Making the Case to Automate Your Environmental Management System through EMS Software

Making the Case to Automate Your Environmental Management System through EMS Software

You know you would deliver better environmental management system outcomes if you had a world-class EMS Software solution. You know EMIS software will improve workflows that in turn will improve the efficiency of the environmental staff, and the management of your internal customers. You know it will improve compliance, reduce risk and protect your company and its stakeholders, and you know it will improve the company’s bottom line to lead towards a positive return on investment (ROI).

So, how do you get buy-in and prove the value of environmental management system software?

Many environmental professionals struggle to do just this. It doesn’t help that there is very little data available from consultants and software companies on the matter of savings and return on investment. However, with the proper approach, you can get early buy-in and build an effective business case that clearly demonstrates the value to everyone involved.

This whitepaper will provide you with some key tips to help ensure success in your journey to obtain corporate buy-in and approval for an environmental health and safety software implementation. It’s important to note that in most cases the tips outlined below are occurring at the same time, rather than in a linear fashion, so you must do your best to keep things organized.

Find an Executive Champion

Getting buy-in for any initiative can be difficult, so finding an executive champion is an important way to get (and keep), an EHS software / HSE software project moving. In all likelihood, the realization of the need for an EMIS may have come from a manager or an executive, but this is not always obvious to these levels in an organization. The final decision might rest with a manager or executive, so engaging them early on is critical. Additionally, having an executive champion can go a long way in removing roadblocks, such as funding, people resources, and approvals. Finally, an executive sponsor can connect your EMIS software initiative to a higher level of stakeholders and therefore a wider scope of corporate goals that your initiative can support. For example, some VPs may have an annual KPI for cost efficiency, digital transformation, audit compliance or risk reduction, which are the kinds of topics you can use to engage an executive sponsor.

Meet with Peers

In addition to finding an executive champion, you must get your colleagues involved. Your colleagues are the most important people to convince as they will likely be the most impacted by the process changes that come with an environmental management software implementation. Be sure to get them involved early in the process and keep them updated and involved as the project progresses. Making this a collaborative effort will show management that there is a consensus for the need and will ensure that everyone who wants to be involved has a chance to voice their opinion and feel that they’re a part of the project.

Get IT Involved

The IT department is one of the most powerful departments to have on your side. They will more than likely be involved in the project once it’s been approved. If possible, the IT department should be part of your project from design through implementation and perhaps in helping to manage the day-to-day once the project ‘goes live’. Working with IT and your colleagues, make a list of your requirements, and decide which items are simply nice to have vs. those that are required out of the box. Review vendors and make sure you didn’t miss any requirements, then reprioritize the list if need be. Requirements gathering and priority ranking are the foundation of your project and an important step in gaining buy-in.

Once you have your requirements list prepared, the IT department will look to see if they can leverage existing systems within the company or develop an in-house application to meet your needs. If you and your team aren’t pleased with what the IT department can offer or they are taking too long developing something, don’t be afraid to push back and ask them to look at third party EHS system solutions. Be aware that this will likely mean getting your procurement department involved in the search process, which may slow the process down a bit.

In the end, the IT department needs to understand why the tools they already have won’t work for your specific workflows and processes before they will support your search for a third party EMIS software provider.

Get a Fresh Perspective

Once you have the support of an executive, your colleagues and IT, you should find a neutral, fresh set of eyes to review the project. This can be done internally by asking a member of another department or externally by hiring a third-party consultant. Both can offer benefits to your initiative, provide unique insights and help you gather and refine your requirements list, as well as your business case.

Hiring a third-party consultant to help you develop your project can be a big benefit, since these individuals bring a wealth of experience and knowledge that likely does not exist within your organization. Consultants can also provide you with a truly fresh perspective on your need for an EMS software and what’s available in the market place. When considering adding a consultant to your project team, it is important that they have a solid understanding of EHS software solutions, software providers, and EHS regulations as well as strong project management skills. Be sure to develop a detailed scope of work that clearly spells out what you want them to assist you with.

