Planning for new EHS software is no small feat. Especially in multisite organizations, it can take significant resources to map out system requirements, research the marketplace, plan for implementation, and then conduct that implementation successfully. The problem arises when a company doesn’t have sufficient know-how in-house to confidently go about these tasks – this is where EHS consultancies can step in.
Choosing an EHS software solution is a strategic decision. Collaboration with the vendor doesn’t finish at implementation as the vendor will also support and possibly enhance your solution for (hopefully) years to come, so you’ll want to get your decision right. If the cheapest solution or the sales team with the slickest demo win you over without due research, you may be faced with lack of adoption, inflated maintenance costs, the inability to grow with you, and ultimately going through the whole process again just a few years down the line.
To be successful with your EHS software selection, you’ll need a range of skills and knowledge:
- Local, global and industry regulations
- Different EHS solution types
- Technical requirements
- IT skills (Design, implementation, training etc.)
EHS consultancies have experience in the above areas and more, that you, the customer, can benefit from if you don’t have the abilities in your internal team. (However, it should be said that companies with sufficient resources need not go through a consultancy to work with vendors; it is merely an option of assistance.) Nevertheless, if you require assistance, a consultant will work on behalf of you, not the vendor, helping you every step of the way with;
- Vendor communications
- Overseeing timescales,
- Staying on topic with the project,
- Establishing what success looks like, and then evaluating that.
Why would I use a middle man?
Most vendors will be able to work alongside your chosen EHS consultancy but will also be happy to communicate with you directly, which conjures the question of “why would I use a middle man?” It’s one we get asked quite often when prospective clients are considering consultancies. In the unique EHS software marketplace there are certainly scenarios to which a consultant brings huge value. To map these out for those who are considering their options, I drafted in the help of Adam Fornea, Managing Consultant at Trinity Consultants. Adam is the Innovation Team Lead at Trinity/T3 and has almost a decade’s worth of experience in consulting on EHS needs, and there are nine situations that stand out to him as a good time to bring in a third-party consultant.
When looking for a professional EHS consultant, there are websites such as OSHRC (UK) where you can find a certified consultant near your location.
9 times to bring in an EHS consultant
1. When you have no previous experience with EHS software
The most obvious reason to hire an EHS consultancy is for their expertise. Consultants have extensive experience working with different software vendors and are therefore in a good position to advise on which you should consider. Combined with your understanding of the company’s needs, this knowledge of previous vendor performance in particular areas is a valuable asset in software selection.
Selecting and implementing a piece of EHS software can be a daunting task for those new to the practice. Where there is a lack of resources, there is a strong case for the use of an EHS consultant. When asked about his experience on such indicators, Adam Fornea echoed the notion that being without knowledgeable and sufficiently skilled personnel is a major setback for EHS software projects:
“I would say that the strongest indicator that an EHS consultant would be of value for a client during implementation is if they do not have personnel in their EHS department with advanced technology skills and in-depth regulatory knowledge who have time to spare. Although this seems like a joke, EHS software is such a unique arena that this really is a requirement. Since these individuals almost never exist within client companies, doing an implementation of EHS software without a qualified consultant being involved is not recommended.”
2. When identifying the needs of your organization is a challenge
Consultants can help you analyze your current system capabilities and identify gaps between where you are and where you want to be, whilst providing an “outside eye” on your situation.
Since consultants are not part of the permanent staff they’re in a better position to vocalize necessary changes. A company might not realize that a management process is inefficient simply because those running it are too close to it to either admit its problems or be willing to change their ways. A consultant worth their salt could identify fairly quickly that there is a better way to do things – and not only that, also advise on what the better way is.
When reviewing the existing system, organizations should perform a needs assessment and a gap analysis. These are two of the main activities of EHS consultancies.
A needs assessment allows companies to document their needs around: data management, analysis, and reporting; and to prioritize functional, technical and business requirements.
A typical software needs assessment includes;
- assessing EH&S objectives for a system,
- analyzing different EHS solutions,
- providing recommendations,
- and facilitating vendor demonstration prior to recommending a best-fit solution.
Following that, a gap analysis determines the difference between current knowledge and practices (what we are currently doing) and indicates what your organization should be doing to meet the objectives set out in the needs assessment. Once the requirements have been specified, it is easier to find a solution that will match these – and with a consultant on board managing the selection process, you are less likely to deviate from the original plan when reviewing vendor proposals, and are more likely to judge them all by the same standards.
