Typically, when you read blog posts about the challenges enterprises face with 911, the focus is on the technical and regulatory compliance issues many organizations encounter. And while those challenges are important to address — after all, they are foundational to the 911 project in the first place — they provide a very narrow view of the scope of 911 challenges.
I’d like to propose a different way of looking at the 911 challenges facing enterprises. In my experience, having spent years helping organizations understand, implement and manage 911 solutions, the top five challenges that enterprises face when it comes to 911 are operational and process-related. The 911 solutions that enterprises need are available on the market: the challenge truly lies in how enterprises get those solutions into place.
Enterprise 911 Challenge 1: Requirement Identification
With the recent adoption of rules around Kari’s Law and RAY BAUM’S Act Section 506, enterprises have become keenly aware that locating 911 callers, getting emergency calls and location information to the right Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP), and immediately alerting any relevant internal responders is not just the right thing to do. It’s now a regulated requirement.
But understanding what applies is more complex. Most enterprises don’t have the luxury of having an in-house team dedicated to 911 that understands the nuances of federal, state and local regulations. Most organizations have to contend with multiple locations, employees working on and off-site, and telephony architectures that include different systems (on-premises and cloud-based deployments). That means figuring out what needs to be done and what is a “nice to have” is essential, especially as IT budgets get tighter and resources are limited. The foundation of a successful 911 project is a clear assessment of your 911 requirements that factors in the variables that affect what applies and how to address those needs.
Enterprise 911 Challenge 2: Convincing Decision Makers and Getting Budget
Once your enterprise has determined what needs to be done to solve for 911, getting the project approved is a major hurdle. Most organizations think that there’s no ROI for 911 and see it as another cost for their IT budget to absorb. Plus, going back to the first challenge, it’s hard to clearly communicate why a 911 solution needs to be implemented or updated, given that the technology and regulatory ecosystems are so complex.
But, if you’re going to create a safe work environment for your teams and meet your legislated obligations, you need to clear this hurdle. Clearly articulating what applies, why your current situation is no longer acceptable, and the resources required to enable your enterprise to get a solution in place and avoid regulatory or civil liability is the first step. You can further bolster your case by showing how a new solution can reduce the burden on your internal teams, generate infrastructure cost savings and bring your organization into line with best practices.
Enterprise 911 Challenge 3: Choosing the Right Vendor
There are many, many enterprise 911 solution vendors on the market. Each vendor has their own niche, their own strengths and weaknesses, and their own approach to 911. When it comes to 911, there is no one-size-fits-all; the right solution for your organization will depend on your telephony and network architecture, your geography, and your operations. The challenge is sifting through the different options to find the best solution for your business.
Having a clear set of requirements certainly helps — it makes it easier to separate what you need from what you don’t. Digging into how each vendor performs “in the wild” can be useful, as well. Each vendor has a unique approach to 911, understanding how that approach plays out in different organizations can give a better understanding of what you need for your architecture. Finally, establishing clear, objective evaluation criteria and grading each vendors’ performance against those criteria can make it easier to see which solutions are the best fit for your business. You might find one vendor provides everything you need for your deployment, or discover that a multi-vendor, “best-of-breed” solution makes more sense.
Enterprise 911 Challenge 4: Solution Implementation
You’ve identified your requirements, gotten your executives on-board, and chosen your vendor(s). Now the real work begins: getting the solution in place!
Regardless of how responsive your vendor is, your team will still have a fairly significant project to manage. You will likely need to do network audits, coordinate internal and external project stakeholders, establish and track milestones and complete acceptance testing. It’s easy to underestimate how much time this can take, and if your team doesn’t have the bandwidth or expertise to devote to this project, your progress can stall. Successfully solving your enterprises’ 911 challenges will require adequate dedicated resources.
Enterprise 911 Challenge 5: Maintenance and Tune-ups
As your network continues to grow and evolve and the 911 ecosystem matures, your 911 solution will need to transform to satisfy new requirements.
When you upgrade your voice network, your 911 solution may be impacted and your regulatory requirements may change. When you add a new location to your organization, you may need to reconfigure your 911 solution. If you change your SBCs, your 911 solution might need to be re-tested. All this to say: 911 isn’t a static, set-it-and-forget-it solution. You must actively manage your 911 solution or run the risk of it failing to work when you need it most. Establishing proactive 911 management processes within your organization can prevent solution failure, keep your teams safe, and prevent the need for a solution overhaul down the road.
If you look at all of these challenges, a pattern emerges: the biggest challenge that enterprises face when it comes to 911 is the time and expertise to select, implement and manage a solution.
Visit vitasafetypartners.com to learn more about how to assess, execute and maintain your 911 project. Contact us today for a no-obligation, vendor-neutral conversation about your requirements, and how you can harness decades of experience to implement a 911 strategy that works for your business.