The countdown to London 2012 has begun and, with the Olympic and Paralympic Games fast approaching, athletes across the globe are stepping up their training regimes and preparing to compete in the world's greatest sporting event. But they're not the only ones making preparations. With the help of a number of its sponsors, including professional services firm Deloitte, the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) is preparing for the enormous operational challenges that come with staging a major international event. The Big Four firm is providing a range of tax, consulting and human capital services to LOCOG, from designing a framework for sustainable catering services that can feed 14 million mouths, to business planning to ensure the Olympic Games leave a lasting economic, sporting and social legacy.
But, in the event of a challenging scenario, such as if a spectator is taken ill during an event at the Olympic Stadium, how will medical staff be alerted, respond to the problem, and take the spectator out of the venue via the fastest and safest route so they can be treated? And, with more than 11 million people expected to flock to London, putting extra pressure on the capital's roads, rails and services, how will other organisations ensure it's "business as usual" for the duration of the Games? These questions are being considered by Deloitte's Enterprise Risk Services (ERS) practice, which, through a programme of "Games readiness" work, is helping to make sure London 2012 runs smoothly for LOCOG - and British businesses. To learn more about ERS's work to prepare for the biggest event in a generation, we spoke to Deloitte's Head of Resilience and Business Continuity, Rick Cudworth, and graduate trainee in ERS, Angharad Jones, who is working on her first project at LOCOG.
Organisations face a number of risks related to finance, business processes, technology and operations, and it's the job of ERS to help them effectively manage those risks. The practice is divided into the areas of security and resilience, data analytics, and controls, and together, explains Rick, "the teams within ERS help organisations to limit the impact of these risks on their day-to-day business and to seize opportunities through making informed risk decisions." The Olympic Games are no exception, and the risks that the organising committee faces range from handling security, to managing logistics, to responding to extreme weather. Over the past 18 months, ERS's resilience team has been working with LOCOG to help them design and deliver a programme of activities and simulation exercises to ensure that, by the summer, the organisers will be ready to handle any challenging situation that could arise during the Games.
Angharad joined Deloitte's ERS graduate programme in September 2011 and she soon got stuck into her work at LOCOG, where she's helping to prepare the Olympic Games venues, and the staff who'll be working there, for the events. She's responsible for considering all of the possible scenarios that could occur during Games-time, from routine to emergency situations. She is also leading discussions with LOCOG representatives to make sure that everyone understands the most effective way of responding to these situations. "We consider a wide spectrum of possible events, such as how to respond if a catering concession loses its electricity supply and is unable to produce fresh food and drinks for customers, how to provide queues of spectators with water and shade if hot weather becomes a health hazard, or what to do if a lost child is reported," explains Angharad. As the Games approach, the resilience team will also run simulation exercises, which will create "bubble environments" to allow the venue teams to test their communication systems and responses to hypothetical scenarios in real time. "I very recently joined Deloitte, so I was lucky to be assigned to our project at LOCOG," says Angharad. "It's exciting because the Olympic Games are so tangible and come Games-time I'll be able to see the outcome of my work."
The Olympic Games are a unique event, but Rick explains that many of the challenges presented by the Games are ones which ERS helps its clients to manage on a daily basis. This experience puts the resilience team in the perfect position to help Deloitte's other clients to prepare for the impact of the Games. Organisations based in London and other areas close to Olympic Games venues have a plethora of issues to consider to make sure their businesses can carry on as normal, including maintaining their supply chain, guaranteeing staff availability, managing a rise or fall in customer demand, and setting up additional security. For example, Rick explains how the resilience team is helping a City-based financial institution to prepare a business continuity plan for the Games: "We've taken employees' postcodes and looked at how they normally travel to work, and how their plans will be affected during the Olympic Games. This process enables us to recommend that certain staff either work from home or travel at different times on certain days. For those working at home, we then have to ensure the organisation has the IT capacities to support them, and that employees have sufficient internet bandwidth to enable effective home working."
Although the Games will present operational challenges for a number of companies in the capital, Rick believes that if the risks are managed effectively, the Games "present clear opportunities for British business." He adds: "Businesses operating in the travel, hospitality, retail and leisure industries stand to gain a share of the £750 million additional consumer spend that has been forecast to happen during the Games, and we're helping our clients to position themselves to take advantage of that."
Over to you
Angharad says working in ERS appealed to her because she's "interested in what people do to solve problems and handle crises in real life situations." You don't need to come from a specific degree discipline to work in the practice - Angharad read history at Cambridge, but was introduced to ERS by a family member, who also works at Deloitte. The firm runs a comprehensive training programme which teaches graduates everything they need to know to work in security and resilience, and Angharad says "you're not thrown in at the deep end - at Deloitte and LOCOG everyone is willing to help and explain things to me if I have a problem." The most important skills you need to be successful in ERS, she adds, are teamwork, communication skills, adaptability and the ability to pay attention to detail.
And how does it feel to be part of London 2012? "The Games are the greatest show on Earth so for everyone at Deloitte, and my team and I in particular, it's really exciting to feel part of them," says Rick. Angharad adds: "I'm looking forward to watching the Games and seeing my contributions - I think I'll feel a real sense of achievement." Unfortunately, though, working with LOCOG isn't a ticket to a front row seat at the Games - while Rick won tickets to see the athletics in the public ballot, Angharad will be watching the gymnastics and diving events from home!