Back Up on Day

By Anna Maria Virzi Print this article Print

Ellen Clarke, global chief information officer of insurance brokerage Marsh Inc., on Sept. 10, 2001, flew to a meeting set for the following day at her company's offices in London, England. "Otherwise, I would be dead," she says, referring to


Back Up on Day Three

Q: How long did it take to restore operations?

A: We were back up with all critical applications and infrastructure in less than three days. However, we did not back up mirrored data centers [which back up the backup centers] for six to nine months.

Q: Did you lose any data after 9/11?

A: We lost one placement transaction [an insurance transaction on behalf of a client], which was totally replaceable within an hour. We had the data and the person in the business area who knew what the transaction was all about. It was not an issue. We also had just finished the implementation of an Oracle enterprise resource planning application for general ledger in our London data center. We had it backed up in the United States, and we recovered that application within 20 minutes.

Q: How did your organization start operating after the death of so many workers?

A: It was just not the numbers of people—it was who was killed. It was the people who ran the organization. The three direct reports were the CIO for Canada, the head of applications for the front office, and the head of the program management office, budget and administration functions for Marsh Technology

Q: What did you do for leadership?

A: Basically, I asked the business to back away because everyone had an idea of how it should be done. But the [I.T.] people were very capable, and I worked with them to build a recovery plan. And we did. We created an A list, B list and C list, and I asked everyone to focus on the A list because those were the things that were critical to get done first. We assigned people to do it, they came back and reported. We had command center meetings at least twice a day to report back to discover if people needed additional help. And we were very organized and orderly in our methodology. The tendency is always to work on things you want to work on. My job is to make sure they worked on the right things.

Q: What is an example of the right things?

A: Fortunately, I spent a lot of time in the application world, trying to understand the applications at Marsh. [So after 9/11] we focused on the placement transaction application because that is Marsh's largest revenue generator; we also focused on the financial systems.

This article was originally published on 2006-09-07
Executive Editor
Anna Maria was assistant managing editor Forbes.com. She held the posts of news editor and executive editor at Internet World magazine and was city editor and Washington correspondent for the Connecticut Post, a daily newspaper in Bridgeport. Anna Maria has a B.A. from the University of Rhode Island.
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