers and switches ran out of gas. When they did get fuel they had to hire private armed guards to protect their work crews instead of the army and national guardsmen who were protecting other vital assets.
I was surprised that wireless was ranked so highly and that wireless voice was #1. I was disappointed that mobile operators were given the same repair priority by the wireline provider as any other commercial or consumer customer.
Are enterprises prepared for disasters in your opinion?
Disaster preparedness is a factor that executives have to think about from time to time. They have to assess the risk of some disaster together with the cost of being prepared for it. Being prepared for a disaster doesn’t have to be a big investment in ‘just in case’ equipment or services. Companies have to have in place a mechanism to send messages to their employees using a variety of ‘low tech’ tools. Voicemail broadcast. SMS. Email. Webmail. 1800#. Knowing where all the employees are (and if they need help) is probably a good start. Being able to reach them when you need to helps a lot too.
Having redundant assets away from the disaster area can maintain important processes and records. This depends completely on the role your business plays in the economy and the nature of your company assets. Service businesses like mine are pretty prepared. We can do work from anywhere with a web connection and a credit card processor. Other businesses are not structured like this.
Service businesses like communications services were shown to need better preparation with staged equipment, fuel, personnel and security. Some were, some were not. The lessons from my research – mobile operators must be ready to stay up, get back up, and be prepared to address all devices in a zone with public safety messages.
What is the biggest recurring problem you see enterprises facing when preparing for disasters?
Practice the drills. Train the employees. That’s when you learn the things about the processes and the assumptions.
What is the target audience for this report?
This free report is aimed at those involved in disaster planning in business, government and communications service providers.
Why should people read it?
They’ll discover some perspectives on the trend towards mobile voice services.
What can we expect from you next?
I’m currently working on a report about the business applications of email. I have the survey in production. This’ll be there for about another week.
On deck is a study on "whether hosted VoIP services have really come of age?"