The Risk of Email: Lost Productivity

When we think of email-related risks, we generally think of malware. What if some unscrupulous cybercriminal sends an employee a message containing a virus, Trojan horse or botnet? Organizations implement spam filters and firewalls to prevent such threats, but there is always a fear that those protections will fail.

Well, now, one company is addressing an altogether different risk of email: lost productivity.

The tech firm Atos seems to believe that its employees face threats from internal spam, meaning those pointless messages we all get from co-workers that achieve little more than distracting us from real work. So rather than let its workers decide which emails actually have value and are worth distributing, Atos came us with a simple solution: banning internal email.

CEO Thierry Breton of the French information technology company said only 10 percent of the 200 messages employees receive per day are useful and 18 percent is spam.  That’s why he hopes the company can eradicate internal emails in 18 months, forcing the company’s 74,000 employees to communicate with each other via instant messaging and a Facebook-style interface.

Oddly enough, Breton isn’t some rags-to-riches maverick from Silicon Valley who has gone bonkers. He has led several high-profile, traditional companies in France before becoming CEO of Atos. But it is he who is leading the charge to end the most prominent method of communication used in business today.

Breton,  the French finance minister from 2005 to 2007, told the Wall Street Journal he has not sent an email in the three years since he became chairman and CEO of Atos in November 2008.

“We are producing data on a massive scale that is fast polluting our working environments and also encroaching into our personal lives,” he said in a statement when first announcing the policy in Feburary. “At [Atos] we are taking action now to reverse this trend, just as organizations took measures to reduce environmental pollution after the industrial revolution.”

I would add some additional insightful commentary but, excuse me, I just received a pop-up in the right corner of my screen telling me that my co-worker has sent me a message containing a particularly funny edition of Dilbert …

Thierry Breton, CEO of Atos (image via Nicolos Esposito)

The Risks of Social Media: How Insurance Companies Are Benefitting Despite the Potential Perils

It’s been quite awhile since we last added to our Risks of Social Media series. There has of course been many developments and discussions of the risks involved over the past year, but more so than the downsides, companies should now be focusing on the upside. Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and now, perhaps, Google+ all present vast marketing, reputation, customer service and sales benefits so it would be foolish to continue ignoring the social media revolution just due to the downsides.

For a recap of the perils, however, let’s look at the below slide from the Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation’s presentation “Social Media 2.0 for Insurance Professionals.”

These issues are real concerns. They must be dealt with. And anyone in your company who is tasked with managing any aspect of the firm’s social media platform must undergo training that highlights the risks just as much as the opportunities.

But just look at how even these — theoretically — risk-averse companies are leveraging social media for their own gains. Insurers are generally not going to jump into something if the threat outweighs the upside. So if they’re doing it, chances are you should be, too. (all slides courtesy of Dewey & LeBoeuf’s presentation for IICF)

State Farm








Hiscox Introduces Terrorism Insurance for Hospitals

In 2007, Congress extended the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act, which was first introduced in 2002 in response to the concern of subsequent attacks after 9/11, for seven years. So although the federal backstop that complements the private insurance market for terrorism insurance will be around in its current form until at least 2014, this risk is still one that many feel needs to be better addressed by insurers.

Enter a new product from specialty insurer Hiscox.

The company’s press release introducing its new health care terrorism liability coverage calls hospitals soft targets for terrorists to attack “due to their relatively low level of protection, a high throughput of people, and the knock-on effect that one successful attack could have on the entire U.S. health-care system.” The policy offers $50 million in liability (including evacuation costs, surge costs, safe notification expense, and triage costs) with nuclear, chemical, biological and radiation attack coverage also available.

Ian Thompson, senior vice president for Hiscox’s health-care business, says that is the first terrorism liability for U.S. health-care companies, which “have a genuine vulnerability to the terrorist threat whether perpetrated by single issue, direct action groups such as animal rights or anti-abortion organisations, disturbed/disgruntled individuals, or religious extremists.”

Flash Mobs and Black Friday: Retailers Prepare!

The term “flash mob” was coined in 2003 to describe a sudden, large-scale gathering of people in one specific location to perform an unusual and sometimes pointless act for a brief period of time. With the growing popularity of Facebook, Twitter and viral emails, flash mobs have grown much larger and, in some cases, dangerous.

Though most of these events are organized solely for the purpose of artistic expression or to merely entertain passers by, some flash mobs have become “flash robs” — where groups descend on stores and other venues to, in most cases, steal merchandise. These events can easily injure employees and customers and cause monetary loss through theft and damage to property. And the threat is real. In fact, Marsh recently released Responding to Flash Mob/Rob Events, which, among other things, outlines steps retailers should take before, during and after a flash mob event, such as:

  • monitoring of social media websites to identify potential threats
  • reviewing business interruption plans and insurance programs with regards to partial or full shutdown of a location
  • providing training to employees related to disorderly conduct, assault, theft and looting
  • developing internal and external communications plans before an event
  • communicating frequently with local law enforcement

With Black Friday just two days away, the threat of flash robs is on the minds of retailers, and if it’s not, it should be. The National Retail Federation has compiled guidelines and protocols of more than 100 retail companies to better understand how to respond.

Now let’s take a look at three videos. The first is an example of a peaceful flash mob, the second is an example of a dangerous flash rob and the third is an analysis of the flash mob epidemic as a spiritual issue.