Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Selecting Technology for Your Control Centre

So you have taken the plunge and developed a crisis control centre to support strategic leadership in a crisis. You’ve got the facility identified long with the people. The last remaining question is about the technology you need to put into the centre to support the  team? When thinking about the selection of technology for your control centre here are 5 things to consider:

  • Processes Come First: The first thing to know is that selecting the technology is not the first thing to think about. You need to make sure that you get the right processes defined before installing the correct technology to support them. If you focus on technology at the start, at the expense of getting the processes correct, you run the risk of finding out that your expensive technology doesn’t help your people do what they need to.
  • Notification and Call Out: It will be important to be able to notify and call out team members quickly and easily.  This can be done over the phone or through call cascade lists but these methods are time consuming and run the risk of error.  Therefore it is useful to consider using automated systems to notify team members using either SMS, email or web based platforms. The widespread use of smart phones has enabled the development of specific applications designed to enable incident notification and call out. These can provide richer levels of information including pictures, audio and videos as well as location and diary details.
  • Situation Management: One of the major functions of the control centre is to develop and maintain the situational picture. Technology can be employed to assist in the following ways:
    • Information Management: Incoming and outgoing information will be required to be managed and separate telephony and email provision will be needed to support this. The accounts used should be able to be handed over as shift changes take place without compromising IT security policies.  The systems used should support the production and sharing of a contextualised situational picture, and not a simple chronological list. This picture must be capable of being added to or consolidated at the various response levels within the organisations, so that raw data is not simply passed up the chain prior to analysis and to ensure that the availability of sensitive data can be controlled. The situational picture must also be able to be shared easily with other teams and organisations.
    • Action Management: The actions that result from the management of the situation need to be tracked and linked to the information and decisions that they resulted from.  This information should be readily available, in an easy to digest form, to control centre staff and to decision makers, both when in the office and when in remote locations.
    • Displays: Displays will be required on desks but also as larger displays off desks so that others can see relevant information, such as the situational picture. It is also useful to be able to display information from the control centre directly into other meeting rooms, such as those used by senior decision makers or multi-agency groups, and to enable remote access by those not physically present.
  • Records Management: All information, incoming and outgoing, forms part of the record of what has gone on.  Therefore the systems used must ensure that information is appropriately recorded such that an audit trail is possible. This could include the names of individuals or roles who have provided and inputted the information, details of times and dates, distribution information and information on changes and revisions that were made. It can also be useful to be able to quickly link information relating to similar dates, locations, themes, authors or sources.
  • Scale and Future Proofing: No mater what technology and systems are installed one eye must always be kept on the future. Although it will be difficult to predict technology changes issues relating to scalability, training needs and replacement should be considered from the start. In doing so it can be helpful to build in a percentage increase in overall capacity above that initially required so as to prepare for future growth requirements.