Enhancing Business Value Through EHS & Sustainability Information Strategy: Q&A with EY’s Ryan Bogner
Ryan, when we hear “EY” most of us think of accounting. What does EY deliver for clients in the EHS&S domain?
Broadly speaking, the global EY organization is focused on “Building a better working world.” As part of that mission, EY firms provide a suite of services to help clients improve their EHS&S performance including risk, costs, operations and data management. We see EHS&S Management Information Systems (EMIS) as a critical way for businesses across a wide variety of sectors to improve their performance.
EY differentiates itself by bringing leading business advisory services and IT system deployment technical competencies to the EHS&S domain. We bring the right teams to the business problem. We have an important alliance with Enablon and have the most Enablon certified resources, as well as resources with some of the greatest breadth of experience in the industry.
Increased business value is a goal we should all be on board with, but it’s somewhat amorphous. Can you unpack “business value” and explain how it can be created?
At EY, we believe there are five critical elements to understanding and helping clients drive business value through an EMIS deployment: 1) direct cost avoidance and risk mitigation, 2) turning EHS data into information, 3) transitioning from reactive to proactive compliance, 4) knowledge retention and transfer, and 5) IT consolidation.
Cost avoidance and risk mitigation are critical drivers for EMIS projects. For example, clients have significant costs associated with EHS&S issues, such as workers’ compensation claims or hazardous materials spill cleanup, so implementing a system can potentially achieve significant reductions in year-over-year costs including reductions of associated insurance premiums.
Additionally, there are significant reputational and financial risks associated with non-compliant operations, significant health and safety events, and even large costs related to specific topic areas like recalls due to concerns over food safety.
OK, so it’s clear how cost avoidance and risk mitigation add value. It’s less obvious with information. How does data become information, and what sort of value do companies get from it?
EHS&S data is the raw information extracted from a variety of sources such as incident reports, safety observations or even continuous emissions monitoring systems (CEMS). By aggregating and structuring that data, we can help clients turn that data into information.
Turning EHS data into information can be a significant value driver because it helps clients make better, timelier and more responsive decisions. That information can then also be used to support other business functions like risk management, quality and security.
We often think of compliance as an obligation rather than an opportunity. How can companies derive greater value from compliance activities?
Companies routinely assess their progress using a maturity model to measure their performance. A company that is reactive to compliance activities is operating at the basic level of performance. They typically have a lack of management systems or processes to manage compliance or have duplicative systems.
A company that transitions from a basic level of maturity to an advanced or leading level of maturity embraces proactive compliance management and typically shows improvements in compliance performance and operational performance.
Proactive compliance can help companies reduce the impact of compliance activities on their operations, facilitate effective compliance and reduce inefficiencies in their operations and EHS program. EHS compliance is fundamentally about running your operations in the way they are designed to run.
When companies better understand their compliance obligations and use that understanding to improve their compliance programs, they usually also increase the efficiency of their operations. For example, one of our clients achieved greater operational output by linking permits to a geographic information system (GIS) so it could maximize mining operations. Another oil and gas client obtained greater efficiency in its flaring operations by linking to air permits.
If addressing compliance-related inefficiencies brings value, can the same be said for a breakdown in the transfer of knowledge? How do you help clients get value out of knowledge retention?
Because of demographic shifts and an aging workforce in critical heavy industries, knowledge retention is one of the high-priority topics for many of today’s organizations, especially those operating within complex regulatory frameworks. Transitioning from relying on individual experience or paper files to a digital information system can lead to more effective pass-down, reduced training costs and improved transitional efficacy.
You mentioned a fifth type of business value that can be gained through IT consolidation. Is this the means by which companies accomplish the other four goals, or is IT consolidation a form of value in itself?
It is both a goal and part of the path to success. IT organizations are dealing with system sprawl across a variety of business functions. By consolidating numerous homegrown systems, desktop databases, and spreadsheets into a centralized enterprise EMIS, significant IT costs can be saved. It is no wonder IT consolidation is currently an important driver in the marketplace.
At the same time, IT consolidation can help clients cut costs, reduce risk, increase knowledge retention, and turn data into information by centralizing similar data, reducing the difficulty of reporting and facilitating predictive analytics. IT consolidation is critical to understanding the benefits of any system implementation, but especially an EMIS implementation.
In your experience, how can Enablon’s system help clients increase business value?
I have worked on many Enablon implementation projects, so I have seen this firsthand. Enablon is an enterprise EMIS that can help reduce the number of systems required to support the EHS&S business function.
Because of its market share, Enablon has instantiated business practices from many industries in many of its applications and clients are able to leverage those practices while also benefiting from the configurability of the Enablon product.
Finally, Enablon’s dashboarding, reporting and analytics approaches allow for easy access to the information being collected by the system.
Can you describe how this plays out on an actual project?
Sure. We’re currently working with a large hospitality client whose implementation has been successful. The client is a senior executive in the Risk Management function and has done a great job. With a relatively small team on the client side and a modest budget, we’ve been able to help it deploy a large swath of Enablon functionality through the three teams — Enablon, the client and EY — working cohesively. The client has a clear focus on business value and has used that to align how work gets driven internally.
In terms of enhancing business value, you touched on an important intangible success factor: people. What are the people and process-related drivers for success in EHS&S system deployment?
That’s a huge question, and getting to the answer is the reason why people often hire us. However, let me try to answer that by highlighting four areas we focus on:
1. Engagement across all appropriate functions in the business. Systems like Enablon are enterprise systems that can have far-reaching capabilities within and beyond the EHS&S space. Oftentimes key stakeholders may exist in a risk management, maintenance or operational function. Additionally, engaging IT appropriately is very important both for the delivery of the project and for other aspects of the implementation like integrations and PMO approval. EY routinely works with client professionals in all parts of the organization and can help clients better leverage and network within their own company.
2. Appropriate staffing expectations. Companies have different capabilities to internally support the implementation. If a company has significant expertise around implementation of information systems, it may need less consulting time. However, the reverse is also true. Understanding this aspect of implementation is very important to appropriate budgeting and project management.
3. Key client champion. Successful client projects identify a liaison between the implementation team and the business subject matter resources (SMRs) to drive data collection and key action items for the client team. This is a great opportunity to engage someone who can be the long-term owner of the system.
4. Training and change management. Considering training and how it will be executed can be critical to the success of an implementation. Usually this breaks down into three levels of users: administrators, core users and occasional users. Deciding on an appropriate training methodology is not trivial. Factors that go into the decision include the number of users in that role, complexity of the required training, and organizational resources and standards.
So we’ve established that a clear business value can be gained from an EHS&S information strategy, even if the path to achieving it is not so clear. In your view, how do forums like SPF Americas help EHS managers navigate this process?
Forums like SPF Americas allow for EHS managers to connect with their peers across industries and within their own industry. Through case study presentations, it allows them to understand in real terms the business practices and lessons learned from ongoing projects. Finally, it gives them time to pick the brains of implementers who have managed EMIS implementations for years and have the necessary experience to provide real insight to the issues facing them.
If you want additional information about EY Enablon implementation services or EY EHS&S data analytics offerings, please contact Ryan Bogner at firstname.lastname@example.org.