I have been on both sides of this concern - working in a country that was nearly strangled by a strike by Custom's clerks and working for the same company elsewhere trying to convince prospective clients that we could meet their service requirements "no matter what."
Civil war in Syria.
Political conflict in Turkey.
Iran - enough said.
Ukraine and Russia.
Turmoil in on the European side.
Remnants of the "Arab Spring."
Israel and the terrorists to the south and the north.
And a few more "to be named later."
If your organization buys products or services from anywhere around the Med you can plan on interruptions of product or service.
The Internet and common carriers are not immune as nations close their borders or are quarantined.
Assume - always a dangerous thing to do - that your organization must have a product or service from an area of contention.
Your customers are concerned that your source may be prevented from delivering a product or service they expect due to contract. It is a justifiable concern. How can your organization assure them that it has a risk management plan to protect your clients' interests?
Assuring sufficient hardware products is (relatively) easy.
If the product is electronic, you should know the MTBF* of all critical components in the product. Given the MTBF plus the sales projection it would be relatively easy to "guesstimate" how much product and how many spares need to be warehoused in-country. If your organization is selling very large items - aircraft, ships, and other things that cannot easily be folded and shelved - finding a suitable place to warehouse the product can be a problem, but it is a surmountable problem.
Products delivered by Internet - software applications, bug fixes, upgrades and the like - also are subject to delivery interruption. The Internet is a "pipe" with government "valves" that can restrict both incoming and outgoing data.
A Guardian article headed Internet censorship listed: how does each country compare? includes a table from the OpenNet Initiative listing countries and how each rates regarding (1) Political Filtering, (2) Social Filtering, (3) Internet Tools Filtering, and (4) Conflict/Security Filtering.
Of the 74 nations listed, only 40 had no Internet restrictions while 5 had "substantial" political filtering. ONI's options were, by severity:
- No evidence
USA Today identifies its Top 10 Internet-censored countries.
Just as a nation can close off Internet flow - or have it closed off by cyber-criminals attacking servers in the victim nation - it also can close its borders to two-way traffic - or, as with cyber-crime, be isolated by its neighbors' closed borders.
In either situation, your organization needs to plan ahead and, while travel is possible, either
- Send its personnel to the vendor or
- Have vendor trainers come to your organization
to train to a level sufficient to meet client requirements.
In truth, this is no different than if the vendor's site is isolated due to a localized epidemic or any other "natural" cause.
Technical manuals are helpful, but having "factory-trained" personnel with hands-on experience always trumps a manual - paper or digital. That should <
be understood to mean technical documentation - with any updates - is not necessary; it is most assuredly necessary.
I have been a technical writer and a trainer. I remain a reader of manuals and other instruction materials.
Don't forget "the usual suspects"
When reviewing the threats to an international supply chain - be the product or service physical or software - remember all the "routine" supply chain gremlins, including but not limited to
- Customer fickleness
- Point-to-point transportation (sea, air, rail, roadway)
- Work (in)actions
- Vendor failure (temporary or permanent)
* MTBF: Mean Time Before Failure