An EHS management system can provide many benefits to an organization, including meeting regulatory requirements, minimizing operational risks and liabilities, improving corporate image, meeting customer demands and achieving competitive advantages.
With companies worldwide seeking to improve their EHS performance, the need for accurate data management is growing rapidly. Investment in data management systems now is the fastest-growing area of companies’ EHS spending, according to the Verdantix Green Quadrant EHS Software 2014 report.
With a wealth of options available – including mobile capabilities, intuitive user interfaces and powerful analytical tools – how does an organization identify the best capabilities and most appropriate overall solution?
Benefits of Modern EMIS Software
Non-specialist tools such as Excel, in-house systems and generic ERP systems only take you so far when it comes to ensuring compliance and driving EHS performance. The generic tools often lack the ability to deliver comprehensive, real-time information in an easy-to-analyze format, and can require manual creation of internal and external reports, which is time-consuming and increases the risk of inaccuracies.
The real strength of modern EMIS software is that it enables users to quickly analyze progress in a cost-effective way and make fully informed decisions. This is vital when it comes to managing review and investigation processes to prevent incidents from reoccurring and to lower the probability of similar incidents occurring in the future. Sophisticated, enterprise-wide applications allow users to capture a single, consistent version of the truth in a timely manner, obtain meaningful real-time performance updates via detailed dashboards and build accurate reports using straightforward templates and protocols.
The real strength of modern EMIS software is that it enables users to quickly analyze progress in a cost-effective way and make fully informed decisions.
By moving to newer, integrated technology, users can better manage compliance schedules and deadlines, track performance against sustainability goals and report metrics and trends across their organization. Using a sophisticated EMIS to collect, analyze and report data helps companies reduce risk, improve data integrity and share information quickly with multiple stakeholders.
Understanding Your Business Needs
In addition to a robust understanding of legal requirements, recognizing your precise business needs and clearly articulating the challenges you’re facing are important first steps toward selecting the right software solution. When creating a “wish list” of features to automate and improve your current processes, it’s important to align every request with a business need, keeping in mind key goals such as reducing risk, fulfilling compliance requirements and maintaining a healthy, efficient workplace.
Visualize your EMIS as a lynchpin in your overall EHS management program, supporting you in all areas, including EHS organizational structure, internal communications programs, operational control and incident response procedures, self-assessment and auditing.
It’s vital to engage stakeholders in identifying and mapping out requirements, particularly those who will be using the system. What would help to make their job more efficient and drive progress in reducing incidents and managing corrective and preventive actions (CAPAs)? Review in detail why specific processes take time to perform. And what are users looking for in terms of flexibility and ease-of-use? It’s important to ensure that any features you request would be welcomed by the majority of users.
For example, Trinity Consultants suggests hosting a workshop with stakeholders to fully document organizational information management, analysis and reporting needs. Central to the success of this workshop is the presence of key environmental process stakeholders who can participate in defining current and forecasted functionality, business requirements, gaps in existing methodologies and the respective risks.
It’s also important to engage with your IT team, particularly if it’s likely that your new EMIS software will need to communicate effectively with existing systems. By initiating an inclusive dialogue with technical, operational and strategic teams across the business, you’ll be better-equipped to develop an accurate vision for the future, summarized in a comprehensive needs-assessment report.
Finally, before making contact with specific vendors, it can be valuable to research the most highly recommended solutions on the market, including analyst reports such as the Verdantix Green Quadrant EHS Software 2014 report.
Converting Organizational Needs to Software Requirements
When communicating your software needs to vendors, it’s important to explain the external and internal business drivers, whether it’s regulatory or cost-cutting pressures, technical issues, lack of ability to scale your current system, evolving reporting requirements or simply saving time. In addition to the business context, it’s advisable to share your approach, processes and examples of current spreadsheets and reports. Ensure that you describe your complete processes, end-to-end, including how you intend to report your data.
It’s perfectly acceptable to produce a lengthy list of requirements, but ensure that these are aligned with your business needs and highlight whether the new feature would improve an existing process or create a new opportunity for additional analysis. Your list also could include features for tasks that you might want to perform in the future. Explain that you would like confirmation that the solution offers sufficient flexibility to address these challenges.
One of the most effective ways to understand whether a vendor could meet your needs is to request a meeting with the software implementation team that would be working directly on the project. All commercial discussions aside, it can be very useful to have an in-depth technical discussion about the functionality you’d want to see. And be transparent about any inaccuracies in historical data.
Similarly, it’s a good idea to talk through the day in the life of an employee responsible for completing a particular task – from audits to air emissions inventory reports. Help the vendor visualize all the steps and the time it takes for each step.
Ultimately, most best practices follow the common rule.
- Identify EHS aspects and impacts; identify legal and other requirements; and establish company objectives and targets.
- Establish or modify EHS management, which provide the roadmap to successful completion of objectives and targets.
- Institute EHS organizational structure and responsibility.
- Meet training needs.
- Execute communication programs.
- Establish a documentation control system.
- Develop operational control and incident response procedures to eliminate or minimize risks.
- Monitor and measure key parameters to control significant EHS risks/impacts.
- Establish corrective action and nonconformance procedures.
- Maintain EHS records.
- Conduct self-assessment and audits.
- Assess progress against objectives and standards and ensure that the EHS management system is effective and appropriate.
- Take appropriate action based on reviews.
- Commit the necessary resources to advance the system (i.e., ensure continuous program improvement).
It’s important that companies obtain a comprehensive view to develop a successful EHS program, further enabling them to make significant progress on lowering EHS and business risks, ensuring regulatory compliance and enhancing their reputation. A robust EMIS plays a central role in propelling an organization’s EHS performance to the next level.