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Everbridge CTO details critical event management 'wake-up call'

Everbridge CTO Imad Mouline discusses how the coronavirus pandemic changed his company and businesses around the world, plus how organizations can improve crisis management.

In 2020, Everbridge customers used the vendor's critical event management platform to send more than 5 billion communications, up from 3.5 billion the year before.

While that figure includes communications about events from wildfires to protests, clearly the coronavirus pandemic was the number one worldwide critical event in 2020.

"COVID-19, the pandemic, simply started shining a light," said Everbridge CTO Imad Mouline. "[It] caused the necessity of critical event management to become much more visible."

Everbridge, based in Burlington, Mass., claims about 5,400 customers, including governments, financial services and hospitals. Its critical event management software offers services including mass notification, risk intelligence, analytics, scheduling and now contact tracing.

We spoke with Mouline about critical event management best practices for businesses, top challenges of 2020 and how Everbridge adapted its platform to help customers during the pandemic.

Now that we're about 10 months into the pandemic, what is most important for how businesses undertake critical event management?

Imad MoulineImad Mouline

Imad Mouline: Critical event management has always been important -- the ability to know if something bad was going to happen and impact your organization, whether you were a corporation or hospital or hospital system, or a public safety entity. [That includes] the ability to understand the potential impact; the ability to do something about it, to try to mitigate, to eliminate the impact; the ability to see how well you did, so you can improve the next time around.

What's different with COVID-19 is that it was a wake-up call that critical event management is now a CEO- or a board-level imperative.
Imad MoulineCTO, Everbridge

What's different with COVID-19 is that it was a wake-up call that critical event management is now a CEO- or a board-level imperative. Most organizations, be they public sector or private sector, have come to realize that they cannot have another critical event where they're caught unawares, whether it's impacting just their organization or their peers or the entire world.

Having critical event management can help whether you're dealing with a pandemic or whether you're dealing with any other type of critical event, whether it's a hurricane, a wildfire in California or in Australia, terrorist attack or use of force protest.

What was the biggest challenge of the last year for Everbridge?

Mouline: Getting more people to know that we could help them, especially at the beginning of the year. There was probably a slight sense of frustration on the parts of the employees, seeing some of the initial chaos worldwide of what was going on -- the impact on lives. And knowing that if more organizations, if more countries had implemented some part of our critical event management, whether it's at the corporate level, at the state level, our public warning systems on a worldwide level, that things could have gone better. More lives could have been saved.

When you know that you've got the means to help, but that help isn't necessarily getting to everybody around the world simply because some of these countries aren't organized well enough or simply don't know about you, it can be a little bit challenging.

How did Everbridge have to scale its business to accommodate the increased activity during the pandemic over a long period of time?

Mouline: From an underlying technical perspective, we didn't really have to do anything different for our platform to scale. We built it specifically to be able to scale and to deal with these huge peaks and valleys. And what the pandemic showed us is that we've done it the right way.

One thing that we did need to do is add functionality that hadn't been in the plan -- that is part of our flexibility and our resiliency. We ended up coming out with COVID-19 Shield [which includes] for example the ability to have risk intelligence feeds that were focused on the pandemic. Let's ensure that we're telling all our stakeholders, all our customers, not just where the virus is propagating or what the numbers are -- there are so many other sources for that -- but what the impact is, the impact on transportation, the impact on production facilities around the world, the impact on the supply chain.

We added additional capabilities such as contact tracing later in the year when we shifted from the impact of the pandemic to how to return to work, return to campus, return to life quicker. [That includes] the ability to do proximity-based or location-based contact tracing.

What are some trends as far as how governments and businesses are using Everbridge, given that we're in the middle of vaccine distribution, some companies have returned to work, and there are still many new coronavirus cases every day?

Mouline: We've got an incredibly unique vantage point because we support organizations at every step of the entire vaccine supply chain. Everbridge customers develop, manufacture, transport, distribute, regulate and administer the vaccine, all the way to the last mile. They all rely on Everbridge critical event management to ensure that from end to end, the vaccine is going to get to as many people as possible, as quickly as possible, as efficiently as possible.

By putting all these things together through what we call the Everbridge network, that information doesn't fall through the cracks, that there is some level of cooperation and collaboration between the private and the public entities to ensure that the vaccine distribution can be optimized. As a resident of a town or a city, you may have gotten a message telling you about the status of the pandemic or the lines from a testing perspective, or what's going on with vaccine distribution.

What are you expecting in 2021?

Mouline: If we want to look beyond the post-pandemic initiatives, 2021 is the year that pretty much every European country has to select a public warning system, per an EU mandate.

What we believe will happen is that instead of selecting the bare minimum requirement that the EU mandate states, that some of these countries will heed the lessons of the pandemic and will start thinking more broadly about what they really need. They will choose a system that can help across the entire spectrum of critical events, across the entire lifecycle, not just warning the public but also communicating with all the stakeholders, understanding what's going on that may impact their first responders, their populations, their tourists.

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