Tips for implementing a great mass notification system

CheckmarksIf you’ve been thinking of implementing a mass notification solution (or even replacing the system you already use), you’ve probably been questioning whether the task ahead of you makes any sense.

The short answer is yes, there can be a lot of value in replacing an outdated system or starting from new—provided you approach the implementation correctly.

In this series of blog posts—drawn from the free white paper, Secrets to Implementing a Great Notification System—we’ll explore how to plan for all phases of the implementation life cycle. We’ll discuss preparation  first, followed by implementation and then post-implementation activities.

Along the way we’ll demonstrate how a small amount of planning will help you reap far greater rewards for years to come.

Preparation part one: managing data

Putting a notification system in place can be intimidating. Where do you start? What are the rules and common practices? What should you do first?

You’ll have the most success with your mass notification software if you answer those questions long before the implementation begins—in the preparation phase.

And, most often, preparation begins with data management—perhaps the biggest challenge to the implementation of a comprehensive notification solution. You might be able to cut corners on some preparation activities, but there’s no real way to address questions about data management and data sources except doing it before you start. In other words, you need to dive right in, whether you’re ready or not.

How many contacts will you have?

In today’s world of frequent data breaches, it can be tempting to try to minimize the number of contacts you put into your notification system. After all, one of the easiest ways to protect personally identifiable information (PII) is to ensure that only a few people can come close to it.

However, limiting contacts can turn out to be a mistake—the extent of which you’ll realize only if you later need to notify a broader population, as in the case of a full office closure, a major employee announcement, or another situation where you have to talk to everyone at once.

The more contacts you include in your system from the start, the more useful the system will be for communication over time. You’ll find it a far better approach to protect PII in ways other than limiting contacts.

Where are your data sources?

Contact data, of course, isn’t just about quantity—quality matters too. In other words, the more contact information you have for each individual, the better. Don’t limit your contact data to simply “work email” or “work phone”.

For example, for each contact you may wish to collect:

  • Personal mobile phone number
  • Home phone number
  • Home address
  • Level of authority
  • A list of skills that could be relied on in a crisis

It makes sense to start with data pulled from your human resources system, but keep in mind that HR contact data may be limited. Sure, it will likely be great for getting basic information on all staff, but other data could be helpful in a crisis.

Most organizations find it necessary to aggregate data from multiple sources to ensure they have comprehensive contact information for employees, contractors and anyone else they’d need to keep in contact with in the event of a catastrophe.

How can you get that information? Automating the data feed to your notification system from other pieces of software is the most efficient method, but manual imports are also an option.

Remember, too, that you’ll need to find a way to reconcile your sources. That may be by merging data before you pass it into an automated data feed; combining several data feeds; or supplementing your process with a self-management portal where users can add or edit their own data.

With data management, planning ahead is key

Remember: before you dive into entering data, taking time to plan will ensure you don’t have to back up and re-do any of your initial setup.

For more on implementation preparation—and the whole process of implementing a mass notification system—download the white paper, Secrets to Implementing a Great Notification System.