In last week’s post, I talked about how we’ve been documenting the factors that prevent organizations from achieving an optimal approach to critical event management (CEM).
We’ve grouped those factors into three major buckets: time, technology, and trust. And from there, we’re providing a series of questions you can ask, or steps you can take, to tackle the issues that hit home for your organization.Even if you’re doing an excellent job when it comes to CEM, there’s always room to improve, and those fixes can save money, reputation, or lives.
Now that we’ve covered the first factor (“time”), let’s move on to the second: Technology.
The Value of Rapid CEM Alerts
In recent research, The BCI (Business Continuity Institute) found that “the most highly valued function of a business continuity tool/software is the ability to alert a high number of people quickly. More than three-quarters of respondents (78.9%) cited this as a functionality used by their organization in a crisis.”Using disparate, outdated, overcomplicated, or workaround solutions makes it hard or impossible to reach all the right people at the right time, confirm their status, and gather insight from people on-scene.
This is far from a theoretical or esoteric issue. It has real-world consequences that run the gamut from mild to severe. At the mild end, it results in wasted time and effort. For example, an office worker who didn’t check the group WhatsApp, and makes the morning commute in, only to find the office is closed because of a health concern or building issue.
At the other end of the spectrum, lives may be in the balance. Consider, for example, Canada’s deadliest mass shooting incident, as recounted by The Guardian:
“[M]embers of the communications team relied on Twitter and Facebook to circulate information about the gunman, his vehicle, and his whereabouts. They also faxed newsrooms...It took nearly a half hour on the morning of 19 April 2020 to get a tweet approved providing some detail of the replica cruiser and the suspect driving it. By then, the gunman had already been on a rampage for hours, stopping at various victims’ homes and killing the occupants. Twenty-two people died…including one police officer.”
The point here is that different people and organizations communicate in different ways – every day and in every crisis. Some rely on devices like mobile phones, or fax machines, while others rely on broadcast systems like social media, or even loudspeakers. All of these systems and devices have limitations.
There’s the factory worker who isn’t allowed to check her phone on the shop floor. The doctor who can’t stop to read a text while in a meeting with a patient’s family. The hearing-impaired office worker who can’t make out a public-address message. The teacher, hiding students from an active shooter, afraid to make a sound while an attacker roams the hallways. The list goes on.
And this is key: During a critical event, the message needs to reach all the right people, no matter where they are or what device they can access.
However, reaching everyone quickly can’t create more challenges or complexities for decision-makers. Administrators need maximum efficiency: one easy-to-use, specialized solution to reach every person, no matter the endpoint or channel.But too many organizations are using multiple, often outdated CEM systems that have been cobbled together over time. And when those solutions lack functionality, administrators and employees turn to unsecure or unapproved channels, like the examples I mentioned earlier involving WhatsApp, Twitter, or Facebook.It means messages may be missed, sure, but it also makes it hard to meet regulatory compliance requirements, or to carry out post-incident reviews to improve procedures for next time.
In a Crisis, Communication Must Flow Two Ways
Getting the message out is critical; but as CEM technology has advanced, business continuity and emergency managers now realize the importance of two-way communication in a crisis. Once you’ve let people know something’s going on, you need to confirm their status, and — if they have insight that can illuminate the situation — gather their intelligence in a way that doesn’t slow them down or risk their safety.
So things like pre-made responses, where they can click to confirm their status, become helpful. Or location-tracking via GPS. Or, if they’re able to do so, making it intuitive for people to snap and share a picture or quick video of what’s happening where they are.
We’re moving up the maturity curve of CEM here — first talking about getting the message out, then, intelligence coming back in. And another important advance in tech capabilities has to do with early warning and detection. The best solutions are incorporating artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to alert decision-makers to potential issues before they become critical events.Let’s move on to talk about what you can do now to address tech-related issues and get your CEM response to a better place, no matter where you’re at today.
Four Technology Questions to Ask About Your Current CEM Solution
When you think about your current CEM solution, whether it’s basic or well-developed, ask yourself these four questions:
1. Does my CEM solution let you get messages out in all the ways I need to?
Some solutions only allow you to send messages through cloud-based channels. And, for sure, the cloud is crucial: As BCI research notes, “SaaS tools help to increase response time in a crisis: 54% can activate plans within 5 minutes if SaaS tools are used.”
But the cloud isn’t the whole story: A more robust solution will interface with the on-prem environment, too (e.g., digital displays, fire panels, NAS, IPAWS). Alert outputs should include the full range of communications channels your users may need, including social media, SMS text and mobile apps, telephone calls with voicemail, desktop pop-up notifications, email, enterprise messaging apps like Microsoft Teams® and BBM® Enterprise (BBMe), and more.
That doctor or factory worker who can’t check their phone can be alerted instead by public-address system; and if that employee (or anyone else) is hearing-impaired, the message better be flashing on digital signage, too.
As Gartner advises: “Assess the CEM solution’s application integration methods to ensure it can integrate many internal and external applications into the CEM solution to support situational awareness.”
2. Is my CEM designed for crisis management?
Avoid cobbled-together solutions. Instead, ask if the one you’re considering is specifically designed for crisis communication. Next-gen tools — built for this purpose — can serve your entire organization, across communications channels, various locations, and international borders. We’ve already covered why relying on social media tools alone isn’t enough.
3. Is my CEM intuitive for both admins and users?
An easy-to-use interface and self-serve training should make your CEM technology simple for administrators to use, even under the pressure of a crisis. And most of the work can be done in advance, so it’s only a matter of a few clicks to activate it when an incident occurs. For users, your solution should assume zero advance knowledge: Could a new hire, who has yet to be fully trained, receive, understand, and even respond to your emergency message today?
A recent Aberdeen Research study reported seeing “increased interest in, and adoption of, centralized modern solutions for critical event management that work to address the needs and requirements of all roles.”
4. Can my CEM be deployed however I choose?
Depending on the nature of your business, you may want to deploy on-prem, in the cloud, or using a hybrid model. And if you have internal or external compliance requirements, you’ll want a solution that ensures everything remains auditable, collected in one spot, and with complete reporting capabilities.
I hope this helps you consider the tech issues that need to be in place for an adequate CEM response to the types of incidents affecting organizations like yours today. In my next post, I’ll tackle the third of our issue “buckets”: Trust.