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November 09, 2018

EHS Software and SaaS - Two Situations to Consider.

EHS Software and SaaS-1

This week I read another press release from an established provider in the Environmental Health & Safety software industry announcing a True SaaS Platform.  EHS terminology is hard enough, but the IT terminology

used in the EHS software marketplace (EMIS) can be hard to understand for EHS professionals. The fact is SaaS is one option organizations consider to support their Information Management Strategy. You will see terms like Cloud, Hosted, SaaS, Multi-Tenant SaaS, ASP, On-Premise, and likely a blended mix of terms like True SaaS. Just like you are the experts in your EHS Management System Strategy and Execution, your IT team and CIO are the Information Management Systems experts within your organization. Below are two situations we see each day as we interact with customers under pressure to shrink staff, lower costs, and do more with less.


Situation 1: You are considering a new system.


What should I do? Engage your internal IT team to help you review and understand the language and technology used by potential suppliers.


Getting your IT team’s support does two things. First, it will help make sure you get feedback on your organization's policies, strategies, and approval process for IT investments. Big or small, your IT team will have rules and preferences. Working around or without the IT team can seem expedient, but in most cases, it will delay your ability to execute. Most mature organizations have approvals processes that get tripped when you try and engage your purchasing team. Second, it provides an internal partner to decode the marketing spin or gaps that providers can have around how they install, support, maintain, secure, and upgrade their software.


In a recent article by Martha Heller from CIO Magazine titled Movers and Shakers, “In the SaaS space, features and functionality are important, but unlike a COTS (commercial off-the-shelf) product, with SaaS you are outsourcing your security, innovation, uptime, and your support,” The article also provides 4 questions to ask SaaS Vendors. It is a good list of questions EHS Professionals can read (see link below).


At Enviance, we have been providing SaaS services since 1999. Having a SaaS offering is expected by most organizations trying to optimize EHS operational spend. Today the pressure is on much deeper IT analysis and investigation around Mobile Management (see related article), Cybersecurity, and Data Privacy. We will expand on these in coming articles. IT teams looking to select a new provider are focused on those topics as part of their enterprise risk management strategy. Your compliance and operational data must be secure, and you must meet rapidly evolving country-specific privacy regulations. Using a SaaS provider can provide great benefits, but only if that provider can stand up to industry and enterprise best practices for Cybersecurity and Data Privacy.

Situation 2: My current software provider announced a change in their software technology delivery.


What should I do? Engage your Internal IT and Procurement team to help you review and understand the language and the agreement you have in place with the suppliers.


My supplier just announced they are moving to the cloud, SaaS, or other nebulous IT marketing name. Today their software is running in a company’s controlled data center and is supported by our internal IT team. In this situation, the first step is to do your homework. Partner with both your IT team and Procurement Team to understand the changing situation. Enlist support from your IT team for the same reasons we discussed above. Most of the leading EHS software systems that started in the 90’s were designed for single customer use within a single customer provided data center (Single Tenant). They pushed out releases to each customer for updates and upgrades completed at the internal expense of your IT team.


Most software providers that make a move from single tenant offering to a multi-tenant SaaS model will need to convert data and processes into a new system infrastructure. They either eat that cost to keep you as a customer or attempt to charge you to convert your data along with your legal license terms. Many also take baby steps and move you to a hosting arrangement where they operate the software within their data center and run your change control at an additional cost. Their longer-term plan may be to convert you to a new multi-tenant environment – at your additional expense and license agreement conversion.


Engage your Procurement Team. Procurement teams often have specialist IT procurement teams/contracts staff that are experts in software license agreements (SLA). You may own a perpetual license, a term license or any number of other software licensing models. Reach out to your internal procurement experts and have them review your agreement. You should understand the terms and conditions. You should fully understand your rights as the vendor adjusts their strategy, revenue model, and the way they support you as their customer.


Conversion from on-premise to a multi-tenant SaaS delivery is extremely costly for the vendor (new skill sets, different support structure, performance, security, and uptime, etc.), it also has impacts on system users. A change in focus from on-premise to SaaS can also signal a shift R&D spend. The funds derived from your support and maintenance fees are moved to advance the new cloud offering while severely restricting spend on your needs. The pace of improvements to the on-premise offerings will keep slowing as they invest in their new SaaS offerings.


The point is to make sure you have a well-informed plan. Understand the strategy, the costs, the agreements. If your provider is going through a strategy and delivery change, we strongly suggest taking the time to look around at other offerings in the market.


You can call us directly to set up an appointment to understand the costs and process to move to a new supplier. One size does not fit all so understanding your current provider's long-term costs and the alternative costs from a new provider can help compare the potential impacts of those changes. It may be a good time to make a change.

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