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EHS IT Consolidation: Where to Start, And What to Know

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Ask any C-suite executive and they would likely agree that technology is a key lever to better business performance. But just because we believe something to be true, doesn’t mean it [always] is.

Consider this interesting data point from PwC’s August 2023 Pulse Survey. While organizations continue to expand their digital footprints, over 80% of CIOs confess that their businesses are not realizing the full value from their prior technology investments. But why is that? 

In a recent Census-wide Buyers Sentiment Survey, it was revealed that global corporates are facing an increasingly complex network of disparate IT vendors, products, and services that is placing considerable strain on already-stretched IT budgets. It is such a concern that 61% of firms surveyed indicated a desire to consolidate their software and support services into a single provider to reduce software costs, consolidate contracts and ease the burden of vendor management. 

And that consolidation trend is expanding across multiple market segments, including EHS. 

Consider the results from Verdantix’ 2023 Global Corporate Survey. In that report, 55% of firms confirmed that they are actively moving toward a single EHS software application as their preferred global deployment option. These companies argue that the move will not only reduce the costs and complexity of managing multiple, disparate systems, but will help them dismantle data silos that are viewed as key barriers to process optimization and performance excellence.

Their intuition is not wrong. 

Moving toward a single, unified, EHS software platform can offer massive benefits, including streamlined workflow design, centralized data management, enhanced data security options, along with a more consistent and engaging user experience. Moreover, as ESG regulations introduce new data auditability requirements, many firms are seeing the value of combining EHS and ESG data in a single, unified application for better data traceability, reporting and decision-making. 

Creating a Short-list of ‘Must Haves’ for Your Consolidation Project

But for those firms weighing the potential value of moving toward a single software platform, what things should they consider, and what risks should they look out for? Let’s look at a few ideas: 

1. Evaluate software vendors across available functionality & workflows:

Before considering whether to shift to a single vendor for all EHS and ESG use cases, it’s important to carefully examine their product portfolio. Does the vendor offer capabilities that align to your current business requirements and use cases? Moreover, does their product roadmap indicate future development in areas of organization needs and/or interest? In short, will the vendor product keep pace as your programs mature? 

2. Assess the platform’s ability to scale as your business evolves: 

While vendors might offer a compelling product suite today, explore whether those products and services will easily scale as your business and EHS needs evolve. Does the vendor have the vision and capacity to support you along that journey? It’s useful to examine the vendor deployment options to determine how best it can meet your expansion goals, either geographic or by EHS domain. 

3. Determine the extent of platform interoperability:

Many vendors will claim to offer an expansive ‘best-of-breed’ solution across multiple EHS & ESG domains. But be sure to dive into the details. While claiming to be ‘fully integrated’, many systems are nothing but a patchwork of recently acquired solutions loosely stitched together. While the vendor might be able to offer all functionality required, if data doesn’t flow seamlessly between these disparate solutions, a lot of the value of a single, integrated platform is lost. It’s also important to ensure that the solution has the necessary tools to connect with your business’ broader digital ecosystem, via features like open APIs, to allow easier data exchange to support key workflows, analyses and insight generation. 

4. Ensure the application offers a simple and consistent user experience:

Verdantix rightfully cautions that user adoption is critical to any successful digitization project. So, when assessing options to shift to a single EHS software platform, pay close attention to user experience. While firms tend to look for visually-appealing user interfaces, don’t forget the value of consistency. How ever your users will engage in your solution, from whatever entry point, you’ll want to ensure their experience is always the same. Prioritize platforms that offer a unified, consistent and engaging user experience- it’ll help with overall system adoption and program sustainability.

5. Prioritize configurability over customization:

According to Verdantix, consolidation projects are often triggered to replace existing EHS software reaching their end-of-life or that are deemed untenable, or where the incumbent vendor is pushing their customers to upgrade. In any case, here’s a perfect time to avoid the trap of highly-customized solutions that are difficult and costly to upgrade. Instead, prioritize solutions that offer a configuration layer atop a consistent code base. This structure will ensure you can customize the application to your needs, without having to wind down expensive custom code whenever you need/want to upgrade. 

6. Consider the long-term sustainability of the application:

Before switching providers, ensure that doing so will positively impact both your EHS outcomes, and your budgets. Here’s where we should carefully consider platform architecture, upgrades and hosting. Multi-tenant architectures that keep all customers on the same software version, and allow your environment to be upgraded automatically without additional projects and costs are your best bet to ensure your staying at the forefront of technology development, while lowering your total cost of software ownership. 

Want to learn more about software evaluations? Check out our recent blog, How to Use Proof of Concepts Effectively in Your EHS Software Evaluation

Making the Business Case

So, now that we know what we want out of a single, unified EHS software platform, how do we get it? Well, that requires the organization to develop a compelling business case that clearly articulates the value of EHS IT consolidation. Let’s look at a few key points to keep in mind when developing your business case, drawn in part from Verdantix’ 2023 Best Practices: Building the business case for EHS platform consolidation and integrations projects report. 

1. Build a network of project champions:

It is crucial that EHS teams not try to ‘go it alone.’ Involving different stakeholders from across the business in the EHS IT consolidation project will help you create stronger value statements and proof points to support your investment ask to senior leaders. The more you can realize shared benefits between operational and EHS goals, the better. 

2. Align EHS & ESG needs to maximize budgets:

With the considerable attention that organizations are now placing on their ESG & sustainability initiatives, here’s a perfect opportunity to explore how a single, unified, SaaS platform to manage both streams can help make the financial argument easier. Finding operational synergies through a single system for multiple domains is a fantastic way to secure investment for IT consolidation. 

3. Leverage IT experts:

Verdantix recommends engaging with your CIO, CTO and internal IT specialists early on to help you understand how a single EHS software application fits into the company’s overall IT vision, digital strategy and tech stack. IT experts will also provide essential support to investigate application security, data privacy and system integration questions. 

4. Solicit external experts, as required:

Unless your business is replacing systems regularly, many individuals involved in your consolidation project might not have first-hand experience with such a change. In those instances, leverage the experts available to you either from third-party consultants, or directly through the prospective software vendors. Just remember to partner with vendors that have experts with real-world experience managing EHS & ESG programs, not simply product developers masquerading as experts. Having someone who’s walked in your shoes can be crucial to help you understand what to focus on, what to dismiss, and to guide you along a path that’s right for your business. 

Final Thoughts

With industry reports citing that over 50% of software implementation projects fail, making the discussion to consolidate your EHS digital ecosystem into a single, unified platform may feel a little scary. But by building a network of resources, planning properly, and paying close attention to some key pitfalls, you will be able to chart a course that will lead to EHS consolidation success and contribute to better performance for years to come. 

Interested in learning more about how to effectively navigate an EHS IT consolidation project?

Join Verdantix’ Senior Analyst Chris Sayer and Cority’s Bill Palmer, MS, CSP, CHMM, on June 18, 2024, for an enlightening webinar that delves into the benefits of EHS software systems consolidation. Learn from industry experts how centralized EHS management not only simplifies processes but also enhances compliance and reduces risk. Register now.