What’s the Best Way to Drive User Adoption of EHS Software?

April 18, 2019

If you’re implementing an EHS software solution in your organization, or if you plan on doing so in the near future, one of the biggest challenges you will encounter is user adoption. It’s a challenge that can undermine the entire software implementation project and make you look bad.

Imagine that you successfully convinced the CFO to approve an investment of many hundreds of thousands of dollars in an EHS platform that will be used regularly by 5,000 users.

About a year after the system goes live, only 800 people are on the new platform, while the others are still using the old homegrown system. The CFO drops by your office and asks: “How many people out of 5,000 are using that software for which we paid hundreds of thousands of dollars?”. Imagine being the person who has to answer the question.

Without a successful user adoption, the anticipated Return on Investment that justified the initial software purchase will not get realized.

The problem for many organizations is that people are naturally resistant to change. Forcibly imposing a solution can backfire. This is due in part to the cognitive bias “reactance“.

Resistance to change is a risk in software deployment. Users may be reluctant to abandon their existing system unless they are experiencing great pain and inconvenience.

Shift from a Prescriptive Rollout to an Organic Expansion

It’s possible to overcome this challenge. In September 2018, we hosted a webinar with J.M. Huber Corporation and Arcadis on the EHS Software Journey.

Emily Thomas, Corporate Sustainability Programs Manager, said during the webinar that the initial rollout of Enablon was very prescriptive. Employees were bluntly told “You have to use Enablon”, whether they agreed or not.

However, as the software solution began to prove its value, Huber adapted its approach. The organization started a shift to an organic expansion phase, going from a “push” to a “pull”.

As part of the new phase, the direction and speed of investments in additional functionality were dictated by the needs of users, and organizational initiatives and priorities. This is not as simple as it sounds. When you go from a situation where employees are mandated to use a new software solution, to one where users influence the direction of the rollout, there is always a risk of slowing down the process.

The shift was greatly facilitated by the intuitiveness and user-friendliness of Enablon, which made it easy for people to use the system more often and enter data into it. Emily revealed during the webinar that more than 90% of all events are entered in Enablon by non-EHS personnel.

It’s About Balance and a Successful Transition

Huber’s experience teaches us a valuable lesson that can be applied not just in the field of software adoption, but also in many other areas: balance is key.

Often, when faced with two options, the best solution is to find a middle-ground where some of the best aspects of both options are used, or both are used at different times depending on the circumstances.

Many people are reluctant to change the way they have been doing things. The human brain has been “conditioned” to act that way. To get things going, it may be good at first to make it mandatory for employees to use the new software system, and frequent communication is important at this stage.

Then, as users start to witness for themselves the improvements brought to their daily tasks and to the organization by the new EHS management software system, it becomes easier to let user preferences influence the direction of the software deployment and expansion.

This transition from “You have to do things this way!” to “How do you want things to move forward?” takes skills, patience, and plenty of communication between workers and the software implementation team. It’s more of an art than a science.

But when executed successfully, it’s the best way to drive user adoption of an EHS management software system.

View the recording of our webinar with J.M. Huber and Arcadis to learn valuable tips and best practices on the EHS software journey, including software selection, implementation, roll out, user adoption, and change management:

Webinar - EHS Software Journey



Jean-Grégoire Manoukian

Content Thought Leader - Wolters Kluwer | Enablon