Posted by: AlertMedia
Emergency Notification System Vendors – Your Evaluation Guide
Simple steps for establishing your requirements and evaluating the landscape.
As you consider implementing mass notification software at your organization, you’ll likely find the landscape of emergency notification system vendors to be a crowded one. That’s great news – your need to connect your people with critical events has been addressed by a wide range of possible vendors.
Sifting through these options doesn’t need to be a burden. This article provides guidelines to help you navigate your evaluation of possible emergency notification system vendors, while putting together a framework for establishing your decision-making criteria and requirements.
Chart out your organization to gain the proper foundation for an evaluation.
Every organization has a unique fingerprint, including yours, and that identity will in part determine the requirements you’ll demand from your emergency notification system vendor. Here’s what you’ll want to know about your organization before addressing the possible requirements:
People – Think about how many people you will have in the system, and how many people you will want to empower with administrative abilities. Your audience size will influence roll-out programs, system infrastructure and scaling needs, and other permissions and customization options to extend the technology to the right people in the most appropriate way.
Locations – Map your organization with an understanding of your international and domestic footprints, satellite offices, and traveling or remote employees. It’s helpful to think through the needs and communication preferences for every location and audience.
Groups – Identify all of the audiences you’ll want to reach with your different notifications. It’s common to have audiences defined by location, department, job function, management level, and projects. You can also have custom filters that segment audiences based on communication needs specific to your business.
Culture – Consider the cultural norms of your people, your company, and the communities they serve.
Needs checklist – Emergency notification software can be used to send notifications around any critical event. Those events could be related specifically to your business, could be local threats, or even important developments that you’ll want to share with customers, partners, or employees. Think about how the different use cases (Emergency Mass Notifications, Operations Notifications, and Business Communications) apply to your organization, and which elements you’ll want to leverage with an emergency notification system.
Establish your requirements, so you can do some of the leading.
Now that you have a solid grasp of the foundational elements behind your organization, it’s important to think through the various features you will want to consider as you begin your evaluation. While there are many features and customizations offered by various emergency notification system vendors, you will benefit from having an opinion on the most important features. Knowing to ask for these features, and why they are important, will facilitate your evaluation and empower you to quickly assess vendors.
Mobile – We live in a world where most people have smart phones, and as such the ability exists to establish a powerful communication channel on the most commonly used devices around the globe. According to SMS Global, there are over 2 billion smartphone users and the number is growing quickly. Whether your organization provides smart phones or not, your people more than likely have smart phones in their pocket, and they will happily leverage them to improve their safety and connectedness during emergency events.
Multi-channel – Emergency notification system vendors help you deliver messages that are more important than email. For those times your people must receive the notification, you’ll need to send your notification over multiple communication channels simultaneously. What channels make sense for your audience(s)? At a minimum, demand that your vendor offers simple ways to communicate across text/SMS, voice call, mobile applications, email, and social channels all with a few clicks.
Localized – If you have a global audience, you’ll need the ability to send messages in any language, so you’ll need your emergency notification system vendor to be UTF-compliant and allow for messages to be written in any language.
Fast – Speed cannot be understated. Whether you’re sending to an audience of 100 or 10,000, critical emergency notifications need to be delivered in seconds, not minutes or hours.
Easy-to-use – During a crisis event, you don’t have time to learn or re-learn a software tool. And you don’t have time to train all of your administrators, particularly those who may only use the system once a quarter, or even once a year. An intuitive design will walk you through creating and sending emergency notifications, without the training!
Administrative burden – Selecting from your options of emergency notification system vendors isn’t just a process of understanding technology, it’s also about understanding the administrative burden that will be required to implement and maintain your system. Focus on training requirements, any heavy-lifting around setup, the vendor’s support structure, and smart integrations that reduce the need for constant management.
Reporting and analytics – You need to understand how your organization reacts around an event, so you’ll want to require real-time reporting that outlines delivery metrics, group structures and hierarchies, and user-specific insights.
Location services and mapping – When you’re tracking events around and related to your business, you’ll need to share those events with your people in the local areas. Building audiences based on location – both current location as signaled by the mobile app, and assigned location as an attribute – will give you the power to find the right audience, at the right time, and in the right location.
Geo-fencing – Just looking at a map isn’t enough. You need to see people on the map and “grab” those people to create a dynamic audience for communication around real-time events.
Customer success – Don’t just look into features and processes, look into an emergency notification system vendor’s approach to your success. You don’t want to just procure a piece of software, you want an extension of your team to help you deploy, maintain, and use the system.
24-7 support – Events happen around the clock, and you need a vendor ready to support you and the team 24 hours a day.
API access – Modern software vendors offer APIs to provide you access to their technology for customized uses and integrations. A well-thought-out and documented API will provide libraries of common actions in the programming code used by your developers.
Pre-built templates – You need every advantage when every second counts. You’ll want to require that your software vendor has intuitive, easily managed emergency notification templates that can be built for those predictable notifications.
Audience feedback – Don’t settle on just sending a one-way notification. Broadcasting an emergency message is just part of the story. Give your audience a voice, let them call for help and share insights from the front line. Your criteria should include feedback mechanisms like read receipts, surveys, and replies.
Security – Your organization’s emergency notification system vendor needs to offer a secure infrastructure that provides full SSL, encryption at-rest and in-transit, identity and access management, and other monitoring and auditing techniques that safeguard your data.
What makes the best Emergency Notification System Vendor?
With customers across 80+ countries, AlertMedia knows what makes for a great emergency notification system vendor. We deliver epic customer support to go with our easy-to-use, innovative emergency notification software that works across all of your devices.