3. When documentation is in need of an update
Depending on the system and existing data infrastructure, organizations require a range of documentation as part of their EHS software implementation. Managers rarely look for new software systems, hence a consultant can pull together documentation, such as a Request for Proposal, much more timely and with less effort. EHS consultants can identify content requirements, formulate reports, and help to implement applicable content into existing and future EH&S processes. With their prior experience, knowledge and the resources available to them, consultants can deliver the required documentation on demand (or near enough!).
I asked Adam about documentation clients can expect to achieve as part of the investment:
This really depends on the software and data infrastructure of the client company, as a business with little or poor infrastructure would require far more initial manual processes for requirements gathering and planning. Regardless,
- implementation planning documentation,
- data source documentation,
- workflow and business process documentation, and
- user manuals for both beginners and advanced users
are the typical staples of documentation produced during an implementation process.
Recently, video training with short videos showing how to use specific parts of an EHS application have also been becoming standard. A skilled EHS consultant, such as one from an ISO 9001-certified company like Trinity Consultants, would organize this documentation in a proper manner locally for client personnel and would also store it properly externally so that it could be retrieved with ease at a later date.
4. When translating your needs into technical requirements
The EHS department might know what it wants to achieve, but doesn’t have the know-how to translate into technical requirements.
In other words, the business can state its EHS objectives in layman terms but is not able to specify these in line with the system requirements. If this is the case, requesting necessary features from the vendor is challenging. Also, in this kind of scenario you might not be able to check whether what you get is what you asked for in the first place. Hence, an IT savvy EHS consultant can make sure that the vendor delivers the requested functionalities.
As mentioned in the previous sections, EHS consultants play an essential role as a hybrid between client and vendor, speaking the language of both parties and making sure the collaboration run smoothly.
As Adam comments,
In many kinds of software implementations, specialized implementation consultants are frequently used as a “middle man” between the software vendor and the client because a “translator” is needed between the two. The consultant can also play a kind of watchdog role to make sure the vendor delivers everything as ordered and on time.
5. When regulatory knowledge is required
As Occupational Health and Safety is characterized by a dynamic, changing regulatory environment, staying on track with local, global and industrial regulations can be a struggle, not to mention finding an EHS solution that helps you meet these requirements. Clients and business partners can also request that you demonstrate compliance to particular standards and it is therefore important that the OHS software you invest in supports them.
One of the milestones for this year, ISO 45001, takes a holistic approach to OHS management and puts no further requirements on companies’ OHS performance or the design of the management system. The standard has puzzled many safety professionals which has kept expert consultancies busy. When looking to meet the requirements of the standard, especially smaller companies may need external support. In this kind of scenario, an EHS consultant can help you understand the standard, review your current system, and assist in making the necessary changes.
As Adam says, the EHS software market is like no other. As the success of an EHS consultancy such as Trinity relies on being up to date with all aspects of EHS management, including technology, regulations and standards, you can bet that your consultant will be equipped with heaps of knowledge that you, as a client can leverage.
6. When looking for a project manager to take over
The EHS system selection process is long, involving many stakeholders moving through various phases. What is needed then is a project manager/a person who will manage the logistics of the project form the beginning till the end. Consultants have the expertise to do this. They can help you formulate the overall strategy, manage the project stages, make sure deadlines are met and that all information is recorded. This will not only spare the time of your internal staff but will also guarantee that nothing slips through the cracks.
The project manager (PM) will handle all scheduling and communication between your organization and the vendor, which is made easier by the fact that the consultant understands both parties and has experience of these kinds of projects. Therefore, he/she might be able to foresee issues and solve them in an appropriate manner. The consultant’s ability to remain neutral to both sides is also an advantage in this kind of position.
Finally, if you have your hands full with the day to day management, assigning a consultant to this role will free your hands from managing deadlines and organizing meetings. The consultant can become the main point of contact for both the vendor and your organization.
7. When timescales are tight
Software selection and implementation should not be rushed, but as is sometimes the nature of EHS, you may be under tight timescales to get something up and running. For example, your existing contract may be due to run out and the vendor has increased the renewal subscription cost to out with your budget, or perhaps there has been a significant adverse event and your management systems have been found lacking. When working to a strict deadline, an EHS consultant can help reduce the amount of planning time needed.
