Making the Business Case for EHS Software

EHS Software Buying Steps

Justifying enterprise software is no easy feat. EHS professionals often struggle to build the business case for new solutions because they lack the data to demonstrate the direct cost savings associated with efficiency gains and process standardization. While Human Resources, Payroll, Finance, and Operations are often given the green light to seek out and implement state-of-the art solutions to “get the job done”, EHS usually lags when it comes to securing management approval for new software purchases. It’s time to change that – so you get the tools you need to automate key environmental, health, and safety (EHS) processes and drive operational excellence across your organization.  

In this article, we’ll be looking at the following three steps to make building your business case for EHS software easier: 

  1. Identify Process Improvements 
  2. Secure Stakeholder Buy-In 
  3. Calculate the Cost Savings 

Step 1: Identify Process Improvements

There’s a good chance you and your colleagues have already identified workflows that could be better managed with software, but do you know all the ins and outs of those processes and how software will affect each step? As you evaluate your current processes and segment their components, look for opportunities to make your workflows simpler. This can be done formally through a Kaizen or Lean event like Map, Improve, Lean, Automate, Repeat or informally. 

Step 2: Secure Stakeholder Buy-in

Let’s be frank: there’s probably no harder task than getting buy-in from colleagues, management and executives. But, without management and executive buy-in, your EHS software project is ultimately going to stall because they control the budgeting process. Don’t despair. Securing buy-in can be tricky, but it’s not an insurmountable obstacle. In the following section, we’ll cover who you need to win over and how to do it.  

Making Friends and Winning Over Management  

To get your EHS software project off the ground, there are three groups within your organization that you’ll need on your side:  

  • Executives 
  • Colleagues 
  • Information Technology (IT)  

Bonus: Also consider getting an external consultant to review what you’ve done to get a fresh perspective. 

Find an Executive Champion  

  • Getting buy-in for any initiative can be difficult, so finding an executive champion is by far the best way to get – and keep – an EHS project moving. It’s likely that the initial idea for software came from a manager or executive and the final decision might rest with this person, so engaging them early and often is critical.  
  • In fact, having an executive champion on your side can make common roadblocks like funding, people resources, and approvals all but disappear. In many cases, your executive champion will help open doors to other executives who are interested in or have a stake in your project, further building that buy-in and momentum across the executive levels and beyond. 

Meet with Colleagues  

After you’ve found your executive champion, it’s time to get your colleagues involved. Your teammates are the most important people to convince since they will likely be the most impacted by the process changes that happen. Be sure to involve them early and keep them updated and engaged as the project progresses. Turning your EHS software project into a collaborative effort will show management that the need is real and will ensure everyone who wants to be involved has a chance to voice their opinion and feel they’re a part of the solution. If possible, try to build a small team to help you define your requirements and review software options. This team should meet regularly, establish a meeting cadence and develop a project charter that outlines the mission, vision and value for the project. Your charter should outline the problems you need to solve. For example: 

  • Are you aiming to maintain or obtain ISO 14001 or 45001 certification? • Do you need to improve the efficiency of your team? 
  • Are you trying to reduce or maintain the headcount of your EHS department? 

Having a solid, articulate argument and plan will help sell your idea to front-line employees, management, IT, and executives. Your project charter can also double as a great two-minute elevator pitch and will be helpful to refer to as you begin building your business case. 

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 your software project once it’s been approved. If possible, the IT department should be involved from design through implementation and perhaps beyond to help manage the system day-today once the project ‘goes live’. During the development phase of the project, work with IT and your colleagues to create your list of requirements and decide which items are simply nice to have versus those that are required out of the box. 

Define your requirements  

According to recent research from NAEM, the top business objectives that shape EHS software requirements are: 

  • Improve ability to analyze data 
  • Centralize data collection 
  • Improve compliance assurance 
  • Collect data for reporting 
  • Improve accountability  

Once your requirements list is complete, your IT department will see if they can leverage existing systems within the company or develop an in-house application to meet your needs. You should not view this step as a negative thing, since it could save time, money and help you get buy-in quickly. 

Define your top capabilities  

And the top capabilities EHS software buyers are most often looking for are: 

Once you’ve gained the support of executives, your colleagues, and IT consider finding a neutral party to review your project details. This can be done internally by asking a member of another department or externally by hiring a third-party consultant. Both will offer unique insight into your initiative, help refine your requirements list and strengthen your business case.  

Hiring a third-party consultant to help you develop your project can be a huge benefit, since these individuals bring a wealth of experience and knowledge that likely does not exist within your organization. They will also provide a truly fresh perspective on what to look for in a software system, since their role is to stay up to date on what’s available in the market place. When considering adding a consultant to your project team, it’s important you bring someone on board who has a solid understanding of: 

  • Technology and EHS software providers 
  • EHS regulations 
  • Project management best practices 

Software is nebulous, which makes it challenging to gain buy-in. On top of that, people are naturally resistant to change. To counter this and secure buy-in, you must demonstrate that the software will deliver value to the organization and meet the needs of your users. Navigating between executives, colleagues and the IT department can feel like a never-ending chore, but the better you understand the current flaws and gaps in your processes, the better you’ll be prepared to demonstrate to any audience how an enterprise EHS software solution will add value to your organization.

Step 3: Calculate the Cost Savings

Demonstrating cost savings can be just as difficult as getting buy-in from stakeholders. Management and executives want to see hard dollar savings. This typically means reducing headcount, but EHS business units are generally already stretched for resources, so eliminating people isn’t usually an option. Typically, EHS professionals have to approach cost savings from a different angle. 

Focus on how the new system will improve efficiencies and enable the organization to maintain programs even as regulations change and as the company grows organically or through mergers and acquisitions. You can also calculate how a system can reduce the risk of a non-compliance event and subsequent fines and penalties. This requires knowing how many non-compliance events your company has had over a three to five-year period, how much the associated fines were, and what the likelihood of a future event is.

For example, let’s say you’ve had a lot of missed reporting or regulators have identified several findings during onsite audits. Once you have this information, you will need to determine the likelihood of another noncompliance event occurring as well as demonstrate how a software system will help to prevent this from happening again. Be aware that these soft dollar savings do not always win over management or executives. However, the more recent events are, the more likely management and executives will see a need for a system to help manage EHS compliance obligations.

Using these three steps as a guide will help you build your business case for purchasing EHS software and secure buy-in from key stakeholders. Once that part is complete, you can begin your search for the right EHS software and find one that aligns with your company goals and mission.

Ready to evaluate EHS software? Start by reading our blog, What is True SaaS and Why Does it Matter to EHS? to learn more about True SaaS and its major benefits.