How much does EHS software cost?
We get asked that all the time.
The problem with that question is it's a bit like asking, "How much does a plane ticket cost?"
The answer, of course, depends on a number of things. Where do you want to go? When do you want to get there? Do you want to fly coach, or upgrade to first class?
Likewise, the cost of EHS software can vary widely depending on what you want it to do and which features you choose.
First, a few stats that might interest you:
- Over half of current and past buyers said the EHS department will provide the budget for EHS software, from the initial purchase, to implementation and ongoing licensing fees
- Buyers in the market for a new system are budgeting between $58,000 and $2,000,000 for their initial software purchase, with an average budget of $310,750
- The actual amount spent for comprehensive EHS software systems ranged from $70,000 to $10,000,000, while the amount spent for an issue-specific system ranged from $6,125 to $250,000
(Source: NAEM EHS&S Software Buyer's Guide)
From these numbers, it's easy to see that both the budget and cost of EHS software varies widely. Here’s how to figure out how much you’ll really be spending on your new software system.
How to determine the true cost of EHS software
Much like buying a car, there's more to the cost of EHS software than the initial purchase price. There are also hidden costs associated with owning a software system, such as setup, training, upgrades, and adding additional users.
These expenses can add up quickly, so calculating the true cost of ownership is the best way to make sure your software budget is in line. Be sure to take into account major items like:
Implementation. The single biggest cost associated with most off-the-shelf EHS software systems is implementation. In fact, NAEM found that the average past purchaser had budgeted to spend only half of what the actual implementation cost came out to be. However, you can save by choosing a standardized system that can be configured to your needs without expensive and time-consuming custom services.
Data migration. Before you get up and running with a new software system, you’ll need to load your existing files and data from your old system or spreadsheets. Some systems allow you to import your data instead of manually re-entering it, which is helpful if you have a large amount of data you want to move into the system.
Configuration. Configuration refers to the process of setting up the software to make it function to your liking — for instance, by changing the names of form fields or adding different reports to your dashboards. The best way to limit configuration costs is to choose a self-configurable system.
Customization. If you want additional features or customization beyond what’s included in the system, you’ll pay extra for custom development services. While a customized EHS software system may seem attractive, companies later tend to regret the significant amount of time and resources it requires. In general, it's best to avoid extensive customization and look for a system that can be configured to your requirements instead.
System maintenance & upgrades. Maintenance and upgrades are typically included with the cost of your software. However, if you go with a highly customized system, ongoing software maintenance and upgrades can be expensive because they are unique to each customer.
Support. Some vendors will include full customer support in the cost of your subscription. Others will offer basic email support, but charge extra for phone support or a dedicated account manager.
Additional users. Most companies will eventually need to add more users to their plan. While some plans include unlimited users, others will charge a fee for each additional “seat”. Be sure these fees are clearly outlined in your contract.
Training. Different levels of users will require different types of training. Hands-on training, web sessions, and quick reference guides are a few types of training that are available. Choosing an intuitive and easy-to-use system will cut down on the amount of training your team needs.
Custom vs. off-the-shelf software costs
If you’re in the market for an EHS software system, you might ask yourself: “Do I really need a custom system, or am I willing to consider buying software off-the-shelf?” We've created an entire guide dedicated to helping you decide, but here's what you need to know in a nutshell:
Custom software is almost always more expensive than off-the-shelf. In addition to development, you'll need to factor in the cost of adding new features, fixing bugs, and keeping the system up to date. Those costs can add up quickly.
Off-the-shelf software, on the other hand, is typically more cost effective in the long run. In most cases, you'll pay a one-time onboarding fee plus an annual subscription fee that covers use of the software, maintenance, upgrades, and support.
Other pricing considerations
Price vs. value
While it's true that custom software is very expensive and that some commercial software comes with a six-figure-plus price tag, there are also affordable off-the-shelf options starting at under $10K.
Don't be fooled by the myth that more expensive = better. You'll find plenty of vendors overcharging for fancy features you don't need.
In the end, it's up to you to determine which vendor can solve your problem the easiest and at the lowest price — not which one has the slickest demo with hundreds of features your team won't actually use.
Return on investment
No matter the price tag, one of the most important considerations is the value — or return on investment (ROI) — that software delivers for your business.
Buying cheap software can be an expensive mistake if it doesn't get you the results you need. Similarly, a more expensive software is a steal if it saves you 3-5X what you spent.
Bottom line: Know how much value EHS software can add to your business and how much you're willing to pay for it. Experienced vendors should be able to share an estimate of your anticipated ROI and payback, based on their clients’ experience.
Another thing to consider is whether or not you’ll need to hire a consultant to help implement your new software.
Some (not all!) EHS software systems can be difficult to implement, so many companies opt to hire a consultant to help. Consultants can help load your data into the system, set up forms and dashboards, and configure workflows to meet your needs.
Contrary to popular belief, hiring a consultant to help set up your software is not always necessary — especially if you choose a self-configurable system. Self-configurable systems can be easily adapted to meet your needs using administrative tools within the system itself, avoiding the need for expensive consulting services.
Consulting fees can run anywhere from $75-200 an hour or more, so configuring the software yourself can result in significant savings.
When should you discuss pricing with a vendor?
There's no point wasting your time evaluating software that you can't afford. That's why we recommend that customers have the pricing discussion early. This can be done in a 30 minute phone call right after the initial overview demo. Be open and upfront about your budget, and look for a vendor who does the same.
The bottom line
There is an EHS software for every company and budget. To learn more, check out this article on how to estimate the return on investment for EHS software.
At Perillon, we offer options starting at under $10K. You can start small and add modules as you go. We're happy to help you find a solution that fits your needs and your budget. Visit our pricing page to see our simple, affordable pricing options or book a demo today.
Note: This article was originally published August 14, 2018 and was updated December 13, 2021 for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.