9 Tips for Implementing Safety Management Software

In enterprises, you need a considered, well-planned approach to implement Safety Management Software (SMS) successfully.

From agreeing requirements to conducting user acceptance testing, implementing enterprise safety software can be lengthy. It's something that requires effort, otherwise you may end up with unhappy users—Gartner reports that 60% of employees experience frustration with new software.

However, it’s what our team of experts do every day in partnership with our clients. With this knowledge, here we're going to give you tips on how to manage it successfully.

Keep reading!

A real-world safety management software project

Enterprise Safety Management Software is our bread and butter at Pro-Sapien. Although, it’s one thing getting advice from an SMS vendor—it’s another to hear from a fellow Safety professional who was recently in your shoes.

Accordingly, we wrote this article with help from Dr Nigel Graham, Risk and Systems Manager at Vesuvius.

Vesuvius started the gradual rollout of Pro-Sapien in 2021 to the company’s 10,000 employees at 135 sites. Below, Nigel offers his considered advice alongside Calum Goodsir, Senior Consultant at Pro-Sapien.

If you’re embarking on a similar journey, with Pro-Sapien or another vendor, here’s how to start preparing.

1.    Decide what you need in advance

Firstly, “debate, discuss, and get buy-in using small but knowledgeable teams,” recommends Nigel.

This involves consulting your IT team to learn about their preferences. For example, if you’re using Microsoft 365, look for integrated safety management software.

When considering functional requirements, be mindful that no safety software will exactly fit. Be flexible. However, having agreement among stakeholders puts you in a strong position to find the right solution.

Importantly, the project sponsor should consult small groups of people who are subject matter experts within the company.

“Seek to have one key decision-maker,” says Calum. “This is typically the project sponsor. They will listen to different perspectives; for example, employees who will use the software every now and again and those who’ll use it daily.

“With this input, ultimately, the project sponsor makes the decisions and steers the design.”

Additionally, clear requirements and a thumbs up from IT will help you get approval from the board.

“Get senior management buy-in to ensure support throughout the process,” advises Nigel.

For more information on getting buy-in, check out our Building a Business Case for EHS Software guide.

2.    Elect a Project Manager

“You’ll need a team of people involved, but having a defined Project Manager is a must,” says Calum.

If resources allow, this could be someone with the job title Project Manager from within your company.

Or, it could be a member of the Safety team acting in a Project Manager capacity. (The day job of Safety professionals is already demanding, but we’ve seen it done!)

The Project Manager (PM) is accountable for:

  • Coordinating with the vendor’s PM
  • Setting and maintaining realistic timescales
  • Seeking decisions from project members
  • Managing budget
  • Reporting on progress to the project sponsor

“The PM keeps the project on-track at the client,” Calum adds.

In this way, a PM helps your project meet its original goals. According to the Project Management Institute, this outcome applies to 73% of projects globally.

Overall, it’s beneficial to have one main contact in your organization keeping everyone on the same page.

3.    Sketch it out, then simplify

Once you know what you need from your safety management software, it helps to take a step back.

At this point, Nigel suggests sketching out your requirements to find ways to simplify them:

“What we found was that given what is essentially a new design, there is a great tendency to add features – with associated costs. In essence, given a problem, people default to adding things in rather than taking them away. Even if subtracting something can solve the problem, there is a strong preference to add.”

A recent study published by the University of Virginia found the same thing: humans are biased towards additive solutions.

In the case of safety software, this could result in needlessly complex processes that users avoid.

“Therefore, a focus on simplification – ‘what can we remove?’ – requires a different mindset,” says Nigel.

The good news is, you’re now aware of this tendency and can guard against it!

Also, your vendor should be able to assist. For example, we conduct specification workshops as part of the Pro-Sapien implementation process.

4.    Be realistic with timescales

If your timescales have no slack, it’s unlikely the project will remain on schedule.

“A good rule of thumb is to add a percentage of time based on certainty,” suggests Calum.

In this case, consider how solid you are in the following areas:

  • People – how engaged is your team?
  • Procedure – what is your process for decision-making and sign-off?
  • Plans – are there other plans that could delay this one?
  • Tools – do you have software and IT infrastructure to assist the project?
  • Environment – how stable is the environment e.g., staff turnover or other ‘threats’?

Anything from a key staff member leaving the company to heavy snowfall or an internal IT failure can cause delays.

However, anticipating and accommodating these potential hold ups in advance helps the project stay on track.

It’s important to discuss this with your SMS vendor, who will provide guidance on what to consider.

“Generally,” adds Calum, “it is easier to pull time in than push it out, so we work with the Client PM to set realistic expectations at the start.”

5.    Phase it

If your project is beyond two to three new modules, we recommend phasing it.

Why? To de-risk the project and avoid overwhelming end-users.

“Start small with one module that tests all functionality and connections,” advises Nigel. “It costs a bit more but is better than a big bang approach.”

