This blog post is in English by request
Last week – on Wednesday 9th of April – IBM in Denmark have a massive breakdown. More than a hundred big and small companies who relies on the services from IBM have no contact with their server etc. Among the companies are one of the largest banks in Denmark – Danske Bank, the world leading shipping company A.P. Moller – Maersk Group, Carlsberg and Northern Europe’s largest dairy manufacturers Arla.
The effect was frightening. More than 1.200.000 of Danske Bank’s customers couldn’t use their credit card. And it was not only affecting their Danish customers – the Irish and Finnish customers were affected the most. The employees of A. P. Moller could not send emails, Carlsberg could not produce beer, hospital and pharmacy were affected and Arla could not get the orders for milk from supermarkets.
The breakdown was properly the most severely in the history of IBM in the Northern Europe perhaps all of Europe.
Even though the breakdown “only” lasted from 12 a.m. till around midnight the breakdown have had massive costs for the affected companies.
And what was the respond from IBM? Nothing. No comments. No mention on their homepage, no talking to the press. Obvious the press has been writing about this mysterious event. Both the business daily Børsen and Berlingske Tidende have along with the IT newspaper Computerworld have been writing about the case. But still there is no official comments about why the public are not informed.
Today, almost a week after the incident, IBM have given an interview to the business daily Børsen – but only explaining that “…it was a defect switch which coursed the breakdown”. No comments about why they choose not to inform the public. The journalist asked the danish CEO Lars Mikkelgaard-Jensen if the public should be told about the reason for the breakdown in order to calm them down. The reply was “No!”.
This is really a interesting case of how an international and major company handles a crises. By imposing a news blackout on the matter. IMO this is definitely not the right way.
Perhaps the explanation for the mysterious communication (or lack of it) can be found in the fact that IBM is suffering some major setback in Denmark. They have lost some major clients in the last year and perhaps they thought they could bury the case by not talking about it. This has of course not been the case.
Now both client and the public are frustrated and this has given rise to a lot of rumors, like “the real reason for the “no comment”-policy is that the breakdown can’t be explained and they therefore can’t ensure that it won’t happen again”.
The parliament is now looking at the breakdown because IBM is one of the biggest supplier for the public authorities and the largest local municipality (Copenhagen) is now considering if IBM should be disqualified in a large invitation to tender.
All things which make it even more peculiarly why IBM have reacted the way they have.
As a PR professional this is not the way I would have recommended. Both the public and the clients need to be made to trust IBM again – and “no comments” is not a good way to do that.