SharePoint is a diverse Microsoft software application. It is the most popular collaboration and document management system in the world, with over 190 million users. SharePoint’s diversity has led to adoption across business functions, including Safety Management—so how can you use it, and should you?
SharePoint has key functional areas assisting with safety management processes, such as electronic forms, email notifications, sites, libraries and basic workflows.
Furthermore, security features allow tight control of document access, which is crucial when managing sensitive information related to Safety incidents.
However, for a Safety or Environmental, Health & Safety (EHS) department in a mid- to large-sized company, SharePoint’s out of the box functionality is not going to cut it as a management system in 2019.
Instead, SharePoint provides a robust foundation for an integrated safety management solution. But there are some considerations for all intrigued Safety Managers.
SharePoint’s evolving reputation for safety management
SharePoint’s diversity can also be its downfall.
For example, many organizations build something internally on SharePoint for the Safety team to use. More times than not, this quickly becomes outdated as the IT department lacks time to support it and its original developers retire.
The issue forms part of a bigger buy vs. build debate that’s burnt across IT-invested organizations for years.
Unfortunately, failed internal projects have tainted SharePoint’s reputation in the eyes of some Safety Managers.
Fortunately, not only has SharePoint evolved, now a part of the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) Office 365 offering, but dedicated Safety Management solutions are available that integrate into a company’s SharePoint platform.
These provide the value of a commercially built system plus the benefits of SharePoint, without the setbacks of internal development.
What SharePoint-based safety management solutions do
SharePoint-based safety management software takes the underlying features of SharePoint, such as the sites and libraries, and builds on them with vendor-owned functionality.
Vendor-owned functionality may include more comprehensive forms, advanced workflows, business intelligence tools and an administration area.
The idea is to avoid reinventing the wheel—Microsoft has already invested billions in perfecting the basics that any standalone safety software vendor would have to copy. Instead, SharePoint-based safety management software adds the rest of the car.
Regardless of whether it’s a SharePoint feature or a vendor feature, the experience of using the software should be seamless.
Why Safety Managers utilize SharePoint
One of the main benefits of utilizing SharePoint for Safety Management is the boost in user adoption and employee participation, given the familiarity of the platform.
Research from the National Association of Environmental Managers (NAEM) suggests that new EHS software different from existing IT systems can have a negative impact on user adoption.
It’s not news to Safety Managers that user-friendliness plays a huge role in getting employees to report incidents. It continuously comes up as a software priority, according to industry analyst firm Verdantix.
Usability represents similar value in time savings for the management team.
To compliment this point, companies that choose a SharePoint-based safety management system do so for several reasons:
- Removes navigational steps for users
- Reduces Safety team time spent on system administration
- Is more flexible than commercial EHS systems
- Reduces the user training overhead
- Enables the utilization of other Microsoft tools
Following a first-year assessment, one organization even reported a 370% increase in near-miss reports, as employees found the SharePoint-based software much easier to use. The same company also saved one full time equivalent (FTE) per month in administration.
Should you use SharePoint for safety management?
Whether or not to use SharePoint for safety management depends on five things.
- What version of SharePoint do you have? If it’s 2016 or newer, the product is broad enough to support a SharePoint-based safety management software that’s likely to meet your requirements. (Use this guide to find out what version you’ve got.)
- How big is your company? It tends to be mid- to large-sized organizations with thousands of employees that have invested in SharePoint. If you are smaller, the scalability and flexibility of SharePoint may be overkill for your safety management function.
- How invested are you in SharePoint? If all employees have an Outlook email address (i.e. a SharePoint login), and know how to get to SharePoint, you’re in a good position to utilize it for safety management.
- Is the IT department following an Office 365 (now rebranded to Microsoft 365) trajectory? More and more companies are moving to Office 365, Microsoft’s SaaS offering of which SharePoint is an application. If you’re not already using Office 365, it’s likely on your IT team’s roadmap, and thus any add-in that leverages it will be of interest. It’s always worthwhile checking with IT what their plans are.
- How important is configurability to you? If you want “plug and play”, a SharePoint-based safety management system may not be appropriate. The flexibility of the program means it’s better suited to companies who want to a tailored experience.
These considerations usually form part of a wider effort to choose the best safety software for your business.
What to do now
If you’re interested in utilizing SharePoint for Safety Management, read this free whitepaper which goes into more depth on the topic.
You’ll then have the knowledge to make a decision about its suitability.
Let us and other readers know your own considerations about using SharePoint by leaving a comment!