Building the Business Case

Building a business case is far from an exact science, but it must have the following items for management to be able to properly review:

Show a Clear Need

Hopefully, through your collaboration with IT and your peers, you have already shown a clear need for a third-party EMS software. Remember, an integral part of your business case will be your project charter, so use it to help develop the conversation. If you are having trouble with this part, ask your consultant, trusted vendor, or someone from an external department for advice. Include an environmental risk assessment as part of your justification – while it won’t stand alone in making your case, it can help show the downside risk of no action. Quantify that risk to make it a more powerful argument. Demonstrating need is by far the most important component of the business case. If you fail to articulate this message, you will not get buy-in at any level.

Vendor Review

Again, through your collaboration with IT, your peers and consultant, you should already understand what the marketplace can offer and how each vendor can meet your needs. Prior to developing this part of the business case, you should have each vendor demo their product using your data to see how easy it is to replicate your workflows and processes.

In the business case, you should note all the software vendors that were reviewed and why the one you’ve selected stood out from the pack. This will demonstrate to management that you did your due diligence and prevent you from having to go back and evaluate these options. Don’t just stop with a functional review; many IT projects fail! Make sure you have a clear understanding and positive proof-points regarding implementation and deployment approaches.

Look for partners that come with industry best practices, deep industry expertise, and purpose built workflows. Ask to speak to their professional services team to get an understanding of their methodology for project delivery and how well they have executed. Ask for references and get an understanding of the ‘churn’ or turnover of their clients. What is annual percentage of client retention? What is their success rate in helping clients get into production with their HSE software solutions?

Project Plan

By now, you have an idea of what you want the HSE software to do on day one, and what you want it to do by the end of the implementation. Projects that take a phased approach are by far the most successful, so be sure to articulate this in the business case. Having a plan that outlines key deliverables and the estimated timeline for each one will demonstrate to management that you are serious about this project being a success.

Demonstrated Value/Savings

This will be the most difficult piece to develop. As noted above, there is very little data out there to support hard savings from implementing an HSE software. That being said, look at how current processes are being done to see if there are efficiency gains or head count savings. Are there legacy systems that you can phase out that will result in hard savings? Look to see if IT is managing in-house systems than can be phased out and develop cost savings for the time saved. Draw on and quantify your environmental risk assessment. If you have opted for a cloud-based software solution, there might be hardware savings, such as servers or databases that IT no longer has to manage, upgrade or purchase. Demonstrating value or savings can be challenging, but if you ask the right questions you will be surprised how quickly the savings start to add up.

The Budget

You should work with IT and your consultant, if you hired one, to develop the budget. They have done this before and know what it takes to implement software. Your budget should break down the following: wages for internal and external resources that will support the implementation, initial cost of the software, development costs, and travel expenses for consultants and the software company’s implementation team.

Once you have a draft of your business case developed, present it to the front-line EHS employees and hear what they have to say. Take their comments into consideration, and add their valid points into the next draft of the business case. Then, present the business case to your manager or to a small group of managers, and have them provide feedback in order to add legitimacy to your business case. It’s important to make sure that you have the support of your management before you take the business case for approval.

Budget Time

Even the most efficient companies will experience delays when making a decision about implementing enterprise software. You need to have an understanding of how your EHS department is organized. If you have a centralized EHS department with a single executive responsible for the EHS programs and personnel, you should plan to spend between three and six months developing your business case before pushing it forward for approvals. On the other hand, if your organization has a decentralized EHS department, i.e. EHS programs and personnel spread throughout the organization and multiple executives in charge, you will need to budget six to nine months before bringing your case to management. This is because you will need to get approvals from any executive that has EHS oversight, slowing down the process.


Getting buy-in to implement EMS software takes time and can be a difficult process, but following the steps above and being prepared for the unexpected can help you keep the project approval process moving. Remember to think about what problem you’re trying to solve and how it will help you, your department, and your organization as a whole. Tie-in the broader corporate priorities such as operational excellence, digital transformation, and sustainability. If your CEO is focused and investing in sustainability as a corporate initiative, consider calling your initiative a sustainability software program, rather than EMIS, EMS software, HSE software or EHS software.

Use this as the basis for your business case, and involve your colleagues early by asking for their help and input. Make sure you identify the people who will support your initiative along with those who are likely to try and prevent your project from moving forward. Develop a realistic timeline and be prepared for roadblocks and objections. Don’t be discouraged when you face adversity, rather, expect it and utilize your executive support to get past difficult impediments. With patience, preparation, and perseverance, front-line employees and management will see that implementing an EMIS is in line with the goals and values of the organization.