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Swine flu, pandemic preparedness and SAP

Swine flu = a new challenge for pandemic preparedness

The outbreak of  swine flu in Mexico caused major concerns all around the world. The WHO is monitoring these outbreaks very carefully. Although this news seems to be very frightening and caused a lot of fear (just have a look on the ongoing twitter communications which updates every second at the moment) there is also a lot of reassuring information: Health officials and public authorities have spent a lot of work and ressources on pandemic preparedness in the last years due to the enduring threat of an avian flu pandemic. The flu wiki is a good starting point for an overview of all these activities. These preparations could now serve as a foundation for pandemic preparedness against swine flu outbreaks in other parts of the world.

In the last years a team from SAP has worked with several customers and partners to share experiences and also to demonstrate how SAP solutions could contribute to these efforts. I would like to share some of these insights and experiences in this blog.

The challenges for health authorities

Situational awareness is the key challenge for health authorities during a pandemic. Managing shortages will be a permanent task as it is nearly impossible to provide enough antiviral drugs and vaccine. Collecting robust data in order to check the prediction models and permanently adjust them to the new situation would be a permanent task.

SAP´s solution components

Based on experiences with existing solutions for disaster management we have worked out a flexible and easy-to-implement solution.

The key components of this solution are SAP Interactive forms by Adobe and a flu notification cockpit based on Webdynpro Abap. The forms are standardized by health authorities. They could be linked to websites which offer up-to-date information during the pandemic. General practitioners but also citizens could type in the necessary information. As the identity of a person is not decisive the privacy regulations could be assured while gathering the necessary information. Even if not all cases were reported the assessment of health officials was that it would help them tremendously as they need samples in order to check their predictions and to manage the crisis appropriately.

The challenges for companies and organizations

Although health officials and disaster manager will be at the front-line for the fight against a pandemic companies and organizations will face similar challenges. Studies predicted that 30% of the employees in a company will not be present due to illness or for other reasons like the care for their families.

Therefore the organizations have two main challenges:

  • A good situational awareness
  • The ability to react very quickly and to keep the business going with a reduced workforce

A crisis management plan in a company needs a lot of actions which could not be described all here in detail. A very good overview of the necessary actions could be found in the flu wiki. But we were also able to identify SAP solutions which could improve the crisis response activities.

SAP´s solution components

SAP Interactive forms by Adobe and a flu notification cockpit based on Webdynpro Abap offer a good foundation and a good starting point. Using this solution could mean that the corporate crisis management center gets an overview which subsidiaries are still working and which ressources are still available. The solution offers a framework by which the critical ressources for each process could be identified. These could be machineries as well as persons. Services are included so that existing data (especially HR data) could be used for the crisis management. Moreover it provides guided procedure by which emergency managers get the necessary actions they need to do.

The picture below offers an overview of some sample screens. Please note that for confidentiality reasons these are no real world screens.


During our process analysis we noticed that the access to applications were an area which is constantly underestimated. Just imagine that colleagues in your accounting department need to get new authorization roles and that your security administrator is not available (due to a sickness). Therefore we identified the former GRC firefighter (I know that the wording has been changed but firefighter seems appropriate in this context) as a key component for an improved crisis response.

 This blog has been written in cooperation with my colleague Markus Voss.

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  • Early detection, warning and information sharing amongst agencies and governments, as we have seen, has enabled a global response. Providing information, guidance and quickly activating mitigation measures at transport hubs also can deliver critical decision advantage. I agree with Bernhard that the use of Twitter and other sites is increasingly becoming a vital tool in the fight for greater awareness, preparedness, responsiveness and resilience.
  • Fully agree, the WHO report identified in last 5 years over 1000 new outbreaks, this recent one has truly emphasized todays shared destinies around security and safety. The world health report 2007 – A safer future: global public health security in the 21st century

    I think building greater situational awareness and earlier warning capabilities as well as co-ordinated, pre-planned responses are key aspects.