Incident Management Systems: Dispelling Myths about IMS

This is the second 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 explored how incident management systems support the business continuity function and why adoption of these systems is growing at a fast pace. Here we will attempt to separate myth from fact in terms of what C/IM systems do and who can benefit from them.

Dispelling Marketplace Confusion

Gartner noted in their Hype Report that one of the main obstacles limiting more widespread adoption of incident management software is a lack of understanding of these solutions on behalf of BC/DR practitioners. Current marketplace confusion stems from several different misconceptions:

  • Many confuse incident management with emergency notification
  • Others confuse incident management and business continuity planning tools
  • Some assume incident management is for public sector response
  • Others believe it is only justified for enterprise-level operations

Incident Management vs. Emergency Notification Systems

It is not surprising that there is a lack of clarity as to the difference between incident management and emergency notification. Because communication plays a large role in incident management, many of the larger emergency notification players have marketed their notification platforms as incident management solutions.

One market-leader went as far as to define incident management as “Consistent, Error-Free Messaging for all Types of Incidents.” This approach has done a huge disservice to the business continuity discipline as incident management functionality goes well beyond mere notification.

Incident Management Systems vs. Business Continuity Planning Systems

Another common source of confusion lies in understanding the difference between business continuity planning tools and crisis/incident management systems.  While both are highly useful tools for business continuity teams, they perform very different functions.  BC Planning tools facilitate the creation of business continuity plans, but do not play a role in the actual management of a crisis or event.  C/IM tools are built to simplify the actual process of incident management.  The chart below outlines the primary functionalities of the two types of tools, and, as is apparent, there is no real overlap.


Public vs. Private Sector Applications

If you do an internet search on the term “Incident Management System” it is true that top results are FEMA, Homeland Security, and USDA. Therefore, it’s not surprising that some consider C/IM systems tools to be aimed at the public sector. The truth is that while these systems were initially adopted by public sector organizations, today they are used across a wide variety of industries for a wide variety of event types.  Gartner estimates that approximately 35% of the likely target market has adopted incident management software.

Some of the primary private sector users include:



Enterprise Level vs. SMB Relevant

Industry is a much larger driver of incident management system adoption than company size. Any organization large enough to have a continuity plan in place can execute that plan better with an incident management solution. Because C/IM solutions do not require complex IT management and are quite affordable, they are not out of reach to smaller organizations. Also, since smaller organizations often lack dedicated resources for business continuity, they can benefit greatly from the structure that C/IM systems provide.

Process Standardization Across the Event Lifecycle

So now that we’ve clarified all things that incident management systems are not, it’s time to define exactly what they do and how they help drive business continuity program success.

In a nutshell, incident management systems help to ensure that your business continuity plans are followed in the way which they were designed. The system is built around your event plans, and supports the event team across each stage of the incident management lifecycle.

C/IM systems connect your BC team with all the resources they need to deal with an unplanned event. All the tools they need to effectively communicate, assess risk and manage response.

  • Emergency response plans
  • Social media
  • IT monitoring systems
  • HR systems
  • Accuweather forecasting
  • IoT applications…and more

All event team participants have access to a centralized dashboard which provides status and updates on each action to speed decision making and project management and to drive plan compliance. Once the event is completed, it is easy to evaluate and optimize the process and templates based on evaluation of the activity logs and team input.

Next in our series, “Incident Management Systems: A Business Continuity Program Game-Changer,” we will help you determine if a C/IM system makes sense for your organization. To learn more, download the full white paper or request a demo.