This is the final installment in our four-part series, “Incident Management Systems: A Business Continuity Program Game-Changer.” The goal of the series is to help business continuity practitioners better understand the role of incident management software so they can evaluate how these tools might help boost program effectiveness. In the previous article we provided a framework for assessing if a C/IM system is right for your organization. Here we will help you understand how to evaluate the various C/IM options and determine which would be the best fit for your needs.
Once you’ve determined that your organization has much to gain from an incident management system, then comes the difficult task of selecting the right solution for your needs. Selecting the right incident management software requires planning and research. To make the right selection you need to:
- Understand your needs
- Understand your users
- Understand your options
Understanding Your Needs
There are several aspects to defining your C/IM system needs. First is the question of geography. If you need a fully global solution, you need to narrow your partner search to those that provide a global footprint and support.
Next you should determine what event types you plan to use the system for. Don’t limit yourself to the confines of your current business continuity program plans. With an incident management system in place it is easier to expand the scope of events that your teams can handle.
Think big and be inclusive. Make sure all departments and business units that could ultimately make use of the solution are involved in the upfront decision. Inclusiveness will facilitate future adoption and drive cross-organization process standardization and cost savings down the line.
With the users and event types identified, you will be able to define the required feature set. The list below contains some of the most common features of incident management systems:
Understand Your Users
For many MissionMode customers, ease of use is a primary driver of system selection. This is dictated by the number and technical proficiency of users. The more people that will be regularly using the system, the simpler it needs to be to limit required training time and the likelihood of user error. The more complicated the system, the slower the adoption curve will be with internal teams, and the harder it will be to drive standardization and plan compliance.
Again, when thinking about your users, take a macro view. You may be researching the solution for a single division or geographic region within an organization, but the more an organization globalizes their approach to business continuity, the better they tend to perform.
If your organization has already invested time and resources into creating BCM plans and processes, there will be little interest in recreating these to fit an inflexible system. Therefore to ensure buy-in, you need to evaluate the system’s ability to adapt to your processes and IT infrastructure without investment or rework.
That being said, if you haven’t already created BCM plans and processes or if these are not being well deployed, you can leverage your incident management system to drive standardization.
Understand Your Options
Perhaps the most difficult aspect of selecting the right C/IM solution is gaining an understanding of marketplace options.
The C/IM market includes a wide variety of players; some of which offer industry-specific solutions and others who provide more general systems which can be applied across industries.
The industry-specific solutions tend to be aimed at public sector applications and environmental health and safety needs. If these are not applicable for your organization, then you will probably be looking for a general market system.
As stated before, geographic scope is another big consideration when narrowing the field of options you wish to consider. If you are a global company looking to standardize your business continuity program management approach worldwide, then finding a vendor that can support your global footprint is essential.
The next factor when creating your short list is the feature functionality offered. Based on your earlier needs assessment, you should have a strong feeling for what features you really need. Some market offerings have bells and whistles that will cost you extra, but may not be of value. The more you understand how you want to implement the solution, the easier it will be to zero in on those options with the features you need most. When assessing marketplace options, don’t limit your research to the biggest players—this could negatively impact your costs, your speed to deployment and, in some cases, the quality of support you receive. We recommend you consider vendors where incident management is one of their primary focuses, so that you can take advantage of best-of-breed development and frequent system updates.
Do Deep Dive Demos
Once you’ve narrowed the field to the solutions you believe best match your organization’s needs and budget, be sure to do multiple demonstrations to make sure you understand exactly how each system works. Include a broad spectrum of future users in the demos to ensure all important questions are asked and to drive buy-in for post-deployment adoption. Take your time with these demonstrations to make sure you can assess exactly how the system will work for your processes.
Understand the Vendor Support Models
When it comes to incident management, you’re not just buying an off-the-shelf software solution. You need a vendor with the experience to customize their solution to your specific needs and to support your team with deployment
Make sure you ask questions about deployment planning, training, integration support and speak with current users to gauge both system and partner satisfaction. You need a partner that is dedicated to helping you get it right. Probe on the following to vendor support:
- Are they willing to do multiple demos across stakeholder groups?
- What is their deployment planning process?
- How do they help with system set up?
- What sort of training do they provide?
- Can they support your systems integration?
- What do they charge for deployment support?
- What happens post launch?
- Are their current customers satisfied?
Security and Reliability
As with any SaaS solution, you will need to be convinced that the C/IM system vendor you select has the system security, resiliency and redundancy you need to be sure their tools will be there when you need them. Your incident management system is for mission-critical moments, and you need a vendor you can rely on. Ask for proof of both company and product stability, and understand what precautions they have in place to guarantee security and uptime. Finally, make sure they have an SLA that is in line with your needs.
Incident Management ROI
The business case for incident management software is an easy one. Benefits come from improved internal efficiencies, including:
- Business continuity process automation
- Faster communications and decision making
- Reduced meetings/conference calls
- Built-in logs/reporting
Harder to quantify, yet even more critical is the improved organizational resiliency that comes from deploying a C/IM solution. Remember, 75% of organizations today are failing at disaster preparedness, yet companies with an incident management system in place are reporting 72% higher readiness. C/IM systems arm your business continuity teams for success. To learn more, download the full white paper or request a demo.