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When IT systems failure is not an option

March 3, 2008 0 Comments

Here’s an interesting story over at about the IT project supporting the 2008 Olympics in Beijing:

Atos Origin is the information technology partner for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) with the job of designing, building and operating the invisible IT infrastructure that supplies results, events and athlete information to the media, spectators and the world.

It also designs the platforms for accreditation, transportation, hotel accommodation and other services without which the Olympics would fall apart.

On the 11th floor of Digital Beijing, a banner trumpets the slogan “At the Olympic Games, there is no second chance.”

Known and unknown risks are analysed and every system is backed up by a plan B, plan C, or even a plan D.

“We have a very high degree of redundancy (backup),” said Patrick Adiba, the firm’s vice president responsible for the Olympics and major events.

That backup includes an entire replica data centre set up at a secret location elsewhere in Beijing that will kick in if the main centre fails.

“We just have to be ready with a response to known and unknown problems,” said Adiba.

Atos Origin has been running the IT platform for every Olympics since 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games and has signed on to do the same for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games and the 2012 London Summer Olympics.

Note at least three key success factors that appear in the brief excerpt above:

  • A high degree of redundancy in systems and processes
  • A strong focus on testing, again for both systems and processes
  • A vendor who has performed this exact same task (running an Olympics) multiple times

All things to keep in mind for your next large-scale IT systems development effort. ..bruce..

About the Author:

Webster is Principal and Founder at at Bruce F. Webster & Associates, as well as an Adjunct Professor for the BYU Computer Science Department. He works with organizations to help them with troubled or failed information technology (IT) projects. He has also worked in several dozen legal cases as a consultant and as a testifying expert, both in the United States and Japan. He can be reached at 303.502.4141 or at

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