As the EHS software market is dynamic and technology keeps changing, It would be impossible for EHS Directors to always keep on top of advancements in the marketplace; hence a 3rd party expert, who works with the market daily, can bring value to your business through already understanding what to prepare for and this way remove the need for you to set aside time to study common pitfalls and get up to speed with what’s out there.
With a consultant specializing in EHSQ solutions can support your organization from documentation to user adaptation, you can continue focusing on the day to day management.
8. When implementation is too big a task
In addition to helping organizations find the appropriate solution, consultants also provide support for implementation and training. Many people’s work will be affected by a completely new software system, hence a consultant can assist with the implementation and the changes the new system brings to the organization.
The implementation process can be lengthy and involves, inter alia, scheduling resources, getting past procurement and agreeing to requirements. After implementation, the system must go through rigorous testing, user adoption and localization before it can go worldwide to all sites.
So how does the implementation of a system work when there is a consultant involved?
The client knows their business well, and the software vendor obviously knows their software, but implementation consultants oftentimes have valuable experience with both the business as well as with the software product in question to the point where they can facilitate optimal implementations.
In EHS software, consultants typically also possess key regulatory knowledge that increases their value in the implementation process far above what it would be with other types of software (I cannot emphasize enough that the EHS software arena is unlike any other).
Lastly, as the EHS consultants participating in the implementation will have far fewer total clients than the software vendor itself, EHS consultants provide a key point of contact that will be able to retain specific details about both client business processes and the implementation for years to come.
9. When small companies have no specialized department
For smaller businesses without skills in IT management, consultants bring expertise in-house temporarily. By hiring a consultant, small companies can continue run their daily operations whilst a consultant works on the EHS software solution.
For example, small businesses must prepare for growth. This means that the new system should have the capacity to meet the future changes, such as an increase in personnel. Element to consider in this kind of scenario would be the cost of license. This varies between different vendors; Some companies charge per user, whereas others charge annually. So, a person with experience and knowledge on different products and solutions is better equipped to find a solution that will fulfil the business’ current and future needs, especially when vendors are not upfront with their costs.
The future of EHS consultancy
This list of scenarios reflects the current market and the role that EHS consultants play. However, in the future, the needs and expertise of EHS consultants will change in line with the developments of the market. According to a report by analyst firm Verdantix, the global market for business and IT consulting services related to EH&S information management and EH&S software will grow from $475 million in 2015 to $817 million in 2020. Adam Fornea predicts that in 5 years’ time consultants’ regulatory knowledge will be in high demand:
Where do you see the role of an EHS consultant going in the next 5 years? Do you think advancements in technology will have an impact, and if so, how can you evolve to best serve clients?
Technology is currently advancing at such a rate where the expectations from end-users are typically “sky-high”, and this proves to be true even for users without a large set of technology experiences. This is a direct result of the smartphone app placing its stamp on the minds of the general population, wherein users not only expect extremely intuitive and well-designed applications, but they also expect these applications to be extremely low-cost (or even free).
Technology knowledge is really becoming a base expectation for any employee out there, and other specialized knowledge is what really makes such an employee valuable. As such, in the next five years I believe that the consultants who are focused only on technology will see less and less utilization than ones who know both technology and the business mechanics and regulatory needs of the end-users. EHS consultants can best serve their clients by continuing to obtain a depth of regulatory knowledge and specialized business knowledge that is the differentiator for them within the implementation of an EHS application.
So, in a nutshell, here are the nine scenarios where hiring an EHS consultancy can bring value to your business:
- When you have no previous experience with EHS software
- When identifying the needs of your organization is a challenge
- When documentation is in need of an update
- When translating your needs into technical requirements
- When regulatory knowledge is required
- When looking for a project manager to take over
- When timescales are tight
- When implementation is too big a task
- When small companies have no specialized department
It is also important to keep in mind that it's no prerequisite to hire a consultant when working with a vendor in the first place . If you have the skills in-house, and you find a vendor with whom the collaboration works smoothly, then bringing in a 3rd party is not necessary. What is more important to acknowledge is that EHS consultants have the required expertise and are a valuable asset for the EHS arena.
I would like to thank Adam Fornea from Trinity Consultants for sharing his knowledge and expertise with us. I hope that with this article we've achieved to provide an idea about the value EHS consultants can bring and in what scenarios their services can help your business the best.
Editor: Hannah Stewart
If you would like to talk about your EHS system, or find out more about their services, you can contact Trinity Consultants via their website.