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What makes an effective emergency notification system?

Teon Rosandic, VP EMEA, xMatters, gives a vendor’s view of the developments which are improving the capabilities of emergency notification systems and why traditional one-way mass notification is on the way out.

Many of the mass notification systems that businesses utilise today haven’t changed or evolved since they were originally designed many years ago. It’s the same old thing – put your message in the message box and broadcast it out to everyone in your database. This type of archaic communication system just doesn’t cut it today with more and more incidents and crises that require immediate attention and the need for two way communication at every step of the way.

However, there is new technology available, and there are things that the business continuity and risk manager should consider when looking for a mass notification approach.

This article delves into the ins and outs of what effective mass communication technology can deliver and what the old systems lack.

Dynamic targeting

The standard mass notification leaves users with little choice when it comes to resolution due to the fact that these lists cannot reorganise or update easily: so often the person that needs to be contacted is either on the list or not. These people either get the message or they don’t. In the fast-paced world we live in today where customers need to be notified of an occurrence and updated on the resolution as soon as possible, these are risks that just aren’t worth taking - especially when we’re talking about the bottom line.

The next generation of mass notification ensures that the correct message is sent to the right people at the right time by targeting that message to individuals based on their role, responsibilities, schedules, and locations. In this model, success is the default.

Control

Control (or lack thereof) is often out of the hands of users with typical mass notification. This lack of control repeatedly results in communication errors where too much information is being sent out, or too little: which results in serious ramifications for your business and can damage reputations.

State-of-the-art mass notification gives you control: users know which messages are being sent to whom and when, and with alerts, users can rest assured that someone got the message. Everyone’s on the same page, which means there’s less surprises and more control.

Powerful message authoring

Part of having control and sending the right type of message to the right person means customising messages so that the receiver has clear instructions to follow up quickly to resolve an issue. This type of succinct capability is just not going to be available with mass notification. Instead users are relying on cumbersome templates and message boxes that result in confusion and slow-downs.

Systems that can build communication scenarios based on a business continuity plan are the most useful. Managers need authoring tools that enable easy construction, deployment and execution of communication scenarios based on their individual plans and processes.

Workflows to support incident lifecycle

Disasters and threats are not static and can occur at any point. The old mass notification processes unfortunately do not take this into consideration so why should users trust the longevity and survival of their business to an outdated and ineffective communication system?

The communication plans that take today’s ‘always on’ customer base should let businesses change fluid things like messaging based on feedback from team members and reflect the reality of disasters and threats. Adjust, react and respond, in real time.

Personalise subscriptions

No one likes to be bossed around. The older generation of mass notification doesn’t allow for team members to choose and have control on which lists they’re being included on and therefore creates an environment of annoyance.

Team members should have the capability to subscribe to communication updates and to receive directed and specific messages that they need to be a part of and at their choosing. A push/pull system gets the right messages out on time and on point, with only the necessary people involved.

Live collaboration

Another advanced capability that a targeted communication process allows is live collaboration. In today’s busy world, business continuity managers need a way to collaborate across teams in real time. This is the only way to effectively communicate during a threat, disaster or other service interruption. This also helps those working in the field or remotely. There’s no time like the present and that’s particularly true when faced with an immediate threat where time is of the essence.

Different content to different people

One size fits all clearly doesn’t work anymore. With this approach, no one gets what they really need. This mass notification communication approach falls short; sometimes doing more harm than good.

A tailored message lets the user send the right message to the right person in the communication device (email, text phone) they prefer. This way the right steps are taken to keep the business going without having to doublethink. Mass notification with flexible deployment options are not designed to fit with an existing infrastructure, instead of forcing the user to spend time and money learning a new and frankly ineffective communications system.

The future of mass notification systems is all about the scalable business and should integrate into an existing enterprise. It works with what a business has and with the communications tools team members understand and use.

Two-way communication

Think for a moment about having a conversation with a cat. It might end up being a funny YouTube video, but it’s not that effective, is it? The same applies with the old version of mass notification - this one-way communication just doesn’t let users understand what is really going on.

In order to have full understanding, what’s needed is a system that allows team members to communicate and work together. The messages that allow them to drive a process forward and let them learn from those who are on site and clearly know what is happening to the business.

Mobility

The reality is that mass notification is behind the times – but all of that can change. The systems available today consider needs to integrate mobile technology - something your team members understand and use day-to-day.

However, it’s more than just delivering messages to mobile phones; it’s being able to access communication templates, plans and checklists directly from a smartphone.

In the end, it all comes down to clear and consistent communication. And frankly: this is what your business deserves.

The author
Teon Rosandic is VP EMEA, xMatters.

•Date: 27th March 2014 • World •Type: Article • Topic: Crisis communications

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