The Business Continuity Institute (BCI) has released the 2022 Emergency & Crisis Communications Report sponsored by F24. The report shows how companies communicate in emergency and crisis situations and also underlines the increasingly important role of technology in this area and the requirements that companies are making of the communication tools of the future.
In the course of the COVID19 pandemic, working from home and online collaborations have become firmly established in companies and organizations. As a result of the new mobility, the demand for “Software-as-a-Service” (SaaS) solutions, which make it possible to access communication systems for emergencies and crises from different end devices, also grew. Compared to 2020, growth in SaaS usage slowed down slightly (by 0.1%), but is still at a very high level at 74.1% (2020: 74.2%). In 2022, it is expected that companies will increasingly invest in such new technologies and in particular demand professional tools for alerting and crisis management in order to strengthen their own IT infrastructure.
“A key finding of our report is that companies are becoming much more demanding when choosing communication tools for emergencies and crises. They’re looking for secure solutions that work during communications failures and tools that enable teams to work together during a crisis,” said Rachael Elliott, Head of Thought Leadership at BCI. “The market for emergency and crisis communications has evolved significantly during the COVID19 pandemic: 2020 has seen a surge in the adoption of emergency communications tools and software as organizations struggle with communication issues in the early stages of the pandemic had. A surge in activations of emergency communications plans as a result of COVID ensured employees became familiar with the processes and procedures, and management drove investment in new communications technologies. However, 2021 saw a slight slowdown in the adoption of tools for emergency and crisis communication after the surge in activity in 2020.”
Professional tools for crisis management and emergency communication, in which companies increasingly want to invest, provide increased security. Companies are increasingly avoiding free messenger tools such as WhatsApp for this application. This trend, which was already recorded in the report for 2020, continued to solidify in 2021. Companies are also increasingly reaching their limits when using tools such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom for emergency and crisis communication. Above all, they miss additional functions with which communication can be adapted to the individual requirements and processes of the company, even in the event of a crisis. Small and medium-sized companies in particular, which previously relied on free tools, now see a need to invest in professional crisis management tools.
One particular tool continues to gain traction: organizations report that the mobile phone is the most commonly used device in times of crisis. This is particularly related to the functionality of SaaS applications on mobile phones, making them the main tool for communicating in emergencies and crises. But not only remote work influences the general developments. The return to the office and the increase in hybrid forms of work has also meant that onsite technologies (such as walkie-talkies/two-way radios) are making a comeback in emergency communication this year.
Response times are evolving
How long it takes to respond to a crisis and implement the emergency communications plan determines how well a crisis can be managed. While the proportion of companies that were able to activate their contingency plans within an hour remains above 80% in 2021, the number of those who were able to activate their plan within the first five minutes has fallen to 24% compared to last year.
“Over the past year,” adds Rachael Elliott, “business has been all about the speed of communication. During this year companies have learned that in many cases a more detailed analysis of the events is often necessary and management needs more information in the early stages of an incident. The desired reaction times are therefore in the direction of 30 minutes.”
Exercises should be an integral part of the strategy
The report confirms that people, not technology, are typically the first weak link in an emergency communications plan. Despite this, the number of companies testing their emergency communication plans at least once a year fell from 82.3% to 78.6% in 2021. This could be due to the fact that it has become more difficult to test such plans in hybrid work situations of office work, home office and remote work. In addition, there could also have been an increase in emergency situations, which reduced the willingness to test the plans again. However, especially in an environment in which work processes have changed on a large scale, emergency plans for communication should always be rehearsed.
“Due to the intensive experience with the pandemic, we now have to act with foresight and redesign the way we deal with crisis situations – and this is exactly where the results of the report support us a lot. A key finding of this year’s report is that while everyday business communication tools are valuable for everyday purposes, they are not a compelling solution for communicating in emergencies and crises. Encouragingly, this year’s report again highlights that organizations that use a dedicated software-as-a-service solution for their crisis management are far more satisfied. The figures again underline that investing in a specialized solution significantly supports companies in strengthening their resilience,” summarizes Benjamin Jansen, Vice President Sales ENS/CM at F24.