Additionally, in Strategic Focus: Global EHS Software Implementation, independent analyst firm Verdantix suggests phasing allows you to:

  • Tweak the process with feedback between each phase
  • Adapt the time commitments required of different stakeholders
  • Accommodate users’ varied willingness to change across global locations
  • Produce quick wins to encourage user adoption
  • Establish a multi-year cost plan divided into milestones

Furthermore, it’s beneficial to start with a ‘catch all’ module such as Incident Management.

Most safety software vendors will agree. Incident Management tends to encapsulate a range of features other modules also make use of, but in a well-known process.

All things considered, we recommend phasing the project in this way if you are implementing more than three modules.

6.    Assemble IT resources early

It’s likely that you involved IT in the decision-making process when selecting new safety management software (Tip 1!), so their assistance at this stage should be a surprise to no one.

Moreover, systems like Pro-Sapien tend to be endorsed by IT due to the integration with Microsoft 365.

Before kicking off your project, confirm the IT resources you will require. Typically, this includes people who can manage the following:

  • Security
  • Configuring infrastructure
  • Setting up Test and Production environments
  • First and second line support
  • Tidying up organizational hierarchy and databases (see Tip 7)

Making sure the right technical people are available during your timescales will help avoid unforeseen bottlenecks.

For example, the Pro-Sapien approach is to involve the IT team as early as possible.

“In the design process, it’s key to consult all parties required to make the safety software a success,” says Calum. “By including IT early, we can provide better guidance as a vendor.”

7.    Data cleanse for better reporting

For safety management software, it’s important to start with reliable master data.

What is master data? As defined by Gartner:

“Master data is the consistent and uniform set of identifiers and extended attributes that describes the core entities of the enterprise including customers, prospects, citizens, suppliers, sites, hierarchies and chart of accounts.”

Especially in enterprises, master data quality has a noticeable effect on safety software.

Therefore, your project may present an opportunity to develop a co-ordinated data strategy.

With this in mind, the Vesuvius Safety team worked with IT and other parts of the business to define accountability for shared master data assets, in order to cleanse and centralize.

Consequently, Vesuvius has further standardized the production of analysis reports.

This consistent view of the business means Safety can make better use of Power BI for performance reporting.

Calum adds: “As the vendor, we want to understand where you are with your data, and we’ll help you find the best way forward.”

Overall, data cleansing means avoiding manual effort for the Safety team down the road—making it a worthwhile tip for implementation!

8.    Engage end-users in UAT

User Acceptance Testing (UAT) happens after your safety management software has been deployed.

As explained by Techopedia:

“During UAT, people test the software to make sure it can handle required tasks in real-world scenarios, according to specifications.”

For example, UAT allows end-users to report an incident, complete an audit, and so on.

It’s so important because end-users may do things in a way the project team didn’t envisage, which may uncover “bugs”.

Hence, developers can fix any cosmetic issues quickly. It’s much easier to address problems during UAT than when the safety software is live.

Typically, a round of UAT goes like this:

  1. Identify testers
  2. Define test cases with steps, conditions and expected results
  3. Testers log unexpected results
  4. Vendor deploys fixes
  5. Re-test

UAT can happen around the same time as training. For a more in-depth look at training, check out our article about Train-the-Trainer.

9.    Plan for Go-Live

Think ahead: how are you going to manage a successful Go-Live?

Importantly, the aim is to avoid change coming as a surprise which would invoke resistance.

Therefore, we suggest getting your Communication team’s help to do some internal advertising.

“We’ve seen clients first try their communications with a group of users, such as a certain location or language,” explains Calum. “Then, learn lessons and refine for the full global roll-out.”

Further to this, there are other decisive steps to take:

  • Plan training – what content needs approved? Which internal trainers should you engage? Who are the target end-users? For more background, see our article about Train-the Trainer.
  • Add links – make it easy for end-users to access the new safety software. For example, admins can add native links to Pro-Sapien throughout Microsoft 365, such as in Teams.
  • Update policies – make sure all relevant policies and procedures reference the new safety management software. Using new features means your processes may have changed.
  • Transition from the old – whether paper or electronic, you need to carefully phase out your old system. Make it clear to employees that from this date onwards, they must raise new items using the new software.

Overall, planning for Go-Live is a crucial aspect to implementing safety management software well.

Getting the preparation right means you’ll be able to choose a Go-Live date and stick with it!

The right safety management software can increase productivity

Hopefully you are now more aware of what implementing safety management software entails.

It’s not easy (although your vendor is there to make it easier!) and it’s certainly not the ‘plug and play’ solution some seek. However, the appropriate level of planning will pay off in the long run.

Ultimately, a modern safety application is worth the effort. Especially when, according to a G2 study, 95% of employees feel using the right software makes them more productive.

Like Vesuvius is now, you’ll spend less time on admin—and more time on things that matter.

For more information on Pro-Sapien’s approach, check out our How We Work page or get in touch today.

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