John O'Connor doesn't mind surprises--as long as he knows about them before everybody else. Whether it's a power outage in Wichita or an earthquake in Chengdu, "if I hear about it for the first time on the news, something has gone wrong," says O'Connor, director of supply chain risk management at Cisco Systems, the computer-networking giant. He relies on a subscription-based incident monitoring service to instantly send out an email alert about any event that could impede the flow of goods from, to, and between Cisco's roughly 1,000 suppliers. By the time the rest of us are first hearing about a crisis, O'Connor has already consulted Cisco's crisis-management dashboard, onto which he has mapped nodes for all of Cisco's manufacturing partners, component suppliers, and logistics providers.
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