There are nearly endless options when it comes to available business continuity tools, and many of them could vastly improve your organization’s ability to weather any type of crisis. But it’s important to note: although no tool can substitute for a quality business continuity plan, the best ones can make a solid plan even better. With that in mind, here are 10 questions to ask when looking for the best business continuity tools.
1. What kinds of tools does my organization need to maintain continuity?
Before you start searching for new tools, you need to figure out what problems you’re trying to solve. Do you need cloud protection? Mass notification software? Virtual server restoration? A way to track and manage an ongoing crisis?
From cloud-based document recovery and storage to rapid communication solutions, the options for modern business continuity tools are numerous. If your organization needs a backup location to work during a crisis, alternate site providers can provide fully functional temporary facilities for your team. If you’re looking for full-service system and application recovery, you might consider a disaster-recovery-as-a-service (DRaaS) vendor. And if your team needs a way to instantly communicate during a crisis, a critical event management system might be what you’re looking for.
Once you have figured out your organization’s continuity gaps, you should have a better idea of what tools you’re looking for.
2. What types of communication methods are available?
Many organizations implement a mass notification system (MNS) because it enables administrators to reach stakeholders on a variety of communication channels. An MNS can send messages via email, SMS, desktop alerts, phone and more. If your organization has decided to use this type of software, take a moment to consider which kinds of communications make the most sense for your team. Many mass notification systems also enable two-way communication, which is essential if you need to find out whether stakeholders are safe or if you would like to gather feedback and track responses.
Other types of communication methods to consider are an emergency hotline that stakeholders can call to get the latest information and request assistance, and a dedicated webpage and message board that is regularly updated.
3. How can teams collaborate within the tool?
In order to keep your organization running in the face of crisis, you need a way to get all members of your planning team on the same page as quickly as possible. Conference calls are often the best way to get everyone together, but traditional conference calls involve a number of time-consuming steps. Some mass notification tools enable teams to collaborate with one-touch conference calling, which can save your planning team valuable time.
Another collaboration feature to look for is messaging boards, which allow stakeholders to access information, ask questions, and request assistance. Reporting features are important, as well, and enable employees to write up incident reports.
4. Could this solution integrate with current systems and software?
Make sure the tool you’re considering can be incorporated into your current systems. If it can’t, you could end up duplicating work or causing confusion between applications. Consider the current software systems that your organization uses, such as any HR software or employee management tools, as well as any hardware that is integral to keeping your business operations running smoothly.
5. How much can I afford?
Affordability is an important consideration. Every tool will be priced differently, and although some are worth the cost, others may not provide value. Many vendors provide similar tools or services, so it’s a good idea to shop around once you’ve figured out which tool you want.
It’s also good to note that some vendors bundle a number of features into a larger software package, even if an organization doesn’t need all of them. You may find that the one feature you need to support your business continuity plan is in an expensive package. If that’s the case, either look for another option or consider whether any of the additional features could be truly useful to your organization.
6. Who hosts the software, and is it secure?
Tools are often cloud-based, but if the vendor is offering a software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform, look into the security of the hosting center. If the vendor’s reputation is less than stellar, look elsewhere. Placing your organization’s data into unreliable hands could create a crisis of its own. Search for reviews of the hosting center and vendor, and try to talk with current or former customers, if possible.
7. How easily can the tool be implemented?
If the stakeholders who will be using the tool within your organization aren’t the most tech-savvy, make sure the tool is relatively user-friendly. Some companies take care of all the implementation and provide full support, which would be ideal if you’re concerned about usability.
Speed of implementation is also important to prioritize. Consider questions such as:
- How quickly do you need to start using the tool?
- How much time can your team devote to the implementation and training process?
8. How much training will be necessary?
Get an idea of whether you will have to hold in-depth training sessions for your team to teach them how to use the tool. It’s not enough to have a one-time training for your team. Look into whether and how often the vendor provides ongoing training to ensure your team’s skills are up to date. For example, vendors might provide additional training through webinars to share updates and best practices on a monthly, biannual or annual basis.
Training is important to the success of your system, but remember that your critical event management system may be used in crises and emergency situations. Working with a tool that is already intuitive and easy to navigate can save your team headaches when navigating a high-stress situation.
9. What kind of support does the tool come with?
The level of tech support can be a big consideration with your critical event management system, especially if it’s a SaaS tool. Make sure the provider has good reviews for support and service, and you won’t be left out to dry in the middle of a crisis.
10. Does the vendor have expertise in your industry?
Just because the vendor has a good reputation doesn’t mean they are the best option for your industry. Ideally, you want to select a vendor who has gained knowledge by working with organizations like yours and has a long-standing reputation in the industry. They’ll be able to share best practices from their experience working with similar organizations and setups. A trusted vendor in the space will understand your organization’s high-level goals, and they can anticipate any challenges that may come with implementation. They may even offer solutions or tips for success based on their experience with companies similar to yours.
Searching for the right communication tool can be a long, arduous process if you aren’t clear on how to support your continuity plan. Understanding your goals for the tool, its users, and your needs for implementation and support are great first steps toward finding the best business continuity tool for your organization.