Teaching Case - "The Worst Thing That Could Happen": How Empire Blue Cross and Blue Shield Survived September 11

"The Worst Thing That Could Happen": How Empire Blue Cross and Blue Shield Survived September 11


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  • Product Description

    Following the devastating September 11, 2001 attack on New York's World Trade Center, many companies were faced with the possibility not only that their employees had been lost, but that their businesses had been destroyed in the collapse of the twin towers. This case tells the story of one major, nonprofit organization that lost 480,000 square feet of office space and the computers and stored information that went with them--and nonetheless continued to operate without interruption. Empire Blue Cross and Blue Shield, the health insurance organization which had been headquartered in the Trade Center, continued to pay claims and answer questions from its customers. This case describes the management and investment decisions of the previous seven years, which culminated in Empire's capacity to survive the September 11 attacks (although nine of its 1,900 employees at the World Trade Center and two of its long-time consultants died). It focuses less on emergency preparedness per se than on a series of information technology-related decisions, including an emphasis on online customer service and the cross-training of those who worked in Empire's many call centers, such that no one company site, even its headquarters, was indispensable to its smooth operation.

    Learning Objective:
    The case can serve as the basis for discussion as to how major nonprofit organizations can find the ways and means to make major capital investments, as well as the obstacles to doing so. It will also be useful to those who seek to design or analyze so-called e-government systems, with an eye toward maintaining uninterrupted service.

  • Other Details

    Publication Date: May 01, 2002
    HKS Case Number: 1654.0
    Case Author: Esther Scott
    Pages (incl. exhibits): 25
    Setting: United States
    Language: English
    Funding Source: Empire Blue Cross and Blue Shield
    _year: 2000-2009
    _pages: 16-25
    _geography: US & Canada
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