Overcoming Common Barriers to EHS Digitization

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EHS digitization is nothing new, in fact, for years, organizations have explored how technology can help increase operational efficiency, strengthen EHS compliance and stimulate innovation. But, why do businesses continue to run into barriers when deploying EHS software?   

In this blog, we’ll explore how leaders can be more proactive toward EHS digitization, and offer insights into overcoming challenges for a more positive and sustainable operational and EHS performance. 

We’ll also seek to answer common questions organizations face when considering undertaking an EHS digitization journey: 

  • What factors are causing businesses to consider EHS digitization? 
  • What are the key challenges faced when considering a digital transformation? 
  • What should be included in a digital strategy for EHS? 
  • How to create a business case for EHS digitization? 
  • What to consider when selecting an EHS software vendor? 
  • Why adopt EHS Digitization?  

Common Factors for Considering EHS Digitization 

Stakeholder Pressure 

In recent years, organizations have experienced a significant increase in pressure from external stakeholders. From customers and regulators, to investors and prospective employees – all of which wanting organizations to improve their EHS & ESG performance. An ever-evolving regulatory landscape is demanding greater adaptability from businesses, pushing leaders to align best practices with evolving standards. Moreover, the rise of ESG is driving organizations to synchronize EHS practice with sustainability objectives to meet growing stakeholder demands. 

Pressure to enhance, improve, and expand upon existing EHS structures isn’t limited to external sources. Organizational restructuring, workforce demographic changes, and greater demands for real-time information are driving the adoption of new and more flexible EHS frameworks and tools. 

Over-Reliance on Antiquated Systems  

When we consider the ubiquity of digital platforms, it’s shocking how many global, enterprise-level businesses still rely on manual, paper-backed processes that carry so many problems. Reliance on antiquated, inflexible, and unscalable processes hamper efficiency, stifle cooperation, and put data quality and integrity at risk. As such, the effort to maintain several antiquated systems is often the critical ‘tipping point’ that pushes organizations to explore EHS digitization.  

Limitations of a Reactive Approach 

Still, for many organizations, the ultimate driver that shifts the business toward digital EHS program management is, unfortunately, an adverse event. Many companies begin exploring EHS digitization in response to an undesired outcome. Whether that’s a serious injury, compliance violation, regulation change, or brand or reputational impacts. 

But what if your organization undertook an EHS digital transformation before the adverse event occurred? By adopting a digital EHS platform, firms can begin to address variables that could lead to adverse outcomes early, paving the way for more proactive risk management. 

However, the path to EHS digitization doesn’t come without its challenges…  

Common Challenges Organizations Face with EHS Digitization  

Developing a Digital Strategy  

Developing a digital strategy is the first step along any successful EHS digitization journey. The strategy outlines how technology adoption will assist the organization to achieve its goals & objectives, and sets the direction for effective organizational change management.   

Conducting an as-is analysis is critical in helping the business gain clarity on current states and desired states. It also outlines the potential paths the business can follow to navigate between these two points successfully. The as-is analysis involves collecting insights from multiple stakeholders across the organizational hierarchy, from the C-suite down to the front-line. Understanding the goals, activities, challenges, constraints, and needs of these groups can help staff define key workflow and data requirements to be considered when evaluating EHS software platforms. 

Envisioning the ‘end game’ is necessary when crafting a comprehensive and compelling digitization strategy to ‘sell’ to your senior leadership. This process involves defining what a future EHS software platform, along with its associated workflows and processes, should look like. It is imperative to meld insights from stakeholders with project risks, available software offerings, and overall user design principles. Furthermore, insights on forecasted operational enhancements, cost-benefit analyses, and how digitization will positively impact EHS and ESG will limit resistance from leadership. 

Building a Compelling Business Case 

As discussed, making the case for software is a pivotal step in any EHS digital transformation journey. Firms grappling with legacy systems and processes are often faced with having to convince skeptical peers and stakeholders of the transformative benefits by embracing EHS digital solutions. 

Making a compelling case for change requires a strategic and comprehensive approach.  It starts by posing some critical questions: 

What critical business issues is the organization facing?   

  • What goals are these issues preventing the business from achieving? 

How are these critical business issues impacting the business?   

  • How are these issues impacting bottom-line results? 
  • How are these issues impacting our brand or license to operate? 
  • How do we currently measure this impact? 

What effect would solving these problems have on your business? 

  • How many (and which) teams are currently being impacted by these problems?  
  • What gain would the business realize if these issues were resolved? 
  • What new opportunities would be available by not having to tackle this issue? 

When crafting a business case, it’s especially important to quantify these critical business issues, as well as the potential impacts of resolving these problems through technology. Every digital transformation costs money. Being able to justify that return on software investment is crucial. That means describing how much the current state is costing your business, along with the risk (and ongoing costs) of ‘doing nothing’. 

Scoping the Project 

Making an effective business case requires scoping out the minimum scale of digitization required to enable the organization to resolve its critical business issues. That may involve asking these questions: 

  • What’s the scope of the project?  What workflow and/or process improvements would enable us to address our critical business issues? 
  • What commercial EHS software platforms and/or solutions offer the tools & capabilities to meet the project scope? 
  • What EHS software vendors have the competencies, resources, and demonstrated experience to support our digitization journey? 
  • What design principles need to be considered in the project? 
  • What user requirements must be considered in the project? 

To understand the complete picture of EHS needs across the organization, project leaders should interview stakeholders at every level that will use or be impacted by new EHS software. This will allow them to gain insights on needs, interests, concerns and ideas. Feedback from SME leaders and Line Managers will help support EHS workflow optimization and data management when selecting, configuring and deploying the preferred solution. Understanding the needs of end users will provide invaluable takeaways on software usability factors that will be critical to drive and sustain end-user adoption. 

To make the best business case for EHS digital transformation, clearly showcase its expected benefits across the organization, from cost savings to productivity gains to employee engagement and retention. 

Selecting the Right Tech Partners & Executing EHS Digital Transformation  

Once your organization understands your software ecosystem needs, has defined its digitization strategy, and created a compelling business case that leadership supports, it’s time to select a vendor.  

Resource constraints can be an enemy at this stage. Researching potential vendors, gathering information, making calls, designing and executing RFPs, and sitting through conversation and demos takes time and effort. To limit the impact, consider narrowing down the list of potential vendor options by referencing analyst reports that simplify vendor-to-vendor comparisons. Select four to five prospective vendors best aligned to your organization’s needs. This will save considerable time and limit the ‘paradox of choice’. Market research and vendor comparison reports, like the EHS Software Green Quadrant Report from Verdantix, can support vendor shortlisting and help alleviate some of the burden.  

Additional challenges with executing your EHS digital transformation strategy come through change management and implementation. Having champions across the organization who can support performance and employee engagement is vital at this stage. Your EHS software vendor will also help develop an implementation plan to navigate common barriers that can impact project timelines.   

Want to learn more? Check out our on-demand webinar, How To Cultivate A Successful EHS Software Implementation 

Next Steps

The journey toward EHS digitization is undeniably marked by challenges. However, it is also a transformative path that organizations must navigate to realize a more profitable, responsible and sustainable future. From crafting a digital strategy, to navigating effective change management – each stage demands careful research, consideration, and collaboration.  

And despite the effort, the payoff is substantial. Enhanced compliance, lower workplace harm, improved operational performance, and the creation of a more adaptive organizational culture.

To learn more about the value of EHS digitization, watch our on-demand webinar, Common Barriers to EHS Digitization and How to Overcome Them, featuring Tom Brown, Senior Analyst at Verdantix.