With every passing year, the role of technology in business continuity only grows. From social media coordination, disaster-relief apps, “micromappers” and Google People Finder to computer models designed to predict where the next crisis will occur, technology is enabling us to make huge improvements to the ways we handle business continuity.
For many organizations, the newest, most practical business continuity software technology is an app that enables companies to house their crisis plans “in the cloud,” and then disperse them to each end user through mobile devices. Employees and other stakeholders are empowered with anywhere, anytime access to crisis plan details, which helps to streamline emergency response, better protect people and physical assets, and encourage a faster, more effective return to normalcy.
If you feel your organization could benefit from a mobile business continuity solution, consider the best ways to implement it into your business. You can either build the app in-house, use a vendor solution, or outsource it to a third-party developer. There are several key factors to consider when weighing a build vs buy decision:
Mobile business continuity software can be fairly complex, particularly for mid-sized and large organizations. Before opting to develop your app in-house, consider the amount of time and effort the commitment may require.
Perhaps your organization specializes in app development. If this is the case, you can likely create a platform that meets your basic planning needs. However, larger-scale app development is often best left to those providers that specialize in it—especially when the task at hand is something as vital as business continuity planning.
Return on investment
How much money is your organization able to put into app development? Building a solution from the ground up can be a significant commitment, and often it is more cost-effective to outsource the work than it is to invest in the tools, systems and manpower required to get it right.
Of course, ROI is a significant concern around business continuity software. (In fact, it’s the theme of this year’s upcoming Business Continuity Awareness Week.) By opting for a third-party platform, your organization will likely be better positioned to achieve a quicker ROI, whether through fewer business disruptions, new customers, lower insurance premiums or other perks.
If you opt for a third-party mobile solution, it needs to be a good fit for your industry and your company. One of the perks of developing software in-house is that you can take into account the factors that are unique to your market—such as specific threats and vulnerabilities, your organizational structure and your leadership team. However, a third-party business continuity solution should be flexible enough to accommodate organizations from many different industries.
Today, business continuity apps and SaaS platforms are enabling easier crisis planning and faster, more effective emergency response for companies of all kinds. Also, they are now allowing your organization to distribute plans for an unlimited number of threats, provide anywhere/anytime access to plan details through a mobile platform, set user-specific access rights and other flexible options.
Regardless of where your app is developed, it is vital for it to work effectively. If you develop it in-house, be sure to thoroughly test—and retest—every aspect of the system. If you seek a vendor or outsourced solution, stick with providers that are well-proven in the real world and have success stories from organizations similar to your own. Look for an app or SaaS platform that will help your organization to return to normal operations as quickly as possible, while minimizing damage and risk.
One of the perks of developing software in-house is that it looks, feels and operates exactly as you need it to. However, new business continuity apps are available that also provide a high degree of customization options, giving your organization more flexibility than previous software ever could.
If customization is a key priority for you, look for an app that allows you to pick and choose the features and icons that will appear on each user’s dashboard. The system should allow you to upload a wide variety of information, including checklists, maps, contact databases and flow charts, as well as anything else that will improve business continuity. You should also be able to customize the branding on your app to ensure that it looks polished and professional.
Often overlooked in planning stages to develop a solution in-house is the total maintenance and support costs after it has been implemented. Maintaining an application takes time, money, and a dedicated support team. The support team will need to make constant updates and fix bugs in order to ensure the performance of the app meets the business’ needs. “As a rule of thumb, around 70% of the cost to develop a custom solution is then needed year after year to maintain it.” (Kavi Corporation, 2013)
Simply keeping up with the Apple Store and Google Play app versions is enough maintenance to require adding another team member to manage it. When a bug in the software is found, someone must be readily available to fix it and ensure the application is working 24/7. App downtime is a risk business continuity teams should not be willing to take.
If you are looking for a solution that will require zero of your resources for maintenance yet still perform effectively, a vendor solution is your best bet.
“Developing an in-house application will take no less than 6 months.” (Nitman Software, 2010) The time it takes to plan, create, test, implement, and continuously maintain and update a mobile app in-house can be too costly for most organizations. If you are in need of a business continuity app, there is a good chance you have a specific timeline you would like to implement a solution across the organization. Meeting that goal will be challenging in-house. A vendor solution is ready out of the package and with some customization and basic instructions can be working for your organization in a short period of time.
After considering both sides, which approach do you think would suit your organization the best—in-house software development or a vendor solution?