The COVID-19 pandemic has taught the business world many lessons over the last six months. One of the most impactful has been the growing realization that the need for a robust crisis communications system is more important than previously believed by many business owners, and indeed, by society at large.
When you think about crisis communications, you probably think of large government organizations who need to send out rapid-response alerts to citizens in the case of natural disasters such as earthquakes or wildfires. Such alerts can truly make the difference between life and death. But what about the use-case of the average small or medium-sized business (SMB) impacted by the staff furloughs or work-at-home orders due to the novel coronavirus? Smaller organizations may not have access to the tools and resources employed by large corporations to make sure that all of their employees are safe and staying healthy. In the light of the current pandemic, the need for a reliable and affordable system to send out mass alerts and communications to all employees has never been more urgent.
One emerging trend which reduces the efficacy of legacy crisis communications systems is the explosion in the use of unmanaged or BYO devices by employees. When working at the office, companies can be reasonably assured that most if not all employees are working primarily on company machines such as desktops and laptops, secured by the corporate firewall. But the newly remote workforce of the COVID-19 era is now in a hybrid operating mode, as companies work around the clock to establish IT and security rules for the new normal.
Employees are now largely working from their home offices, and many may feel that there is no harm in (for example) using their new gaming PC to run resource-hungry work applications like Adobe® Photoshop, easily downloaded via the web-based cloud app, or in setting up Microsoft® Outlook on their personal laptop so they can check their work email while on the road taking care of friends or family.
The downside of this widespread and usually well-meaning behavior is that, aside from the security risk an unregulated mass of devices poses to organizations, any company-wide alerts sent out to staff via one methodology (such as email or text) may not be delivered as efficiently as the company intended, or indeed, at all. In times of disaster or breaking news of a public health emergency, companies of all sizes need a fast and reliable means to get a message out to all employees, and to secure electronic receipt to confirm that those messages have been read, no matter where staff are located or what devices they are using to access company systems.
Where a slower moving crisis situation is unfolding with no immediate risk to life, maintaining business continuity throughout the affected time period may prove challenging without a universal and trusted means of sharing information with all affected employees.
A new report by analyst firm J. Gold Associates examines this growing issue and explores the facts surrounding this need. The report states that:
“Information sharing and timely communications are critical elements to making organizations functional and safe in times of crisis, and even in normal operations. Yet few enterprises have communications systems built for such purposes. Most organizations do not have a crisis communications plan in place, let alone the required technology to implement it. As a result, “mixed messages” from multiple sources delivered in a haphazard way can dramatically affect the operations and efficiencies of organizations.”
The report goes on to explain how the use of improvised communication systems pose a large security risk should incorrect or over/understated information be communicated. Leaving the decision to implement a crisis communications service to the last minute, when the upcoming disaster is already within sight, means shortchanging both the company and the staff it is supposed to protect.
Whether the issue is a natural disaster like a hurricane or earthquake, or a man-made disaster such as a ransomware attack on vital infrastructure, companies will reap far greater ROI if such a system is set up before it is actually needed. One important takeaway is that in times of true crisis, minutes down to the last second can count and mean the difference between ‘business as normal’ and total company-wide shutdown.
Read the full J. Gold Associates report here.
Staying Safe in Times of Crisis
So how should business owners and CISOs begin the task of selecting an effective crisis communications system? The J. Gold Associates report has this advice:
“Choosing a service should take into account the capabilities required for implementing and maintaining the communications necessary for your organization. These include:
- 24/7 operations and access to expert personnel for monitoring alerts and initiating communications
- A proven crisis communications strategy that can be implemented for your organization along with training for staff members in crisis communications
- Ability to send alerts via multiple paths while being able to confirm messages received by the intended users and maintaining an audit trail of all communications
- Cloud deployment that can be implemented in a matter of days with minimal internal IT support and no on premises installations
- Secured communications and regulatory approvals like ISO and government certifications, and secured cloud hosting services to prevent security issues.”
The report goes on to identify BlackBerry® AtHoc® as an example of such a system. “While this product was originally designed for governmental agencies and public sector needs, it is being used by a wide range of entities both during crisis and in ongoing operations. Recently, BlackBerry made it available in a cloud-based ‘as a service’ model ([BlackBerry] AtHoc Managed Service), easing deployment for many.”
Organizations around the world use BlackBerry AtHoc software to communicate and collaborate in times of crisis, providing business leaders and crisis managers valuable situational awareness and control. The cloud-based “as a service” model means that the cost of operations is lowered and the complexity of deployment is reduced, making it an attractive option for businesses who may not otherwise have the resources to set up and maintain a homegrown crisis communications system.
Read BlackBerry AtHoc customer success stories here.
The bottom line painted clearly by this report is that crisis communications needs to step out of the shadow of old-style alerts, and into the modern age of BYO devices, connected endpoints everywhere, corporate use of the cloud, and the now widely-accepted trend of remote working.
Neglecting to set up a situational response plan combined with the lack of a modern crisis communications system may endanger workers, and reduce organizations’ abilities to keep their staff safe and connected through whatever the years ahead happen to throw at them. Such a system is invaluable not only in times of crisis, but as an integral part of a healthy company-wide employee communications strategy.
For more information about BlackBerry AtHoc, visit our website or request a demo today.
Copyright notice: Quotes in this blog are taken from the J. Gold Associates report, ‘Technology Currents: The need for crisis communications is not just in crisis’, published July 2020 and republished with permission on BlackBerry.com. All quoted text republished here is © J. Gold Associates LLC 2020. Please contact J. Gold Associates to request the use or reproduction of pull-quotes included in this blog post by visiting their website at www.jgoldassociates.com.