COVID-19: A Case Study in TopoONE Flexibility

Sudden and unexpected crises create unique challenges for safety and security leaders.  The COVID pandemic presented one such crisis, on a global scale. Today’s corporate leaders have never experienced such wide-ranging upheaval.

Our customers amazed us with their ability to adapt. They helped us identify creative ways to leverage the TopoONE platform to analyze COVID-related risks and guide operational decision-making. Each customer provided feedback and insights that helped us better serve other customers. Our customers were determined, innovative, and dedicated to helping their companies safely operate.

We did not design our technology to specifically support an infectious disease use case. But we were able to provide needed assistance to our customers because of the flexibility we built into the TopoONE platform. TopoONE has the flexibility to ingest, refine, and map risk data from many sources. It includes the flexibility to serve as the common operating picture for security teams in any industry. And it offers the flexibility to guide collaborative decision-making beyond the GSOC.

Below we provide an overview of our experience serving customers through the pandemic.

The flexibility to make disparate data actionable

We created the TopoONE platform to help security teams rapidly understand and mitigate physical security risks. This purpose is based upon the platform’s ability to map and process data and threat intelligence from many sources. This supports use cases such as employee and executive protection, travel risk management, event security, and many others.

Our customers typically use TopoONE to respond to natural disasters, human-caused threats, alarms and alerts – not a highly contagious virus. However, TopoONE’s unique ability to ingest a wide variety of data proved indispensable to help our customers navigate the pandemic.

TopoONE customers already had the location of every facility, office, partner, and other fixed asset plotted on at least one situational awareness map. This formed the foundation on which a wide variety of COVID-19 data could be layered and analyzed.

A global pandemic with significant local variance

While a pandemic is a global crisis, operating conditions varied significantly across states and even municipalities. Security teams needed to understand regional and global trends, but they also needed to make decisions about specific offices or other locations.

The TopoONE platform provided customers with maximum flexibility for using hyper-local COVID data. This also delivered a comprehensive global perspective. The nature and sources of this information changed over time as our understanding of the coronavirus evolved.

When the coronavirus was first identified in China, corporate security teams were alert but generally continued to conduct business as usual. Once the first cases were identified in the United States, executive leadership wanted to monitor the number and location of these cases so those regions could be avoided. This task was often delegated to security teams, as coronavirus was a threat to life-safety.

In the March – May timeframe, the unknowns of COVID forced organizations to virtually shut down as health officials struggled to understand this new disease.  At this stage, communicating caseloads and mortality by geography was paramount.  Starting in the June timeframe, understanding infections and mortality rate per capita became an increasingly important measurement of risk. In the mid-late summer, we began to see data such as ICU capacity loads measured and included as part of risk analysis.  A patchwork of state and local restrictions and ordinances created vastly different operating conditions across the U.S. and globe.

Security teams needed data to understand which offices, employees, retail locations and assets might be affected. The high transmission rate of COVID-19 meant that a daily, hyper-local update was imperative.

As new data sources became available, we added them to the TopoONE platform. This included data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, state health boards, the National Governors Association, and other sources. These daily updates were included as part of each customer’s TopoONE subscription.

Automating the data collection process for our customers

TopoONE users generally adjusted their response efforts across the various stages of the pandemic. This flexibility was essential because of the dynamic nature of the pandemic and the evolving needs of organizations.

Executive teams wanted regular updates, and they looked to security leaders to provide this information. As the number of new cases grew exponentially, security operations teams were soon facing information overload.

Collecting and analyzing important COVID metrics was a manual task which could take hours every day. This daily task took too many person-hours, which meant that security teams were working longer hours and still not able to perform all their other duties.

We observed many security teams whose only choice was to spend hours every day downloading and analyzing different data sets to brief their executive teams. We encountered teams using competitive common operating pictures that did not have the flexibility to provide the detailed insights needed. When we gave these teams the ability to automate COVID data collection and visualization using TopoONE, many became new customers.

Security teams guided operational decisions

Effective response to the pandemic required security leaders to have a detailed understanding of how and where their organizations operate. This includes aspects such as geographic footprint, profitability drivers, the partner ecosystem, and other factors. This understanding was necessary to understand how, where, and to what extent the pandemic created risks for organizations. 

TopoONE customers leveraged a variety of COVID data to lead the organizational response to COVID-19. We updated the data every day within the TopoONE platform to create a COVID-19 briefing dashboard. We provided the data at the nation, state, county, and zip code levels – in as much detail as was available.

TopoONE customers used their COVID data on a daily basis to guide operational decision-making. Each customer had already mapped their offices, assets, and partners in the TopoONE platform. They included layers with the COVID data that mattered to their organization, typically a combination of disease metrics and state business restrictions. These security teams often color-coded their maps to easily identify regions with higher or lower risks. This provided an effective common operating picture to communicate risk levels and guide decisions.

Many TopoONE customers exported the data from their common operating picture to use in daily reports that could be used to brief executives. These reports were configured to identify trends so that security teams could be proactive rather than reactive in identifying emerging COVID-related threats. The reports included key metrics for every office, with charts or graphs to aid presentations.

Customers used their COVID-19 briefing dashboards for a variety of purposes, depending on their industry and business model. The pandemic unfolded in ‘waves’ that peaked in different locations at different times. It was crucial for our customers to regularly analyze their briefing dashboards to formulate their short-, intermediate-, and long-term plans.

Some organizations could not operate with 100% of their employees working from home. Their employees needed to work in the same location, or they needed to interact in-person with their customers. These companies needed safety protocols, often supervised by the security operations team.  They also needed to identify acceptable and unacceptable risk levels to determine which locations could operate, and when.

These customers used the COVID-19 briefing dashboards to establish numeric frameworks for acceptable levels of risk within their organizations. This approach created an objective standard that could be used to authorize different business activities. It helped remove subjectivity or differences of opinions from the decision-making process. Security organizations could use this numeric framework approach to account for different risk tolerances and different operating conditions across the globe.

The more complex the organization, the better the fit

COVID presented operational challenges to every organization, but it was especially disruptive to some companies. Companies with a larger geographic footprint, especially a global one, faced a wide range of operating conditions. Some organizations have business models that require close proximity between employees or with members of the public, necessitating extensive risk mitigation measures. Widely distributed supply chains and just-in-time inventory models created major logistical hurdles for some organizations.  The TopoONE platform’s flexibility meant that we could assist organizations facing these unprecedented challenges.

Ultimately, we saw that the most effective security leaders were collaborating on a daily basis with senior P&L leaders. These security teams drew accolades for their guidance on how their organizations should effectively mitigate risk to employees, supply chains, company offices, and other assets.

As flexible as the crisis demanded

Global pandemics have typically been cyclical. It is uncertain exactly when and how the COVID-19 pandemic will conclude in the coming months and years. We never know what the next local, regional, or global crisis will be. We don’t know when it will occur, or with what intensity. Data will be an important tool to mitigate risk, especially if that crisis is unfamiliar or prolonged. One thing this pandemic has taught us and our customers: the TopoONE platform is as flexible as the crisis demands.

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