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September 03, 2019

What It Takes to Implement an EHS Information Management System

A graphic with the title about what it takes to implement an EHS information management systemIn a recent interview with CIO Review, John Sinnott, CTO of Enviance, discussed why EHS programs are primed for digital transformation, making the need for a supporting EHS information management system especially important. Here, John expands on this topic and shares his perspective on what it takes to implement an EHS information management system into business operations.

 

Digital transformation is a hot topic. How does it apply to an EHS information management system?

Digital transformation is fundamentally about using technology to better inform and empower people through process automation, system connectivity and accessibility, and data collection and intelligence.

 

The EHS field faces some unique operational challenges because of the large variety of data sources, a highly mobile workforce that spends time in the field, and complex business processes and risks that are variable across industries, companies, and geographies. Digital transformation can overcome these challenges with a modern EHS information management system being key to that transformation.

 

Such a system should be available on multiple devices, including mobile; accessible from anywhere with an internet connection as well as offline; support a broad range of automation and integration scenarios through a mature integration ecosystem; and manage complex and changing rules and calculations without complex or custom coding and maintenance.

 

What mistakes do you see IT professionals make when implementing an EHS information management system?

Unfortunately, many organizations wait until a major accident or a compliance issue shines a bright light on the financial and reputational impacts of failing to integrate EHS process into IT strategy and operations. Not including EHS requirements in the enterprise IT strategy is a huge mistake.

 

IT often makes EHS requirements a low priority and does not understand that critical EHS data is stored within many of the systems they support – from enterprise planning resources to HR and plant floor data systems. Given its importance to manage substantial risk for the enterprise, EHS should be a priority.

 

Since EHS information is always located in many software applications, suppliers, and systems, IT needs to guide EHS leaders to help them more carefully consider how to leverage their existing application investments and prevent ad hoc integration projects or manual information transfer. IT needs to make sure the EHS information management strategy is ready to evolve as the IT strategy evolves and the solutions they select are adaptable and use best practices for cloud software management, connectivity for integration and automation, and security.

 

EHS managers, however, need to make sure they have a seat at the table with IT, so they can provide their input and help IT understand the EHS information needed within their enterprise applications portfolio.

 

Today companies conduct internal surveys on user satisfaction across their IT application portfolio. What are we seeing from our customers around user satisfaction? What features should an IT professional look for to evaluate an EHS information management system?

Like most software, ease of use is an important factor in user satisfaction and adoption. At the end of our customers’ assessments and trainings, we survey them on a number of issues, including usability. Users want to use their chosen devices, mobile or otherwise, to easily access the tools and information they need in their job.

 

At the same time, administrators and IT need to ensure the chosen solutions are not just compelling to users but also have the underlying power, flexibility, and security to meet their requirements today and in the future. IT and EHS leaders should evaluate solutions for their ease of use as well as functional power, scalability, maintenance and management requirements, security, and data privacy.

 

How can an IT professional ensure EHS integration goes as smoothly as possible?

Integration efforts almost always uncover a lot of surprises about existing and legacy data sources and systems. These projects need to be ready to adapt to changing requirements. Approach the projects iteratively and involve stakeholders from the start, including key end users and not just a few managers.

 

You should manage the integration code and configuration like you would other IT projects and apply best practices for software development projects. While IT professionals can use their existing integration tools, they can also work with their vendor to select the appropriate integration tool based on the systems they use.

 

What are some tools IT professionals can use to integrate EHS into a company's operation?

While IT can implement integrations via well-designed APIs with relatively simple scripts and tools, it’s best for IT to choose a standard for managing the monitoring of their various application integrations, including EHS. iPaaS platforms, such as Dell Boomi, Informatica, and Azure Data Factory, can improve the monitoring and control over these integrations that IT needs. IT also needs to include EHS data in the enterprise data map and information flow, which an iPaaS standard makes easier.

 

Given that EHS information typically comes from more than one source, how can IT professionals reduce redundancy between management systems?

For each type of data, IT professionals should define the system of record for that information and ensure integrations can refresh data from the system of record to wherever that data flows. They should also refer to the system of record when integrating that type of data and not through a secondary source of that data. EHS systems often receive HR data, operational data, and metrics, but they should be the system of record for EHS information and decisions that are derived and generated from that data.

 

How important is it that IT professionals look for an EHS information management system with a robust API library?

Given the need for connectivity for digital transformation, it’s absolutely critical. Robust is not just about the number of APIs but the change management. Well-designed APIs, software development kits, versioning, and compatibility testing by the vendor ensure APIs can continue to offer new capabilities without breaking existing system integrations and automations.

 

How can IT professionals leverage artificial intelligence in an EHS information management system to save the organization time and money?

Experiment and look for proven value. The biggest wins apply machine learning to specific problems the customer faces with the help of EHS and other software systems. Repetitive assessments or analysis of the same types of data can often be automated using trained models.

 

At Enviance, we recently partnered with ehsAI to bring customers the capability to use AI to automatically assess their permits and regulations and quickly create or update the permit requirements through automation of our robust APIs. Several of our customers are already using this technology to quickly and easily bring in permitting data, ultimately reducing their EHS compliance costs. With this technology integration, we look forward to helping our customers reduce risk, save time, and provide better visibility into their environmental compliance programs.

 

Once an EHS information management system is implemented, what can an IT professional do to ensure the program is successful?

IT professionals should work toward continuous improvement. You don’t want to deploy and forget.

 

To ensure program success, I recommend IT professionals stay informed of new functionality that adds value to the deployment, perform annual assessments with the EHS vendor and internal stakeholders to explore further ways to leverage the investment, continuously look for ways to automate the collection and assessment of EHS data, and connect EHS driven insights into other enterprise business intelligence tools and processes.

 

For more information on how Enviance leverages a robust EHS information management system to support its cloud-based software, request a demo today.

 

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