With the advent of big data, EHS software has gained more and more popularity. We're constantly hearing about what it can do, how much it can improve health and safety outcomes, and how it can streamline environmental protection measures.
With all those success stories, you might be thinking it's time for your organization to get on board and invest in a safety software solution. But how do you convince upper management that it's a good idea?
In this article, we'll go over how you can make the case that EHS software is worth the investment by appealing to the triple bottom line: the economic, social, and environmental benefits.
Look Beyond the Big Fish
Like so many safety initiatives, it's important to make sure that you get the right software solution for your organization. You'll need one with the right features, one that your team finds intuitive, and one that works well with your administrative processes and doesn’t create more administrative load.
There are a lot of fish in the EHS Software sea, but you shouldn't just go for the big ones and call it a day. Going with a big-name solution is no guarantee that you'll get a positive return on your investment. There's no such thing as a single "best on the market" solution – the right one for you will be whichever matches your company's unique needs.
Thinking outside the box when it comes to software solutions has other advantages, too. Solutions offered by smaller providers can sometimes be more flexible and customizable. They might also offer other benefits like more responsive customer service and easier implementation.
So, weigh your options carefully and don’t look past the small fish – they might be the strongest ones.
Making the Case for EHS Software
The Economic Case
Senior management will think of every new acquisition as an investment. And when they decide which investments to pursue, they want to ensure that it will have a positive cash flow. In other words, they'll want to ensure that the money the company spends will translate into a positive return for the shareholders.
(Learn about Building a Business Case for Safety.)
There will always be a little pushback, then, for investing in safety software. That's because buying EHS software will decrease the company's working capital through various expenses like software licenses, implementation costs, per-use costs, and maintenance costs. And the returns on those expenditures might not be all that evident to management.
As safety professionals, we know that the right EHS software more than makes up for its cost with the value it generates. To make that case to upper management, focus on the following benefits.
Reducing the Cost of Injuries and Illness
This is usually the big sell for EHS solutions. Big data leads to better insights into your organization's problems and allows you to focus on your most pressing problems.
When you implement this kind of system, the volume, variety, and velocity of your data collection increases exponentially. The quality of your data improves, too. This data arrives in real-time through forms that are compatible with multiple platforms (iOS, Android, Windows) and automatically transfers to databases that can structure it to produce reports and dashboards. This will give you unprecedented insight into your safety performance and help you pinpoint the precise areas that need improvement.
Many solutions also offer built-in reminders that will alert you when training or corrective actions are required. This will ensure that you are always ready to execute the next project and that no deficiencies go uncorrected.
All of this will help you reduce injuries and illnesses. And those reductions will translate into lower workers' compensation rates, increased utilization of the workforce, and access to contracts that are conditional on EHS performance.
(Learn more about Measuring the Hidden Costs of Accidents.)
Safety software increases productivity by reducing your workforce needs.
Paper-based systems are labor-intensive and require a sizeable bureaucracy to manage them. Safety advisors have to verify the completeness and accuracy of each individual report, and these reports have to be re-printed and re-distributed with every change.
Manually extracting data from paper records and feeding them into databases (or spreadsheets) is also time-consuming.
By automating all these processes, you can decrease the number of employees who need to be involved in all of these steps.
These productivity gains will also allow you tap into your EHS department's full potential. Once they no longer spend so much time on these bureaucratic duties, and when they are armed with higher quality data, they can spend more of their time on strategic planning and proactive measures.
When you're using a paper-system, if you haven't captured and transferred all the data in another system, all potential correlations with future events are lost.
These days, most EHS systems are cloud-based and will always store historic events and all their data fields, which can be continuously filtered in various ways to extract meaningful correlations.
No matter what transformations the company goes through – acquisitions, mergers, or even the loss of the facility – the digital data remains intact and accessible.
The Environmental Case
Most companies have stationery rooms filled with stacks of brand new forms and countless others completed and filed away. Once they're filled, they have limited use.
Yes, there might be some lessons you can learn from them, but before you can extract the data and find out what those are, you need to transfer them to another system for processing.
And once you're pretty sure you've got all the information you need from them, they usually get stored in a banker's box until you've held on to them long enough. Then they're either shredded and thrown away or recycled.
If you could do away with all that unnecessary stationery, you could save quite a few trees.
You'd also reduce facility-related pollution. Not needing the extra room to store all those forms can save in facility construction and maintenance costs, which will lower your footprint.
And of course, this is an economic saving as well. While the actual stationery supplies may be relatively low cost, the cost of keeping and maintaining spaces devoted to storing stationery, supplies, and paper records is non-negligible.
(For more reasons to upgrade to digital, see 5 Reason to Go Paperless with Your Workplace Health and Safety.)
The Social Case
These days, markets are much more sensitive to the social impact of an organization. The way a company treats its employees and contractors can have a dramatic effect on its share price.
What does this have to do with safety software? Well, when you use the right solution and use it well, you should see lower rates of occupational injury and illness. Making that investment (and getting those results) shows a concern for employee well-being, which is a good way to demonstrate social responsibility and attract investors.
The generational structure of the workforce is changing. Generations Y and Z are entering the workforce in great numbers, and they are more comfortable with companies that digitize and automatize their processes.
By going digital with your safety, you'll be better able to attract good talent without having to worry that they'll quit over the frustration of dealing with paper forms and administrative bloat.
In the end, the most effective system for your organization will be the one that does the most of what you need at the lowest cost. While some well-established market leaders offer turnkey solutions with a plethora of options, the cost of implementing them can easily exceed $100k and the annual maintenance cost is usually high as well.
Larger companies might be able to make good use of all the functions offered by these software providers, but most small- and medium-sized organizations won't have the scale needed to get a good return on all those additional features. (In fact, I know of at least one large company that decided to opt for a smaller solution because the more comprehensive, big-name EHS software system was simply too difficult to administer.)
Before you shop around for a software solution, make sure you understand what functions you need (keeping in mind potential future growth). Don't look for the system with the most functionalities – look for a system that has the right functionalities.
Once you've narrowed your option, summarize the cost vs. returns case for each and let management decide. As long as you did your homework, narrowed it down to the most reasonable options, and highlighted the return for each solution, there's a good chance management will go for the one that offers the most bang for the buck.