When COVID-19 became a pandemic in early 2020, driving levels declined considerably around the world as people sheltered in place and worked from home. In the UK, the number of cars on the road dwindled to numbers not seen since the mid-1950s, and in the U.S., Federal data shows that Americans drove 13% fewer miles in 2020, roughly 2.8 trillion miles below the previous year. Those numbers fluctuated throughout the year, but it didn’t lessen the number of accidents: vehicle crashes increased dramatically, while car breakdowns continued to rise throughout the UK.
Fortunately, organizations like the RAC came to the rescue. As one of the UK's most progressive motoring organizations, the RAC – headquartered in Birmingham, with nearly 4,000 employees – provides roadside assistance and vehicle breakdown services to more than 8 million private and business members across the UK and Europe. The RAC also offers insurance, vehicle inspections and legal services, as well as traffic and travel information.
Founded in 1897, today the RAC uses a computer-aided dispatch system to answer calls for assistance from its customers whether they have phoned in to request help or logged their breakdown online.
Managing 2.5 million roadside rescues a year, the RAC knows the importance of responding to a breakdown—whether it’s related to vehicles, business processes or IT. If disruption hits any of the three facilities supporting core applications and call center operations, a carefully planned resilience strategy, including a Sungard Availability Services (Sungard AS) Workplace Recovery solution, can jumpstart recovery to resume business.
But it is the RAC’s customer contact centers that must respond to calls for help from both consumer and commercial customers, while supporting sales operations, as well. All of these business processes, along with the RAC’s core applications, are supported by an outsourced off-site data center that provides remote access to multiple RAC facilities.
“We have three key business premises in Manchester, Walsall and Bristol,” explains Derek McNeill, the RAC’s Business Continuity & IT Risk Manager, about the need for resilient operations. “The contact centers there manage a combined four million breakdown calls a year, so loss of power or data connectivity to our external data center is our main concern.”
Since nearly 800 employees across the sites rely on access to be productive, the RAC knows its business continuity strategy must go beyond managing IT disruption to managing workforce disruption. It also knows the importance of preparing both staff and executives for a crisis, whether caused by weather-related incidents or newer challenges, such as a pandemic.
“COVID 19 has changed the shape of business for lots of companies,” McNeill says. “It literally changed our way of working and how we approach our business continuity planning.”
For the last 10 years, Sungard AS Workplace Recovery Centers have played a significant role in the RAC’s overall business resilience strategy. Today, whether caused by power, weather or other factors disrupting normal operations, the RAC has three geographically separated Sungard AS recovery centers available to resume business.
Recently renewed for another three years, the RAC contract includes sufficient seating capacity to support the RAC business operation within Sungard AS’ Workplace Recovery Centers, with access for up to 13 weeks at a time. Each Workplace Recovery Center environment is designed with the physical security, power management, environmental controls and high-speed connectivity the RAC needs for a smooth transition.
The RAC’s Business Continuity solution with Sungard AS also features crisis management coaching for RAC executives. Delivered through awareness workshops and exercises, the goal is to prepare leaders for a range of crisis scenarios, from cyber-attacks that threaten IT systems to incidents that may put the company’s reputation at risk.
During these workshops, Sungard AS consultants share best practice approaches and advice to help executives understand the problem at hand, analyze the impact, identify priorities and take action to manage and resolve incidents — including dealing with the media, regulators, customers and employees.
“I believe the crisis management exercises we went through with Sungard AS in January helped us manage the COVID-19 pandemic better than we would have last year,” confirms McNeill. “They served as a pre-emptive strike that gave executives a ‘heads up’ on what could happen. So, when the virus hit in March, their minds were already in the right place to react to it.”
Proven recovery practices bring peace of mind to the RAC, as well as its base of commercial customers, including Mercedes-Benz. “Our corporate partners come in and audit us every year. As soon as I say I have a contract with Sungard AS for backup capacity for my site, they’re happy,” McNeill says
McNeill looked at other work area recovery solutions before renewing his long-term contract for another three years. “I can always count on Sungard AS,” he says. “I trust my recovery team 100 percent. That trust is key, especially when you’re in a crisis.”
For more information on the RAC and its recovery services with Sungard AS, read the full case study.