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Custom vs. Off-The-Shelf: Which EHS Software is Right for Your Business?

custom-vs-off-the-shelf-ehs-softwareWhen it comes to tracking EHS data, there’s one thing we can all agree on: Spreadsheets aren’t cutting it. 

So if you've had your eye on EHS software, you might be wondering if an off-the-shelf solution is too big, too complicated, or too expensive for your needs.  Or you might be thinking, “But wait, my business is different!”.

Fortunately, both custom and off-the-shelf solutions have a lot of potential to solve your troubles — far more than your outdated macros.

At Perillon, we know how important it is to choose the right EHS software. That’s why we’ve put together this guide to help you decide whether to build vs. buy — without getting overwhelmed.

First, a few stats that might interest you:

  • Corporate America spends $275 billion developing in-house software
  • Only 28% of in-house projects are successful
  • On average, homegrown projects overrun the deadline by 224% and overrun the budget by 191%
  • When you add up true costs, 80% of in-house software projects cost more than they return

(Source: Standish Group)

Notice that custom software is an area where success is rare and failure is the norm.

So, should you go with custom or off-the-shelf EHS software?

The answer is, of course, “It depends.” Here are some of the key considerations:

1. What type of reports do you need to create?

With custom software, building a training data dashboard or adding reports for new OSHA regulations is a pain. Since coding is involved, you’ll need to pin down your IT person every time you need a menial change. Ready-made software lets you customize reports the way you want, when you want. With thousands of users in various industries, it's likely the report you need already exists! Plus, setting up dashboards, analyzing data, and distributing reports is a breeze. Our guide to homegrown vs. off-the-shelf EHS software explains some of the key reporting differences of custom vs. off-the-shelf EHS software. 

2. When and where will you use the software? Is mobile capability important to you?

Need to conduct an inspection on an oil platform? Or upload safety data right from the factory floor? This is an area where off-the-shelf software shines. Mobile data capture and integration can be difficult within a custom-built solution. Download our guide to homegrown vs. off-the-shelf EHS software to see a comparison of key mobile features. 

3. Where will your business be in 10 years? Can your chosen solution keep up?

As we saw earlier, you could actually end up outgrowing your custom software long before you see a return on your investment. On the other hand, off-the-shelf may have more features than you need right now, but you’ll have room to grow into it. Plus you'll enjoy dedicated support and ongoing updates. Our guide to homegrown vs. off-the-shelf EHS software explains more scalability considerations. 

4. Who will use the system? Who will manage it?

Homegrown software is typically built around the workflows of a few existing users. While that might seem great in theory (“a software built just for me?!”) it can be a critical point of failure when your safety manager puts in her two-week notice. With an off-the-shelf software, you’ll be able to get new hires up to speed quickly (or hire someone who already knows your EHS program!). Check out our guide to homegrown vs. off-the-shelf EHS software for more.

5. How will you keep data secure?

Obviously, Excel isn’t the best platform for keeping data secure. But thanks to bugs and limited IT resources, homegrown systems can also a pose security risk. A cloud-based EHS platform like Perillon lets you grant access to the right users in real time. See what that means for your organization by downloading our guide to homegrown vs. off-the-shelf EHS software. 

The Verdict: Only build when no other solution exists

Let’s say you’re in search of a new email program. You wouldn’t burden your IT team with building a new program when ready-made solutions like Microsoft Outlook, Gmail for Business, Zimbra, and dozens of others already exist.

In the same way, EHS software has been around long enough that "reinventing the wheel" just isn’t necessary. It’s very likely that an existing solution can be molded to meet your needs.

In terms of cost, features, and long term ROI, an off-the-shelf system is almost always the best bet for growing businesses and global enterprises.

Could you use some help discerning your next best steps? We'll gladly point you in the right direction, whether that's working with us or not.

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