The cloud is creating some powerful new paradigms in the way that individuals and organisations communicate and collaborate. These technologies are rapidly reducing the cycle time of many activities ranging from bid preparation to decision making. It might also affect the way we think about some aspects of incident communication going forward.
One technology that could make a significant impact is web-based conferencing. Why? Because it has the capability to significantly improve the way in which organisations respond to incidents. Many organisations have video conference facilities, of course, but there are several constraints that compromise in-house facilities if there is a major incident:
- Often they are only available in particular rooms in specific sites;
- They may be dependent on the firm's IT infrastructure
- Individuals may need to travel to specific places to participate in conferences.
- They can only be accessed via specific types of device
The new breed of web conferencing facilities transcends many of these constraints. Being web-based removes the dependency for in-house infrastructure and the services are available on a range of devices such as PCs, tablets and smartphones. There is also the added advantage that that WIFI and (if you have it) 4G cell connections are available so there huge availability of access points. All of this points to 'conferencing anywhere, anytime' – which is just what you would need if you received a notification of a major incident when you were miles away from your place of work but needed to talk with several members of your team. Here’s a scenario:
So far, it’s been a successful day – good meeting and finished on time, now back on the train to the office. Then you receive a message via SMS that the BC plan has been invoked and you are required to mobilise your team. Problem is that the trains are disrupted, you can’t get back to the office – all you have is your phone and tablet. So:
- You respond to the SMS saying that you are going to the nearest WIFI point and will be in touch;
- You alert your team via SMS that they are needed to respond and should standby for a web conference;
- You find a suitable access point for WIFI, set up a web conference, sending details to your team by email and SMS;
- As your team join the conference you see who is available and who is not, obtain 'sit-reps' and begin to formulate your response.
The above is obviously a hypothetical case and, as we know, the real-world has an irritating habit of disrupting pre-prepared plans and assumptions. But nevertheless, with the capability to initiate a conference 'on the fly' it’s reasonable to expect that any team, regardless of their physical location, should expect to be in touch much quicker than they otherwise would be using traditional means of incident messaging.
When it comes to web conferencing options, the one thing you won’t be short of is choice of vendors! There are hundreds out there. Here some features that you might want to look for:
- Basic audio conferencing. This goes without saying as it’s the most basic service and allows a group of people to hold a discussion;
- Video. This allows live video streaming that enables participants to see each other on-screen. Nice, but needs a good connection;
- Screen & file sharing. This allows participants to share the screen of their device with the rest of the group, so files that are on their device (or elsewhere) can been seen by all conference facilities;
- White-boarding – the virtual flip chart. White-boarding capabilities give each participant the capability to contribute to shared content, in real-time. Helpful if you are trying to map out a solution.
Also bear in mind ease of use. How easy is it to use (remember people will be under pressure so they will need a facility that is really straightforward), do you need apps on every device that needs to participate (and will it work on all devices?) or can it be done purely via the browser.
If you’d like to look into this technology, there’s plenty of vendors offering free trials which can help you decide if this is right for your organisation.