Winning Tips for EHS Heroes: The Upshot of SPF Americas’ Keynote Panel

November 15, 2016

Enablon’s drew more than 500 EHS experts globally. It was a record attendance with a fitting theme: heroes.

If the hero of yore was a lone warrior of special strength, courage or ability, today’s hero must also act collaboratively while grappling with complexity. Unlike their conquering counterparts, corporate heroes don’t achieve glory through death on the battlefield, but through a data-driven strategy in the boardroom.

As environmental, health & safety (EHS) data rises in relevance for stakeholders across the board, EHS heroes face particular challenges. In a conversation we might call the “EHS hero’s journey,” three world-class consultants joined me for a moderated discussion to explore ways to leverage and maximize EHS management information systems (EMIS) to boost performance.

Keynote panelists covered the discovery, delivery and deployment phases of EMIS software implementation. They included:

  • David Robbins, Senior Partner and Managing Director of ERM‘s Information Solutions operations for the Americas
  • Ryan Bogner, Senior Manager, EY
  • JR VanOrder, Global Practice Director, Information Management, CH2M

Dave, from your perspective at ERM, what is the most important thing that a company should be clear on, before embarking on a GRC or EHS software implementation?

In the discovery phase, there are at least three things a company must do to set itself up for success in a GRC or EHS software implementation: 1) clarify the value proposition, 2) engage the business community, and 3) develop an implementation plan.

Can you elaborate on clarifying the value proposition?

Absolutely. Some decision-makers are likely starting from current systems and processes, while others don’t yet have systems in place. Some are replacing a system while others are adding new modules. Regardless of your circumstances, my advice is to clearly articulate the value proposition for the project up front.

For example, we undertook a global implementation of a solution with the Metrics module. We got them actively reporting in the system each month, then looked at modules for Incident Management, Audit, Risk and Compliance, which are being deployed now. By keeping the value proposition at the forefront of the process, we were able to put together a complete and integrated enterprise solution with the end in mind.

How does assessing materiality in the discovery phase influence a successful implementation?

To understand areas of highest impact, you must engage stakeholders. Outline stakeholder processes and areas of highest impact to the business. Which elements of the implementation will deliver highest impact the earliest? Often this involves an assessment of materiality and risk. Then organize an implementation plan that will deliver an incremental ROI.

Ryan, shifting to delivery, you described your approach to EHS implementations as ‘agile’ or ‘waterfall.’ Can you elaborate?

Waterfall deployments are more effective when undergoing significant process transformation at the same time as the implementation. The more customization and advanced configuration, the more likely that a waterfall approach is most advisable. For example, many companies may have formal Project Management Offices (PMOs), which dictate a waterfall approach. Working with your IT department to understand what approaches meet your organization’s preferences can be very important.

Companies with less formalized EHS&S programs or programs that closely align with the chosen information system may benefit from an agile approach. For example, Enablon offers a QuickStart implementation methodology that produces many of the benefits of an agile approach combined with tools and enablers to expedite an implementation.

How do you choose the right course of action on a project?

People, process and technology are critical to a successful IT project. An implementation can be a good driver for a business process transformation, but it may be unnecessary if you already have documented, formalized, integrated and aligned business processes.

Alternatively, if your organization is fairly immature, it may make more sense to implement a system like Enablon out-of-the-box, which incorporates leading industry best practices. Oftentimes it makes sense to consider the opportunity of implementing a new EHS&S MIS to reorganize and integrate your EHS&S business processes.

How does synergy among the different teams contribute to a successful implementation?

I’ll explain by way of an example. We’re currently working with a large hospitality client whose implementation has been largely successful. The client is a senior executive in the Risk Management function and has done a great job at driving the project forward. With a relatively small team on the client side and a modest budget we have been able to deploy a large swath of Enablon functionality in large part due to 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.

JR, tell us what it takes to ensure user adoption, which is so critical to the deployment of these systems.

At the end of the day, it really comes down to two things: focus on end-users and simplified design. These may seem to be at odds with each other, but let me explain what I mean.

One aspect of user adoption is getting users to accept and use a deployed solution. This means delivering a system that is as easy to use as possible and matches accepted business processes. Easy-to-adopt solutions take time and care to develop from the point of initial configuration, including getting feedback from end-users, through refinement of the configuration and repeating. System owners need to spend time participating in the configuration and deployment in order to end up with these easy-to-use solutions.

Another aspect of adoption is helping organizations to continue to use and adapt their system over time. This is where the simplified design comes in. We recommend that companies don’t over-design their solution and incorporate unneeded customizations. Systems with fewer customizations require less effort to upgrade and maintain. More frequent upgrades allow sooner use of new functionality and limit risk of system replacement with “newer” software packages.

Our advice for maximizing adoption includes leveraging out-of-the-box functionality as much as possible and dedicating the time and care for closing requirement gaps with the needs of end-users in mind.

You suggest minimizing customization to maximize investment. How do you know what’s worth customizing and what to save your money on?

A big part of it is getting feedback from exposure to the system and evaluation by Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) and end-users. Starting with a working base system allows users to see what works and what does not work from an end-user standpoint. From there, decisions can be made on what to customize and how much.

We often hear from customers: “If we had just used it straight out-of-the box we would have saved a lot of time and money that we did not need to spend.”

How do you reduce the training curve?

We’ve found that a configuration and deployment process that includes heavy SME involvement results in early working knowledge of the system by key personnel. This knowledge translates into a reduced training curve for system owners – the front line for the larger end-user adoption.

These SMEs can carry forward a communication program that runs throughout the course of the project and includes all stakeholders and affected users. The deeper system knowledge by SMEs also tends to result in the development of integrated training combining business process and software training in one curriculum.

Dave, you’re the man with the plan. How critical are those implementation and communication plans in getting through a successful implementation?

As I said, you must develop an implementation plan that aligns with business objectives. If you lose track of scope during an implementation, think back to what you’re trying to accomplish. Is it to improve compliance, enable broader collaboration across business functions, reduce costs, or maybe all of the above? This goes back to the value of an implementation plan that syncs up with the business case. The same goes for a communication plan at the end. The better your plans are upfront, the more satisfied users will be in the end.

When choosing an EHS management system, there are crucial steps to follow in order to ensure a successful selection. Download NAEM’s report to learn more about best practices for planning, selecting and successfully implementing an EHS software solution.

NAEM Strategies for a Successful EHS Software Selection