NAEM (National Association for Environmental Management) has just released its most recent report on Strategies for a Successful EHS&S Software Selection. The 32-page document takes a look at building the business case, allowing for what can be lengthy selection process, tips for making a success of it as well as including comments from EHS professionals who have already been through the process.

The EHS software market can seem overwhelming at first – it can be a daunting task to even approach it for sorting, let alone selecting the right vendor to invest valuable budget in. And that’s just it: every company is going to have its own set of unique requirements, and every vendor is going to have certain areas they excel in. It’s about finding a compatible match.

Best practice for a successful selection process and implementation is broken down into three components by NAEM: Strategy and Planning, Defining the Requirements, and Communications and Change Management. Here, we sum up the most pertinent points.

#1 Business values should be determined and prioritized from the outset 

EHS software is a good investment for a number of reasons, but what specifics are important to your company? Spend time with company leadership first determining your core business values – including what needs worked on – before embarking on your software selection. Some suites will support certain aspects better than others.

#2 Be realistic with budget and consider all impacting factors 

Software vendors can give ballpark costs, but with enterprise software the price is likely to be impacted by a host of things. Part of getting the most accurate cost is knowing (as close as you can get to) exactly what you need. NAEM suggests considering the number of users, number of modules, size of your company and the extent of your customizations among other factors when setting your budget.

#3 Actual amount spent often is less than what was budgeted for 

The saying “better to have too much than not enough” seems not to go a-miss. Enterprise-wide system purchasers on average budgeted for a $437,000 spend, with the actual amount spent summing up to, on average, $358,696. This is where the effects of taking steps highlighted in Takeaway #2 become apparent, ensuring that there are no shocks to the system (pun intended…)

#4 Don’t forget about ongoing license and maintenance fees when planning 

Many vendors build their license fees charging on a per user basis. Other vendors charge per region, perhaps more suitable for large organizations with tens of thousands of employees. NAEM points out that most companies spend less than $50K per year on maintenance fees, but that these costs stack up and should not be overlooked when planning your business case. Leadership may be on-board with the initial implementation costs but might be harder to convince of the long-term investment.

#5 Phase the project – it’s beneficial in more ways than one 

Implementing and deploying an enterprise EHS&S solution is a big project, there’s no hiding that fact. Anyone on-board needs to understand the great amount of effort required. However, many companies choose to phase the project, with NAEM suggesting this eases budget slightly and can make the process more manageable. We’d like to add our penny’s worth by saying that phasing is also helpful when it comes to user adoption and training. Bonus!

#6 Be prepared for a lengthy selection process 

For 72% of NAEM respondents, choosing their software vendor took a full year. That on its own speaks volumes about the levels of effort required… before the project even begins.

#7 Gather a team of interested parties to take part in selection 

This will help you garner many perspectives and interests from groups of people who are going to be impacted by the software. IT is going to obviously play a large role in implementation as well as upkeep, so their input is invaluable – they'll know best what is going to work well with your existing IT infrastructure, or IT team skills.

#8 Know the difference between configuration and customization 

In short:

  • Configuration: basic alterations to workflows, branding, language and so on, that can be expected from almost every company’s unique requirements

  • Customization: a change to the underlying source code, which could be things such as added security or accommodation for organization structure and information flow

#9 Segment employees for training to boost adoption 

Let's have another of life’s anecdotes: “you can't please all of the people all of the time.” This goes for EHS software too. User adoption is a big part of any software deployment, not just EHS, so it’s important to consider among other things their existing skills, the frequency of their use, and particular employees’ learning styles (to an extent – this one could get pretty nitpicky). Separate and group employees to make sure they are getting the best possible chance at adoption for what their individual experience is going to be with the system.

#10 NAEM’s final tips for keeping the selection process on track 

We do recommend reading the report in its entirety, but to summarize, NAEM puts the main concentration on bringing the right stakeholders on-board, clearly communicating your needs, and maintaining a realistic, managed approach throughout every stage of the process.
The full report, published July 2016, can be downloaded from NAEM here. Access it for survey results, NAEM's official recommendations, and comments from a panel of EHS professionals who have implemented software in the past. Overall, it is a must-read for any EHS Director or Manager looking to get the best out of their software selection process and is a helpful tool for setting out a detailed plan.

If you're working on your business case, you might also find our Building the Business Case for EHS Software white paper guide useful.