SIMS operations establish and maintain a number of systems and processes that field teams come to rely heavily upon. Deactivating our response can have wide-reaching implications, and the network must be deliberate about avoiding disruption to these resources. This requires first understanding the conditions when closing out the response is appropriate, then setting up the plan for the impact on processes, people, and tools.
There are a number of factors to consider before we can officially deactivate the network’s response to an emergency, but the clearest one is a lack of additional surge requests for a SIMS Remote Coordinator from the field. Once we have confirmation that the team is no longer requesting support—or if the network has triaged a request for an additional round but lacked available candidates—we can begin the process of deactivation.
There are three key processes to consider when we deactivate SIMS: handover with the National Society, documenting best practices and lessons learned, and capturing the story of our work in a public-facing report.
National Society handover
- Who’s responsible: SIMS Remote Coordinator and field-based IM Coordinator (if applicable)
SIMS exists to scale up IM capacity, so any gaps we filled need to be re-examined through the lens of sustainability. Ideally, sustainable solutions are at the core of everything SIMS does, but realistically, there may be tasks that are not suited for handover.
Begin by reviewing the Trello board. What incomplete and recurring tasks are still being requested? The SIMS Remote Coordinator works with the IM Coordinator (or relevant contact) to review these tasks in consultation with the National Society IM focal point. If that role does not exist, the conversation should be with a National Society staff member that has the visibility and authority to manage the handover. See this tracker as an example template that you can use.
Consider converting products to more accessible formats. We always try to use lower-cost and open-source software when possible, but some tasks still end up utilizing proprietary tools that many National Societies may not be able to procure themselves. The tracker linked above includes a column to track which products need to be converted to more open formats.
Operations are full of creative problem solving and novel challenges but we can only operationalize those lessons and integrate them into our processes if we take the time to document them. Both the SIMS Remote Coordinator and the individuals providing remote support have access to mechanisms in the SIMS Portal for capturing this information.
Remote supporter feedback
- Who’s responsible: All remote supporters
In order to track the overall experiences of people who have provided support, members can provide feedback at the end of their virtual assignment in the SIMS Portal. Navigate to the relevant assignment and click on “Create Learning Review”. This will bring you to a page where you can offer feedback about your experience, evaluate the support resources you had access to, and share recommendations for changes.
The information shared in these reviews anonymous to regular viewers—only Portal Superusers (a special permission above Administrator) can access the identity of a reporter if needed, but will only do so in limited circumstances. Once the number of reports that have been submitted crosses the threshold where the results can’t be easily attributable to other viewers, the data is visualized on the Learning tab of the emergency record page in the Portal.
SIMS Remote Coordinator feedback
- Who’s responsible: All SIMS Remote Coordinators
While remote supporters are asked to provide feedback about their experience in providing support to specific tasks, SIMS Remote Coordinators have the option of providing more detailed and itemized pieces of feedback through the operational review feature of the SIMS Portal. At any time during their virtual deployment, Coordinators can create a new review record by navigating to the relevant emergency record in the Portal, and using the “Review Operation” button. These records ask the SIMS Remote Coordinator to categorize the feedback as a success, area for improvement, or general observation, and tag it as being related to communication and collaboration, doctrine and guidance, tools and systems, tasking and prioritization, or other. The coordinator describes the issue and optionally provides a recommended action. These reviews go into a queue that SIMS Portal administrators can then process and integrate into our tools, processes, learning methods, and doctrine.
The final SIMS Remote Coordinator should—in addition to logging their own reviews—remind previous Coordinators to log any of their feedback before fully deactivating.
Draft response story
- Who’s responsible: Final round SIMS Remote Coordinator, in collaboration with previous rounds
Much of what we do as a network can seem like a mysterious black box to outsiders, so we need to be deliberate about helping external audiences better understand what exactly our activation did. The “Response Story” feature in the SIMS Portal is designed to provide simple blog-like articles that describe the role SIMS played in the response operation.
It is the responsibility of the final SIMS Remote Coordinator to facilitate this process in collaboration with anyone else that filled the role in previous rounds. These stories should be written with non-IM audiences in mind, and not use jargon or acronyms. Though there is no specific template to follow, here are a few of the important topics to consider:
- Describe the emergency and the challenges that it posed for IM.
- Discuss key themes to the support we provided.
- Cover any innovations that came out of the operation that we supported.
SIMS utilizes a number of coordination tools to help us better manage our responses. It’s important that we manage the closeout process for these, since in many cases we have a limited number of licenses. However, it’s also vital that we maintain access to whatever we can so that we can continue to leverage existing work in future operations.
- Who’s responsible: SIMS Governing Board member
At present, SIMS does not pay for a premium license for Trello, and consequently we have a limit to the number of active boards we can keep active. We can only maintain 10 active boards at a time, so we rotate through the operational boards by archiving the oldest ones first, meaning we always have the ten latest boards available to view. If we are not at our cap when the SIMS response ends, then no action is required. If we are at our cap, then a SIMS Governing Board member with access to the SIMS Trello account must go into the Trello board and use the “Close” feature. Closed boards can still be accessed, but can’t be actively used.
- Who’s responsible: SIMS Governing Board member and final round SIMS Remote Coordinator
The SIMS Dropbox instance that gets spun up when the operation begins is a working folder for files as members collaborate. But once a product has been completed, it’s important that we post our best work the SIMS Portal. This helps us promote the services that SIMS offers, and preserves the product and underlying design assets for future operations. Ideally, this process should be done throughout the response, but if members haven’t been proactively posting the final versions of their products to the Portal, then the final round SIMS Remote Coordinator, in collaboration with a SIMS Governing Board member, should review the Dropbox project folders to migrate any of the best products.
Once we’ve captured the products in the Portal, a SIMS Governing Board member with access to the SIMS Dropbox account should archive the folder.
- Who’s responsible: Channel manager or SIMS Governing Board member
Disaster-specific Slack channels help organize our communications, but can also contribute to clutter as time passes. Once the operation has been completed, a SIMS Governing Board member goes into the channel and uses the “Archive Channel” feature. Note that for users with the normal permission set in the SIMS Slack account, only the person that created the channel and is listed under the “Managed By” field can edit the status. If that person is unavailable, a SIMS Slack account administrator can also make this change.
- Who’s responsible: SIMS Governing Board member
The status of an emergency page in the SIMS Portal helps the application track active responses when users log in, and helps manage a number of backend processes in the database. Two roles are able to closeout the record in the Portal: anyone tagged as a SIMS Remote Coordinator or a SIMS Governing Board member with admin access. Once all of the steps in this guide have been completed, one of these two users should use the Closeout button on the sidebar.
The Closeout button will also ping all remote supporters assigned to the emergency with a Slack message that includes a link to their learning record.