Finding the Right System
An emergency notification system is all you need to protect your employees, right? That can be easier said than done. If you’ve been relying on email or phones to inform and alert your employees, you have a little homework to do before you can choose the best emergency notification software for your company. There are many providers out there offering all kinds of features, capabilities, pricing, integrations, and promises, but which ones best fit your requirements?
It’s not easy finding the right technology, but that doesn’t seem to be stopping many organizations. Gartner estimates IT spending will grow 2.7 percent in 2017 and continue at this rate until at least 2020. Where is all of this IT spend going? The majority is spent on communications services, followed by IT services, devices, software, and data center systems, respectively. Nearly $4 trillion dollars have been dedicated to such investments since 2014.
With so much money on the line, it’s critical for organizations to carefully vet every technology expenditure. Even better, a thorough assessment of your needs should be completed before any IT investment is made. This is such an important step yet it is often overlooked because there frequently isn’t a formal process in place. Genpact Research Institute recently found that nearly 70 percent of company IT spend is misallocated. That’s almost $400 billion invested in projects that didn’t have much or any return on investment.
The study believes much of the problem is that companies spend money on trying to add on enhancements to legacy systems instead of investing in newer technology designed specifically for the task. Retrofitting older technology with new capabilities may sound like a good idea to extend its life, but the coding, integrations, uplift, and ongoing maintenance of these systems can end up costing significantly more than retiring it and bringing in modern technology.
14 Key Features to Consider
So how do you choose the best emergency notification system software for your organization that will maximize your chances for the highest ROI? Here are 14 features to look for in your quest to find it.
When an emergency hits, you need a system that can be activated immediately to automatically send your messages and alerts simultaneously across all of your communication channels in a matter of seconds. Compare actual (not promised) speed rates of all of the vendors you are considering. If they can’t give you hard data, ask for a demo or even better, a trial run so you can see how it works in your own environment.
Multi-channel notification delivery
The point of a mass emergency notification system is to deliver messages to the masses. Being that your “masses” are a diverse group of employees, clients, or even members, they are likely using various communication channels and it is critical you can reach them no matter which channel they prefer to use the most. Be sure the software you choose is capable of sending (and on some channels, receiving) messages and alerts across email, voice, text, push notifications, social media, and any channels unique to your organization, such as two-way radio or Slack.
Message customization per channel
Every channel may require a different type of message. While some messages can be pre-written, you need the flexibility to craft a message at will, depending on the situation. Look for a solution that will enable you to use templates as well as customize messaging on the fly.
With today’s distributed workforce, not everyone in the company faces the same emergencies as others. Find an emergency notification system that will enable you to easily and quickly segment your employee population so you can send targeted messages to only those who may be impacted.
Templates make administration so much easier and can speed message creation to a matter of seconds. In an emergency, seconds count so be sure your software allows you to choose between manually developing a message and using prebuilt notification templates for more predictable events.
Mobile applications for Android and iOS
Employees are mobile, so having a mobile presence for emergencies only makes sense. Not all emergency communication solutions allow for both iOS and Android apps, but if you want to reach all of your employees quickly, it’s a feature you can’t overlook.
If the point of emergency notifications is to ensure the safety of your employees, you’re going to need software that makes it simple to protect them. Complexity not only slows down an emergency response, but it makes it more likely the system will not be used. Find software that is easy to integrate, implement, and execute.
If you have a dispersed workforce or traveling employees, it’s easier than ever to keep an eye on them to ensure they are out of harm’s way. Today’s software enables administrators to monitor their employees’ whereabouts on a physical map to ensure they are safe should a local emergency arise.
Much like the map view, geofencing is another layer of protection around your most valuable assets – your people. By dragging a virtual fence around a particular area in danger, every employee within that fenced area can receive targeted messaging. This is similar to the federal government’s wireless emergency alerts (WEA) where everyone within range of certain cell towers will receive a text-like message alerting them of potential danger. This is an important feature that ensures no matter where your employees might be, they will remain informed and on guard.
Sending out alerts and warnings is the first step to an emergency system, however, empowering your employees to be part of the conversation can be a lifeline. When an emergency occurs, the people inside the emergency can be the ones with the most information – information first responders and others in harm’s way can use to stay informed and safe. Be sure your communication system enables all employees to call for help, reply to messages, and post comments, photos, and videos.
Integrations are two-fold when it comes to emergency notification software. First, integrating the software with existing internal business systems, such as HR systems and employee directories, automates manual entries. This can save precious time when trying to contact groups of employees or the entire employee base. Integrations are also important when it comes to linking disparate communication channels. Find a solution that will enable quick systems integrations while also allowing for all of your organization’s communication channels to be integrated so messages can be received across the entire platform simultaneously and reliably.
Reporting and analytics
As the saying goes, you can’t improve it if you can’t measure it. Emergency response plans should be reviewed regularly to find areas for improvements. The only way to know if your plan and your communication system are effective is to have insight into its performance during actual events. Your software should provide reporting capabilities to show you metrics such as how fast the message(s) was delivered, how many channels the message involved, which channels were most well-received, and how many employees received them.
In a crisis, you aren’t always thinking about the security of your data so be sure your software is. Whatever alert or message you send out through your system shouldn’t get into the wrong hands. Any information should be for your employees’ eyes only. Ask vendors about the steps they take to protect any and all data that might be transmitted across communication channels as well as the data that exists within your platform.
Service isn’t a commodity, it’s a differentiator. While software features may differ only slightly from vendor to vendor, customer support is typically what makes us loyal. Most companies can sell a product, but be sure to find one that will be there after the sale to help with integrations, configurations, training, implementation, and ongoing questions.
As you compare emergency notification software solutions, take a good look at these 14 features to be sure you are getting the most out of your investment. Keep in mind that this type of system may be purchased for emergencies but can be extended to many other uses to improve ROI. Companies often rely on their systems for any type of internal communications, logistics, scheduling, and operations. Think of the software as a unifying communication platform that brings all of your employees under one roof, even if only virtually. Every person is reachable through the channels they prefer so any message is received loud and clear.