Research Report: Emergency/Mass Notification Services
Crisis Communication & Response
Written by Roberta J. Witty and John Girard   
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This information comes from the Gartner Hype Cycle for Business Continuity Management and IT Disaster Recovery Management, 2013.

Definition: Emergency/mass notification services (EMNSs) automate the distribution and management of notification messages to multiple endpoints. Secure message distribution can be done via a Web portal, a mobile device app or browser, or the vendor’s call center. Use cases include emergency/ crisis events, business operations notifications, business-context-based alerting, IT service alerting, reverse/ enhanced public emergency calls, and public safety.

Position and Adoption Speed Justification: Critical incidents today range from localized events, such as a fire or power outage, to regional and catastrophic disasters, such as earthquakes (as in Chile, Haiti and Japan), hurricanes/tsunamis (as in Metro NYC, Indonesia and Japan) and terrorist attacks (as in Mumbai, London and the U.S. on Sept. 11). They don’t have to cause major physical damage to have a major business interruption – for example, the 2010 Iceland volcanic ash event, and the 2009 to 2010 H1N1 virus. As a result, organizations are increasingly implementing EMNS, thereby building a stronger crisis management program. The EMNS market is price-competitive at the basic capabilities level. As customer needs and use cases change and expand, so, too, will this market. The majority of implementations are hosted by the vendor (97.6%), and are priced using a per-contact model.

EMNS products have attracted many specialty audiences, resulting in a large field of many small vendors and a few large, multiproduct vendors. Gartner’s current vendor list contains more than 60 vendors, and it keeps growing. Consolidation is expected and needed over the next five years. Potential mergers and acquisitions of EMNSs include vendors in the following markets: facilities management; physical security; fire safety; crisis management; environmental, health and safety; disaster event information analytics/situational awareness; and business continuity management (BCM) planning.

No vendor has an offering that supports all use cases. There is some vendor overlap between the EMNS and communications-enabled business process markets (see “Hype Cycle for Enterprise Communication Applications, 2010”) through an EMNS product application programming interface (API) for integration to a triggering business application. We are also seeing purpose-built offerings such as customer communications management (see “Hype Cycle for P&C Insurance, 2012”) and multi-channel marketing communications (see “Magic Quadrant for CRM Multi-channel Campaign Management”). We expect that organizations will continue to need multiple tools to achieve all use cases.

Many enterprises initially bought an EMNS without doing an in-depth analysis of their needs, within one use case or across all those in the enterprise. Therefore, some have been disappointed with their current vendor, and are looking to switch to one that supports their future needs. Currently, this switch is not terribly difficult because there is minimal integration with in-house applications – for example, enterprise directories and human resources applications. Therefore, the switching costs are low. However, as enterprises integrate the EMNS tool with more applications in support of additional use cases, take on a stronger crisis/incident management focus within their overall BCM programs, and implement a BCM software suite, the reason, ability and cost to switch to another vendor will become much less attractive.

The position for 2013 remains the same as in 2012 for the following reasons:

  • The number of vendors is still expanding.
  • The direction of new features is still open to interpretation – a few vendors are moving into the situational awareness market but the adoption of these tools for that purpose has barely been embraced by the customer base.
  • The use cases within the organization are expanding. However, if these tools expand, their capabilities to embrace nonemergency messaging are uncertain (see “Magic Quadrant for U.S. Emergency/Mass Notification Services” and “Market Analysis in Depth: EMNS Magic Quadrant”).

User Advice:

  • Understand all the notification use cases needed by your organization to ensure that you are making the best use of your investment.
  • To do a valid pricing comparison, require all vendors on your short-list to use the same pricing model, or require them to convert theirs to yours.
  • Choose a vendor that has experience in your vertical industry to better align their offering to your business operations.
  • Choose an EMNS vendor that has customer support services located in the same or adjacent time zones as your firm’s, as well as language support for your operating locations, and review operating locations as well as language alignment.
  • Choose an EMNS vendor that has data center operations located in different geographic locations from yours to prevent the same event from impacting you and the EMNS vendor, as well as for privacy protection considerations.
  • Select an EMNS vendor that supports your organization’s mobile technology and social media integration strategy, and has device-specific applications that align with that strategy.
  • Service interruptions can happen to any organization, including EMNS vendors. If you want 24/7 availability of a service, then validate your needs against the EMNS vendor’s capability and delivery of that capability via a documented SLA. Know that 100% uptime guarantees typically only mean a reimbursement of fees paid by the customer to the vendor, if the vendor does not maintain that uptime guarantee.
  • Carefully plan your enrollment procedure to ensure that all people who need to be contacted are included in the service, and that their contact information is current and complete.
  • Carefully plan the type, number and content of notification messages, because: 
    - Recipients of notification messages may ignore notices if too many are sent about the same event.
    - Carrier-based character restrictions on text messaging make the formation of a meaningful message challenging.
    - During a regional disaster, don’t overload the telecommunications infrastructure with needless messages.

Business Impact: The interest in and need for EMNSs – which are critical for managing and improving an organization’s crisis communications capability – continue to grow among governments, public and private enterprises (regulated or not), educational institutions, and operators of critical infrastructures, because crisis communications are becoming a best practice and a requirement for some industries (for example, higher education and part of U.S. fire code NFPA 72). The business benefits of using an EMNS tool include:

  • Key personnel can be notified in minutes, and large numbers of non-key, but affected, personnel can receive critical information about the event.
  • Management can focus on critical decision making and exception handling, instead of message delivery.
  • Human error, misinformation, rumors, emotions and distractions – which are so often found during a crisis – can be better managed and corrected.
  • A documented notification audit log can be provided for real-time and post event management.

Benefit Rating: High

Market penetration: 20% to 50% of target audience

Maturity: Early mainstream

Sample Vendors: Amcom Software; AtHoc; Blackboard; Cassidian Communications; Cooper Industries; Emergency Communications Network; Enera; ERMS; Everbridge; Federal Signal; FirstCall; Global AlertLink; MIR3; NY-Alert; Omnilert; Rave Mobile Safety; Send Word Now; SunGard Availability Services; West Communication Services

 

About the Authors

Roberta Witty is a Research Vice President at Gartner, Inc., where she is part of the Risk and Security Management Programs group. Her primary area of focus is business continuity management and disaster recovery.

John E. Girard is a VP and distinguished analyst in Gartner’s Info Security and Privacy Research Center. He specializes in business security and privacy solutions for wireless and mobile road warriors, extranet, remote offices and teleworkers.

This information comes from the Gartner Hype Cycle for Business Continuity Management and IT Disaster Recovery Management, 2013. This report is part of Gartner’s 2013 Hype Cycle Special Report which provides strategists and planners with an assessment of the maturity, business benefit and future direction of more than 2,000 technologies, grouped into 98 areas. The Special Report includes a video, provides more details regarding this year’s Hype Cycles, as well as links to all of the Hype Cycle reports. The Special Report can be found at

www.gartner.com/technology/research/hype-cycles/