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How R&D IT can Weather the Polar Vortex

by Michael Shanler  |  January 9, 2014  |  Comments Off on How R&D IT can Weather the Polar Vortex

This “polar vortex”  that has gripped North America for the last week is quite the interesting phenomenon.   For those that aren’t familiar, the high altitude cold air circulating around the North Pole is temporarily out of whack.  The boundary for the flow of air, which usually is regular and elliptical in shape, has become wavy and unpredictable.   The result?  The temperature in the US and Canada had dropped 20-40 deg. F below average. Ugh!

This weather event has had an impact on individuals’ productivity.   Icy roads, burst pipes, power outages, isolation….and then there are the travel delays….  I don’t fault the airlines for shutting down operations to protecting their employees, but they knew it was going to be dangerously cold a few days before and should have been more proactive.  TSA did a good job preventing angry passengers from bringing pitchforks into the terminals.  There is no excuse for running out of de-ice fluid if the airport is located less than 200 miles from the Canadian border….

While the tweets about stranded passengers being driven insane by Gershwin’s Rhapsody hold music for 10+ hours provides some entertainment value, this polar vortex event is somewhat analogous to the unexpected events that periodically challenge enterprise R&D IT agility.  Every once in a while, new directions regarding innovation, acquisitions, and technology strategies will stress an enterprise.  While many events are impossible to predict, an R&D IT organization needs to be prepared for unforeseen challenges.  Granted, risk scenarios and gaming play a central role in mitigation, but strong R&D IT execution during times of adversity can only be achieved if you have alignment both within the group and with business partners, and the portfolio is well-characterized.  See Achieving Agility in New Product Development With R&D IT Alignment and Pace Layering.   If you have done this, then you can can at least continue the innovation activities while surviving the infrequent (but challenging) “polar vortex” events that will (predictably) impact your organization.


(Source: NOAA)

(Source: NOAA)

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Michael Shanler
Research VP
5 years at Gartner

Michael Shanler covers life science R&D technologies. Read Full Bio

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