Never done it before? It will be a challenge, but achievable with the right approach and the right partners. Global implementation of EHS software can be a daunting task, but crucial for companies operating in high-risk industries in ensuring the safety of staff, contractors and members of the public.

In Part 1 of this series, we shared advice from the software supplier, speaking to Andy Gray who is the Principal Consultant at Pro-Sapien Software. That article is available here, but perhaps more important is hearing from someone who has gone through the process from the client perspective.

From scheduling the resources, getting past procurement and agreeing to requirements, global implementation can be a lengthy process. Numerous personnel are involved, and even after deployment, you’ve got testing, user adoption and localization before it can go worldwide to all sites. Before undertaking the task it’s important to know what to expect, so we’ve spoken to Dan Lefebvre, Head of Global IT Solutions at Shawcor, to get his advice.

Shawcor carried out the global implementation of EHS software in 2013 to its 8,000 employees based at 123 sites across 25 countries.

1. Find a Senior Project Sponsor

It maybe that the project is driven from the top down. If not, it is important to identify who within your organization at a senior level is going to champion your project and aid its progress through the business case approval – if the person is not you!

2. Elect a Project Manager From the Outset

You’ll need a team of dedicated people running this implementation, but having a project manager to handle scheduling often allows things to run more smoothly, particularly if your day job is already demanding. The project manager will be responsible for putting the vendor in contact with the right people in your company, will keep the team on track in terms of deadlines, will manage meetings and report to board members. It’s much less complicated to have one person that your staff and the vendor know to approach in the first instance. In fact, a PM will address a number of points raised in this article.

3. Speak to Your Procurement Team Early on in the Process

Procurement can stop a project in its tracks. Find out the typical timeframe for sign-offs, and understand the process for projects to go through. Knowing that procurement are involved in other time consuming deals or that business cases are reviewed on the third Thursday of every month will enable the PM to line up the appropriate information and stop needless delays.

4. Communication Is Key – Carry Out Vendor Workshops Early on in the Process

For the success of the project, it’s important that you as the client are able to communicate clearly and often with the software vendor. It’ll prove beneficial to invite the vendor to your main site for a couple of days, to run them through your requirements and to meet key personnel. This way the vendor can get a feel for your culture and will better understand your requests. Engaging the vendor(s) early on will keep the timescales shorter and will provide you with a greater element of confidence that both organizations can successfully work together and meet the objectives of the project. The vendor can also assist you when putting together your business case.

5. Keep the Board Updated on Progress

Those who sit on the board of your organization will likely be aware of the project – EHS is an integral part of any large company, and so those at the top need to be engaged. If you are not on the board, producing a clear, concise update to the board representative will provide transparency and clarity.

6. Know the Schedules of All Personnel Involved

Global implementation of any kind requires the engagement of numerous employees. In the case of EHS software, this likely concerns IT, EHS (or OHS, HSE, HSEQ) and Operations, and you may have a couple representatives from each. Be mindful of key personnel (including the vendor!) - people do take holidays. Projects can be delayed at Christmas, Easter and other periods where vacations of staff and signatories overlap, which can result in project hiatus because of poor planning.

7. Be Realistic With Your Timescales

If your timescales have no slack then it’s unlikely the project will remain on schedule. Anything from a key staff member leaving the company to heavy snowfall or an internal IT failure can cause delays, so when planning your timeline with the vendor be realistic with the amount of time dedicated to the project. Bear in mind annual leave and the critical path elements of the project.

8. Engage the Staff Involved/Effected

Any good manager is aware that the understanding of staff can be the difference between an extremely challenging and relatively easy change in processes. Explain to employees the reasons behind deploying a new EHS solution, and they’ll be more willing to accept and engage. This could be done through a newsletter, a personal email to all staff or an announcement on the company intranet.

9. Stage a Rollout

Your software vendor will probably suggest this, and I’m suggesting it too. Choose a specific department that is going to trial the software – you could even go one step further and choose certain modules or aspects of the software to be tested by certain departments. This exercise will throw up issues that might not be down to software, or the supporting infrastructure, or simply have not been considered as an issue. A pilot phase will make for a much better user experience after global implementation. Problems are easier fixed before you go global, and if you review the modules as they are installed, issues can be put right along the way.

10. Run Workshops/Webinars for Staff to Learn How to Use the System

No matter what new program you install, staff are going to require training. Be it a little or a lot, I’d suggest recording the software in use and then issuing to all employees as a webinar, or training one senior person from each department to then pass on the knowledge to their staff. The webinar option will be beneficial in the future for new recruits to learn how to use the system. Your vendor will likely have training materials; however, you may wish to work with the vendor to provide a tailored training package that meets the needs of your organization. Localization and differing levels of IT competency should be considered at an early stage of the project.

11. Follow up on User Adoption

Clearly there is a lot to be said for user friendly intuitive software. However, an occasional user is unlikely to remember the training session they received 6 months ago. Providing easily accessible materials such as video and/or follow up training sessions will ensure greater user satisfaction and adoption.

12. Choose Your Vendor Wisely and Maintain a Good Relationship With Your Vendor

This is self-evident, but not only will your team be involved with the vendor during the implementation, the vendor will support and possibly enhance your solution for years to come. You will need an ongoing relationship with them, but it’s even better if you make that a good one.

13. Feedback to the Vendor

The vendor should always be keen to get your feedback on how you feel implementation went and how the software is performing. This will help them fine-tune their approach in the future and improve to overall product. We’ve helped our vendor write a case study on the project with Shawcor, which is available here and is the kind of thing software providers may be appreciative of your help with.

Hopefully now you are more aware of what global implementation of EHS software entails. Don't let the scale and effort put you off – it's all worth it in the end with every life saved and accident avoided. Before kicking off your project, do research into other EHS Directors' experiences, and take as many suggestions as you can. Advice like what you've read from Dan Lefebvre and Andy Gray is important in making the process smoother and more likely to succeed, but your vendor should always be accommodating of your worries or reservations. If you have a question, just ask!