Buying new EHS software is no small feat.
Mapping out system requirements, researching the marketplace, planning and conducting implementation ... they all require significant resources. But, what if you company doesn't have sufficient know-how for these tasks? That's where EHS consultants step in.
Choosing an EHS software solution is a strategic decision. Vendor collaboration doesn't end at implementation - support and upgrades will occur for (hopefully) years. You want to get your decision right.
In other words, if you recognise any of these scenarios, it's time to bring a consultant in. Read on to find out what they are. But first, let's look at what EHS consultants do.
Why would I use a middle man?
A successful EHS software selection requires 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 are experienced in the above, and more, that you can benefit from. However, companies with sufficient resources need not go through a consultancy to work with vendors, as it is merely an option of assistance.
Nevertheless, a consultant works on your behalf, assisting with:
- Vendor communications
- Overseeing timescales,
- Keeping the project on topic,
- Evaluating successes.
When looking for a professional EHS consultant, there are websites such as OSHRC (UK) where you can find a certified consultant near your location. Do you need one?
1. You have no prior knowledge of EHS software
Expertise is the most obvious reason behind hiring an EHS consultancy. Consultants work with various vendors, and are ideally positioned to advise you.
Combine this with your company's needs, and you're off to a good start.
2. You struggle to identify your company needs
Consultants cast an 'outside eye' to analyze your current system capabilities and identify gaps.
You might not realise the inefficiency of a management process simply because you are too close to it. Any consultant worth their salt can quickly identify and recommend better processes.
Two things need to happen when reviewing a current system: a needs assessment and a gap analysis.
A needs assessment documents needs on: 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 demos prior to recommending a best-fit solution.
Following that, a gap analysis determines the difference between current and recommended knowledge and practices.
With these results, it is much easier to find a solution.
3. Your documentation needs an update
Let's face it:
Organizations require a massive amount of EHS-related documentation.
EHS consultants identify content requirements, formulate reports, and implement content into EH&S processes. Consultants can deliver required documentation on demand (or near enough!).
4. When translating your needs into technical requirements
The EHS department might knows what it wants, but doesn't know how to say it technically. As a result, requesting features is a challenge.
An IT savvy EHS consultant ensures the vendor delivers the requested functionalities.
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.
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 is a struggle.
Clients and business partners can request compliance to particular standards, so the OHS software you invest in is supportive.
For example, ISO 45001. This standard takes a holistic approach to OHS management and puzzles many safety pros in the meantime. Many companies require support to meet the standard, and that's where an EHS consultant comes in.
6. You need a project manager
A project manager manages a project's logistics from beginning to end. Consultants also have the expertise for this, and help formulate the overall strategy, manage project stages and meet deadlines. This saves internal staff's time, and stops anything slipping through the cracks.
The project manager handles all scheduling and communication between your organization and the vendor, made easier by the consultant understanding both parties. Therefore, they can foresee and respond to issues. The consultant’s ability to remain neutral to both sides is also an advantage.
Finally, if your hands are full with day to day management, assigning a consultant to a project management role will is role will free up time.
7. When timescales are tight
You may be under a tight deadline timescales to implement new software. For example, your existing contract is up soon or the vendor has increased costs outwith your budget.
When working to a short timescale, an EHS consultant reduces planning time.
The EHS software market is constantly changing. It is impossible for EHS directors to stay on top of advancements, so a third-party expert is ideal. An EHS consultant brings business value by understanding what to prepare for and the common pitfalls - leaving you to focus on management.
8. When implementation is too big a task
Consultants also provide support for implementation and training. The implementation process can be lengthy and involves 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. Finally, many workers must learn the new software system.
9. When small companies have no specialized department
For smaller businesses without IT management skills, 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. And so, a new system can meet future changes. Now, consider the cost of license. This varies by vendor: 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 fulfilling the business’ current and future needs, especially when vendors are not upfront with their costs.
These scenarios reflect the current market and EHS consultant role. 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.
Nevertheless, there is no prerequisite to hire a consultant when working with a vendor in the first place . If you have in-house skills and a good report with the vendor, then bringing in a third party is not necessary.
Yet, it is important to acknowledge that EHS consultants' expertise makes them a valuable asset for the EHS arena.