Posted on: August 12, 2020 at 1:58 PM    

Among the many responses that the COVID-19 situation requires, is the need to ensure accuracy and timeliness in all communications. Indeed, one of the biggest issues when we went into Level 4 was around confusion and mixed messaging being received.

The importance of clear messaging was reiterated as we came out of lockdown, but we are still required to keep a record of where we go and who we engage with. Doing this was particularly important when businesses reopened their doors, as corporate responsibility and health & safety requirements were added on top of individual requirements.

As an example of these type of communications, the team at Abley have been working with NCTIR (North Canterbury Transport Infrastructure Recovery) as part of the rebuild process. There was sometimes a requirement to reach out to all 900 personnel on the ground. Getting the key messages to all staff in a quick and efficient manner was essential for both good management and personal safety. While many organisations may rely on email for essential messages, this is not always timely or reliable, particularly when people are working away from, or do not use computers regularly - do your employees have mobile data turned on for their devices, or do some just rely on Wi-Fi? Even if they do have mobile data/Wi-Fi access, do they have notifications turned on? The weaknesses of communication under a business as usual scenario became clearer in these situations.

After exploring available technologies, we elected to use text messaging services to reach out to NCTIR’s office, field-based staff and contractors. Even though it is older technology, it is quick, scalable, and easy to implement and the most effective communication tool in reaching out to all staff, wherever they are.

In this particular instance, we used targeted processes to read the Salesforce contact database where all the contact details were stored, then filtered out unnecessary numbers to send out the messages. The benefits of this approach included providing two-way SMS conversations, which enabled us to receive replies as well. A supporting automated process (Webhook) was used to review any messages received, save them in a local database and provided a reporting function to management if further action was required.

The whole workflow was prepared using FME in a very short period of time. While the process was very simple in terms of set up and technology, the benefit it provided in reaching out to hundreds of people at the same time was invaluable. The process helped to both disseminate important and succinct messages, including a video link to the wider project team, and receiving messages back from employees.

The process was further enhanced to manage the contact database by cleaning up any numbers that were not active, for example failures due to wrong numbers, or if someone replied stating they wanted to opt out from the message service.

This approach is reasonably cheap, easy to set up and can be used for different scenarios across businesses. For example, communicating to staff in an emergency, scheduling recurring messages to get remote workers to complete their time sheets or even just as a reminder to your daughter’s soccer about where the game is on the weekend. How else could this type of service benefit your activities?

If you want to find out more about the FME workflow, contact Subodh.

Blog written by Subodh Dhakal, Senior Spatial Data Specialist


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