Situational Intelligence for Effective Decision Making, Critical Communications

Image: Brian Hillegas/Flickr
Whether it’s a natural disaster, terrorist attack or a financial market’s event, an organization’s ability to react quickly and efficiently — armed with knowledge — can make a difference in both the safety of its employees and the continuity of business operations. When faced with a crisis, organizations need a complete set of credible information to conduct a proper risk assessment, make critical decisions, inform stakeholders, and direct impacted parties. However, receiving and then relaying time-sensitive, operative information and communicating it immediately and efficiently in the midst of a crisis can be challenging.

New Tools, New Insight Result In Better Decisions

With today’s advancements in mobile and social technology, there’s a new component to the communications process: “situational intelligence.” Situational intelligence combines traditional situational awareness with the collective intelligence of those at the center of a situation, resulting in a dynamic process in which data is gathered and interpreted and the information is shared.

When decision-makers are able to bring together information like on the scene photos, Twitter messages, weather alerts and recipient responses in real-time, the quantity, quality and speed of information available during an event grows exponentially. This leads to better decision-making and more effective crisis communication before, during, and after an incident.

Through automatic monitoring of posts, tweets, and “I-reports” from on-the-scene users of various public social media outlets, responders and decision-makers are empowered with access to critical and insightful information about an incident or an incident in the making in real-time. Think of the value and impact this has for preventing a crisis, or verification, cross referencing, and data mining purposes. This is the New Age of situational intelligence.

Communication is Key

Having this new layer of insightful information is a significant gain to critical decision-making, but then being able to effectively communicate to all recipients involved is the next step toward a positive outcome. Technological advancements have dramatically enhanced the way people and organizations can communicate to minimize the human, operational, and financial impact of critical events. Today, there are more modes of communications than ever before, many of which operate at high speeds and facilitate instantaneous shared communication.

Creating a single web-based critical communications dashboard to communicate with stakeholders to save lives, protect assets, minimize loss, and ensure continuity of operations is now a possibility for many organizations. The advent of these technologies has created more paths to reach people which can at the same time help and hinder communications. However, the high penetration of mobile devices and social networks have changed people’s habits in that they are more conditioned and able to capture and share information more than ever before.

Adding the collective insights of the general public, communities, employees, etc., involved and/or much closer to the situation occurring, to the traditional feeds of information can provide a tremendous advantage in the communications. The larger the scale of an incident, the wider the availability of data from these “new media” sources.

Mobile communication has also made interaction among members of a community more efficient. Short message service (SMS) allows members to quickly send essential information to one another. Members can embed photos, videos, and audio into their SMS messages to further illustrate the current state of the crisis. Other trusted feeds, including IT systems, weather and traffic alerts, and additional internal feeds, can be easily accessed from smartphones and tablets for further input.

While in a crisis, it is important to build on small amounts of information gathered for making the most informed decisions for an operative response. But just as critical is ensuring you have all the proper channels for sending your message, and your targeted recipients are fully registered in the system, including multi-modal touch points, for two-way communication.

Situational intelligence is critical during a crisis, and in preventing a crisis. But being aware of what is happening around you and understanding how information, various events, and personal or public actions affects you, your organization, and others gives an organization indispensable insight that could prevent a crisis or help in mitigating a crisis. The ability to see rising momentum around an event or topic through situational intelligence can help local authorities or corporations stave off a crisis through better decision-making, as much as using situational intelligence in the aftermath can help prioritize resources to people or areas that need them most.
By Claudia Dent

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