TUESDAY 6 NOV 2018 2:01 PM


A nominee for the 2018 Digital Impact Awards, CDS focuses on digital facilitation of national crisis response. Paul Meersman shares his thoughts

The need to communicate clearly, effectively and securely never comes into more of a sharp focus than when lives are at stake. Think of the communication challenges your organisation faces and then think about what it must be like to deal with a major national incident.

I’d like to share how our agency, CDS, has helped the Cabinet Office, ResilienceDirect , develop an integrated digital communication platform that is vital to saving lives during the worst of emergencies, such as Grenfell Tower, Parsons Green and Manchester bombing incidents, and more recently the Pennine moorland fires during the summer.

The Cabinet Office has always ensured that the emergency services, armed forces and other resilience organisations communicate and plan effectively, before, during and after a major incident, such as a terrorist attack or a natural disaster.

Since 2014, CDS has worked with ResilienceDirect, part of the Cabinet Office to deliver Collaborate, an application that underpins an online private ‘network’ which enables civil protection practitioners to work together – across geographical and organisational boundaries – during the preparation, response and recovery phases of an event or emergency.

Through Collaborate, local resilience forums can upload and review plans, minutes and incident reports in one central location. Documents that were paper-only for decades are now electronically available and reviewable. The secure, but open nature of Collaborate also allows for international support for incidents that cross borders, such as from the Republic of Ireland’s resilience community.

The Cabinet Office recognised the resilience community had fragmented through devolution and the often-changing structures of private sector organisations vital to managing major incidents. It sought to overcome these challenges by using web technology to support the dynamic resilience community and foster even greater communication and cooperation.

Collaborate has a fully-customisable hierarchy based around communities that can hold unique content pages, document repositories, or even sub-communities. Each of which can be assigned unique security groups and parameters, allowing for both practical fluidity and the strict control of information.

One of the key features rolled out in 2018 delivered improved reporting for responding to live incidents. The new process allows resilience and emergency planning teams to feed live information into their area of an incident report. The new flexible functionality covers the differing requirements of multiple agencies and delivers an online process that is intuitive, saves vital time and provides a locked down audit trail of entries.

Collaborate is a central pillar for major incident management. There are over 34,000 active users, with access to more than 230,000 documents, across 5,600 communities.

In 2018, Collaborate was upgraded with a UX and design overhaul to improve functionality and support the Cabinet Office’s plan to grow distribution and use of the tool. Since the new tool launched, new user registrations are up to over 600 per month.

Nearly 3,000 incidents have been managed or reviewed with Collaborate, including the most devastating and dreadful to affect the UK. Every affected organisation acts on a single version of the truth and with a single purpose during a truly devastating time.

I strongly believe that businesses can learn valuable lessons from ResilienceDirect and CDS. Our approach, strategy, security and technology have all been tested under most extreme circumstances.   

Paul Meersman is the head of marketing at CDS