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Digital maps are increasingly integrated in our work and professional lives. Whether we need directions somewhere through an app or we need to understand distances between business operations, a few clicks of a mouse or swipes on a phone and most of the critical information we need is instantly available.

But what if you could do more with mapping services to make your business continuity management program stronger?

With a geographic information system (GIS) and situational awareness, you can.

What’s GIS?

A geographical information system is a way to get the data you want, like dropping a pin on a map for a specific location, but also adding additional contextual layers such as patterns and relationships to facilitate how you manage that data and analyze it.

It’s similar to a more commonly used term, geo-mapping. With the contextual data gathered in geo-mapping, you can see a visual representation as you correlate the data you’re reviewing.

In Assurance’s 2019 Business Continuity Benchmark Study, 66% of respondents said that the ability to manage crises is a critical or important component of business continuity software and the ability to map dependencies rated even higher at 74%.

Geo-mapping in Context

Here’s an example of how geo-mapping works:

Your content management system (CMS) collects IP addresses for every person who visits your website homepage. Your CMS correlates those IP addresses to specific states, and in some cases, down to a specific city or town. That information is often available as a spreadsheet or similar document.

While this data is good data, it can be complicated to view, digest, and understand. Geo-mapping turns that data into visualizations you can quickly interpret.

With geo-mapping, you can take that same data, apply it to a map and see where all your website visitors are located. From there, you can further digest that information and put it to use for your business.

Do you have more visitors from a specific region, state, or city? Could you offer people in that area a specific discount or promotion to facilitate more sales or engagements? What would that look like if you layered additional data about the customer onto that location? How could that facilitate better business decision-making?

Disaster Response Without Geo-mapping and Awareness

Let’s take the example we just shared about seeing those customer IPs from your website and apply a similar geo-mapping scenario to a business continuity use case like disaster response and crisis management.

Here’s how a response scenario might look like without geo-mapping:

A major weather system, a hurricane, is headed toward the East Coast. You have a core facility in that area. It’s a major hub for your company. That facility has a few regional offices nearby. Together, they form an interconnected shipping hub for your operations.

The storm is growing in intensity and there’s a significant likelihood your core facility will be affected. But exactly what does that mean for your operations? And what about those regional offices? Will they be affected, too?

Soon, state and local governments issue evacuation orders. This is a big storm and your employees need to get to safety. But which employees? Just those at the core facility? Again, what about those people in the nearby offices?

You pull up a map online and start dropping pins to show every location your organization has in that region. It’s a slow and burdensome process because you have to move from paper manifests and online searches back to the map.

And then you accidentally hit the reload button, lose your data, and have to start again.

You’re losing precious time while you’re trying to get a handle on the scope of this impending disaster.

But even when you get all those pin drops set and you can see your locations, what insight do you have on the critical assets, operations, and responsibilities at each of those facilities? And what would a loss of any of those mean to the rest of your operations around the country?

And what about those employees who may have to evacuate? What does it mean for your business if those employees can’t get to work. And for employee safety, how do you communicate with them about company response? That online map sure can’t help with that. Phone tree? Email blast? More precious time is ticking away for your effective response.

In our Benchmark Study, some 80% of respondents said that ensuring employee safety during a crisis is a priority for their business continuity objectives.

This is where business continuity management software can help and give you more insight, with less frustrations and more accuracy.

Situational Awareness

In business continuity and crisis management, geo-mapping supports situational awareness to help you stay ahead of threat mitigation.

Here’s an example: Let’s say you live in an area where there are wildfires. You can use geo-mapping and map layers to identify all areas where there are active wildfire and where they’re tracking. You can see all the fires concurrently on your map, as well as which facilities and operations may be affected. This helps you see with context which operations may be disrupted and gives you a head start on mitigating impact.

Now, let’s look at that hurricane example again we mentioned earlier. Previously, we were trying to tackle this hypothetical scenario without business continuity software, but now, in this scenario, we’re going to tackle it with the crisis management component that’s part of your business continuity management solution.

Long before you heard of the potential hurricane approaching, you had already entered all your facilities and related locations into your software. With a few keystrokes, you get instant insight into where all those facilities are on a map.

Great. You have quick visibility about which locations could be impacted by the storm.

But remember, you need more information. Luckily, your team has a disaster response plan just for this scenario. You’re in the window where you need to notify all your employees about office closures and safety procedures before the storm gets there.

Because you have business continuity software, you can use geo-mapping to see the areas where you need to notify employees and stakeholders. And, because your software has an integrated notification management tool, you can use a variety of contextual information to select which people are notified and how they’ll get those notifications, for example through text messages, emails, phone calls, in-app notification, or a combination.

With AssuranceNM, for example, you can use a simple lasso tool to draw an area around specific regions on a map to identify where you want to target for notifications. From there, the system will send notifications to contacts you have set up within that area. You can even set parameters within your contact database to deliver different messages and use different message types for specific contacts within that area.

Once your notifications are on the way, you can go deeper for response planning.

With your business continuity software, you already specified location specific details about critical functions and roles at locations that are likely to be impacted. You can also see the interdependencies of all those functions throughout your organization in your software dashboard.

Now, before the storm hits, you have insight into which tasks you need to switch to other locations or, if you can’t, you can prepare for impact

Have suppliers or shipments coming in and out of those areas? You can use those mapping details for insight so you can reroute shipments or work with other suppliers to ensure your supply chain has minimal impacts from the storm.

Ultimately, this insight can save you money by decreasing operational downtime and helping facilitate rapid response and recovery.

Can you imagine doing all of this with only spreadsheets or binders of papers?

For more helpful information, check out our guide:

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Topics: Incident Management

Assurance Software

Written by Assurance Software

Assurance Software takes your company’s enterprise-wide business continuity and resiliency program to the next level. With Assurance as your go-to partner for continuity and resilience, you can confidently mitigate risk, manage recovery, and safeguard your employees, customers, operations and brands.

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