Advice From the Supplier for the Client

Implementing an EHS solution globally is a big project – there’s no two ways about it. Scheduling the resources, getting past procurement and agreeing to requirements can be a lengthy process. However, the level of effort demanded from both the supplier and the client is often underestimated.

Large organizations can experience software implementation across global operations that take 3 months to implement. At the other end of the spectrum, some companies – due to especially specific requirements or multi module rollouts – can be working on deployment for 12 months. It can be a daunting task, but crucial for companies operating in high-risk industries in ensuring safety of staff, contractors and members of the public. It was recently recorded by NAEM that 84% of buyers desire an enterprise-wide, globally deployed solution.

In this two part series, we’ll be offering tips from both the supplier and the client on what to expect and how to deal with it. Considering the project from both sides is vital in maintaining a good supplier-client relationship that results in the desired outcome of the client.

In the first article of this series, Andy Gray, Principal Consultant at Pro-Sapien Software, shares his experience of global projects, offering advice on how to ensure a successful implementation. In the second article, Head of Global IT Solutions at Shawcor, Dan Lefebvre, will be discussing global implementation from the client’s perspective.

1. Timescales

Client timescales often appear reasonable, but are very much dependent on the speed at which processes can be completed within the organization. There is a plan in place, but a client often thinks they have more time than is really available. Said client might say “We need to have it in by such-and-such a date,” without really appreciating the initial milestones of the project like getting the tender out, and the negotiation after tender. A vendor is rarely late with their delivery, but slipping client prerequisites can have a knock on impact with the critical path.

Top Tip: If new to the organization, try to gain some insight from peers who may have carried out similar sized roll outs. They may be able to point out some of the areas to look out for to ensure your project sticks to plan.

Speak to your supplier. In most instances they will have many years of experience working on projects similar to yours so they will be able to provide you feedback on whether your timescales are realistic.

2. Procurement

If you are not familiar with the procurement process, it is worth asking the procurement team how long it normally takes for the agreement of contracts. Your project may go into a queue or be put on a fast track depending on whether there is a compelling event or who on the board is sponsoring your project. Delays in sign off happen regularly – projects are put on hold for numerous reasons. Project sign off and approval may happen on a monthly basis, so make sure you don’t miss the boat.

3. Project Sponsor

Some organizations formalize this within their purchasing process. If not, having a project sponsor can be a major factor when it comes to ensuring your project goes through the business case smoothly, and ensuring it receives the appropriate focus through the various stages of procurement and implementation. The project sponsor who sits on the board and carries their fair share of influence will ensure that it’s discussed and is not an orphan that is overlooked for other favorites. A good sponsor will also provide insight when producing a business plan to ensure that the 'reasons to proceed' are clear, and that the business case is not rejected or needs to be resubmitted.

4. Annual Leave

Don’t underestimate the impact that vacation time can have on your critical path. It can feel that the universe is conspiring against you if you are awaiting sign off and stars are not in alignment; your decision makers are off consecutively, so nothing happens between mid- June to end of August. It’s important to either brief someone who can manage your aspect of the project whilst you are away; delay your vacation (understandably not preferred); or make sure the vendor knows staff holiday dates in advance, so that it can be incorporated into the schedule.

5. Early Stage Engagement

How prepared the client is dictates how the project is going to go. Engagement of all involved staff at an early stage is crucial, and as the old saying goes – preparation is key! Before the supplier arrives for specification, the client should have all the necessary documents ready to go. Time should be booked in the schedule with all required staff and departments, like with the admin and IT teams. If you ensure everything is ready for the consultant to take a look at, you’ll experience a much smoother and quicker process where sign off will be easier to achieve.

Early engagement is also important for the client-supplier relationship. It’s a bit like a dating thing: if you spend all your time speaking online, only when you actually go out for dinner do you realize whether or not the relationship is going to work. There’s our camp, and the client’s camp. That’s why before a client commits to a large project I would suggest doing a workshop. Invite the supplier in for a few days to get a feel for the consultant and their approach. Do all these things at the earliest stage possible, because these elements may take longer than you anticipated.

6. Determine Who Will Be Involved

Ideally, the specification exercise has a limited number of people – someone from IT, someone senior from the EHS department who knows the requirements from a Management Information and risk perspective, and someone on the operational side who knows how things work on the ground with staff. EHS, IT and Operations are the 3 main departments involved in system management according to NAEM and in my experience too, so it’s natural each should be a part of the implementation. These people should be engaged in the entire project, particularly if the software is being configured to specific requirements. Limiting the number of people involved at this stage to a small number of staff will aid communication and overall make for a smoother process.

7. Accept/Limit the Complexity

Be realistic – large roll outs can be complex. There is no silver bullet.

8. Staff Training

Identify your product champions. Who are the people you want on board? Who is going to assist you in the roll out? I would suggest videoing elements of the software so that you can demonstrate the functionality to staff, ensuring that there is no excuse for people not to engage. You absolutely have to engage the staff, as training is fundamental in making this project a success. Spend time with your employees to help them understand how to use the system properly, or designate someone with good knowledge of the project to take the end-users through training.

9. The Bigger Picture

Take a look at why these things are happening. What’s the benefit of introducing a new system? Let people know, keep people informed of what the changes are, and tell them why. You’ll see a big difference in user adoption.

10. Phasing of Projects and User Acceptance Testing

There can be a danger that you overwhelm people by providing so much functionality that they become resistant to it, because it’s too much change all at once. Phasing the project so that users have time to familiarize themselves with each module has proven to be a very successful strategy.

Sometimes, clients don’t realize the testing required. There’s often the idea that the supplier will just roll the solution out and it will work straight away – however, this is rarely the case. Delivering software configured for client-specific needs means user acceptance testing is necessary. Furthermore, this task can kick up changes that are needed to make things work; it’ll bring things up that haven’t been thought about in the planning process, or errors that went unnoticed such as localized spelling, making it extremely worthwhile.

11. Roll Out

Which areas do you want to roll out to first? A particular department? We find that this is an effective way to approach things. Once a particular group are using the software in the field, any unforeseen elements can be picked out before being rolled out globally. Or if training needs to change, it would preferably be altered before rollout to the wider company. In other words, if it’s a painful process, by selecting a particular department for initial roll out you aren’t subjecting everyone to it. Iron out some of the unforeseen issues before the software goes out worldwide.

12. Budget for Change

If you need to make a change or enhancements it’s important that the budget can handle it, and it isn’t unexpected.

13. Detailed Specification

The Detailed Specification Document is fundamental when you’re not taking a purely out-the-box system, as this documentation becomes the success criteria of the entire project. Without this, it’s easy to lose track of the core purposes the system needs to encompass.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, just remember: Global implementation certainly is a leap in the right direction of world-class EHS management, as it shows a whole-hearted commitment to protecting your employees.

Andy Gray has been designing and implementing EHS software in large corporations since 2012, and has come across many situations in which the client has been impractical with deadlines and expectations – simply due to inexperience and underestimations of the work involved. Global implementation is a big project that requires both the expertise of the supplier and the concentrated, devoted efforts of the client. Patience is a virtue, and preparation is key!

The next article in this series will offer advice from Dan Lefebvre of a large Canadian energy supplier. It will focus on what to expect from the client side of global implementation. You’ll discover how Shawcor rolled out an enterprise-class EHS software to its 8,000 employees based at 123 sites across 25 countries in 2013.

Coming next week - Part 2: Advice From the Client for the Supplier