Choosing the right management system for environment, health and safety (EHS) is an important decision with implications for the safety of your employees and the environment, for compliance with regulations, and for your budget.
The options are evolving so fast that it can be hard to keep up to speed, to make decisions, and to feel confident that your investment will meet your business needs now and into the future. A further set of challenges comes into play once you begin to implement the system you’ve selected.
These six considerations will help you better understand the opportunities and navigate the risks, setting your business up for success.
1. Select a solution based on capabilities and priorities
These days, EHS software options are vast and varied. Gone are the old days of ‘all-or-nothing’ or ‘best fit’ implementation approaches. Modern EHS software platforms are modular and can be easily configured to meet specific needs. This makes it easy to quickly establish value in the solution by first deploying your highest priority needs before rolling out additional requirements incrementally. This approach reduces risk, streamlines change management, and increases user adoption.
The best starting point is to select a product based on overall capability requirements and priorities, such as health and safety (H&S), permit to work, chemical management, etc., while keeping the three-to-five-year roadmap of your business in mind.
Where possible, avoid deploying your EHS software system onsite. This can be resource-heavy and you’ll run the risk of being unable to maintain the latest version of the software. It’s preferable to choose a platform deployed to the cloud so your business can leverage newer capabilities and features sooner.
2. Choose an innovative provider that aligns with your business culture
When selecting a product supplier, look for market innovators that are consistently making strides towards new technologies. Today there are many customer-centric, forward-thinking, and innovative companies that engage deeply with their customers through innovation labs and programs, think-tanks, hackathons, customer feedback days, and more.
Pure technology often wins out, but it is worth considering how well your provider aligns with your business culture. Will they return calls after the initial sale? How does their roadmap look? These are important factors for initial and ongoing success. Ongoing collaboration can have a big impact, so don’t just rely on the favourable references your provider offers. Dig deeper to find out more about how the provider interacts with its business partners and clients. This might involve reaching out to fellow professionals within your network or asking a software implementation partner. Try to speak with other clients to find out what the provider is really like to work with throughout the full lifecycle of the management system.
3. Embrace out-of-the-box functionality
Using out-of-the-box functionality for most of your requirements can make the difference between quick wins or multiple extended testing cycles for custom configurations. Don’t be daunted by slightly adjusting your business processes to align with out-of-the-box functionality. Through years of testing, innovation, and experience from thousands of projects, many EHS platforms have built their systems around common scenarios and best practices. Taking advantage of this will save you time, money, and headaches. It’s a great starting point for an initial implementation and will require far less effort to support.
You will, of course, still need a platform that can be configured to suit your organisation’s specific needs. As a rule of thumb, out-of-the-box capabilities should meet approximately 70-90% of your requirements, with the remaining 10-30% being configurable to fill in the gaps. You may, for example, need to configure workflows for different scenarios in your workplace, add more fields to a form for one user type as opposed to another, produce regional reports, and so on.
4. Focus on usability and engage early and often with end users
Optimise functionality with your end users in mind, remembering that they might not have EHS backgrounds or may not be highly capable with technology. If end users work alongside the core team through the discovery, design, configuration, and implementation stages, you’ll reduce the risk of encountering structural issues at rollout.
The key to productive engagement and adoption is to create an environment of comfort and compatibility for the full range of end users. Engage end users and super users early to obtain their buy-in. Test the reactions of a key group of end users to gather critical feedback during some limited-exposure groups. Be responsive and incorporate changes quickly to refine the solution and streamline the user interface.
5. Keep the build agile, iterative and disciplined
It’s much easier and more efficient to start with small projects that build momentum. Projects were once massive onsite affairs with the entire implementation team co-located in one office. Today’s web-based platforms are more modular and flexible, resulting in a lower implementation risk and greater value for the time invested. Start with a focused project and deliver incremental value back to the business in smaller releases with shortened release cycles. When larger phases are needed, your team and end users will already be familiar with navigating the platform.
It’s best not to become distracted by last-minute business demands, especially if they’re not well defined. Saying yes to requested changes can impact your overall scope and schedule. Establish a process to collect and validate last-minute requests that can achieve a balance between incorporating them into the final configuration or a later release.
6. Engage an implementation partner
To fill in your knowledge gaps and avoid learning lessons the hard way, seek out a reliable implementation partner that has a good track record of delivering EHS software deployments and maintaining training and certifications across multiple platforms.
Consider your potential partner’s certifications, and don’t hesitate to ask for their client references or get more details on recent deployments. Especially if you’re implementing an EHS system for the first time, you’ll want a partner that can integrate their expertise into your team and facilitate knowledge transfer during the project.
Although there are always risks involved in implementing a new EHS management software, it doesn’t need to be a terrifying process. With this advice, you’ll be well on the path to choosing and implementing the right EHS management system and achieving significant value for your business.
By Asif Sayed, Golder