A lot has changed in the world of technology in the last 15 years.
Back in 2004, Facebook was brand new, the "World Wide Web" was dominated by Microsoft, AOL, and Jeeves, and the iPhone was still several years away.
Around the same time, our President and founder, John Niemoller, was asked to contribute to "The State of the EH&S Software Industry Report". The report, compiled by Jill Barson Gilbert and published in AWMA’s EM Magazine, interviewed five executives in the EHS software solution business to get their insights on the industry.
While we're always looking forward, we thought it would be fun to look back at the article to see how things have changed — or how they've stayed the same — in the last decade and a half.
With that in mind, we compiled John’s predictions from the 2004 article and asked him to share his vision for the future of the EHS software industry.
What's your take on the state of the EHS software industry?
Niemoller, 2004: "I see the market making a transition from reactive to proactive. A new driver causing more managers to pay attention to the details is the Sarbanes- Oxley Act, which is driving the need to more effectively manage EH&S risks and liabilities at a corporate level, at the lowest possible cost. At the same time, corporations are cutting IT [information technology] resources used to support an array of homegrown systems. These homegrown EH&S systems are being replaced by more flexible systems because they are too costly to support and maintain and do not provide the visibility needed to effectively manage EH&S risks and liabilities. New and significantly less expensive Internet-based solutions that integrate with other enterprise systems beyond EH&S are starting to be adopted at leading corporations."
Niemoller, 2018: "Since 2004, EHS software has evolved from a niche solution to a widely adopted mainstream opportunity with accelerating growth in virtually all markets. This is especially true for the mid-market, where the opportunity is 5X larger than the high-end market.
IT resources are still scarce, so organizations are seeking out standardized, cloud-based solutions. These solutions are ideally suited for mid-sized companies with smaller budgets and limited resources to adopt complex custom solutions. Furthermore, advances in security technology have made cloud-based systems a widely accepted and sought-after solution.
In contrast to early EHS systems, today's software solutions are scalable, full solution suites that combine environmental, health, safety, training, and risk management in one platform that is integrated with other content databases (i.e. regulatory, LMS, SDS, etc.)."
What's currently missing in the EHS market?
Niemoller, 2004: "Until now, there has been a lack of attention from the highest levels of management. What has been missing is a compelling driver for EMIS [EH&S Management Information Systems] because no clear ROI has been defined. Systems installed in the past were designed to solve specific, narrow problems delivering a relatively low ROI, rather than automating workflows across the enterprise. Today’s technologies enable EH&S software to be developed for significantly less cost, yielding flexible tools that can adapt to a broader range of business processes and tie to other systems such as financial."
Niemoller, 2018: "Today's executives are starting to see EHS not as a 'cost center', but rather as a risk mitigation opportunity driving strategic shareholder value. The ROI of software is in the potential to lower corporate risks -- and this is what drives the buying decision at the C-level.
What's still missing in the market are comprehensive, standardized solutions for the mid-market -- solutions that are affordable and don't require lots of custom services. Many solutions do this well for the high-end market, but they're too complex for mid-sized companies. Workflow tools for the mid-market must be simple and affordable to configure and maintain, even when staff or activities change.
At Perillon, we've built a scalable cloud solution for the mid-market that enables standardized, efficient implementations. Users can customize their UI [user interface], without expensive customizations at the database level. Plus, intuitive mobile apps put the power in the hands of the masses.
Tell me about the changes you expect over the next three to five years. What new technologies are on the horizon?
Niemoller, 2004: "We are going to see more proactive attention from senior-level executives as EH&S departments consolidate and gain more attention in the corporation. Sarbanes- Oxley will have influence, but an increase in attention from regulatory agencies and programs like the National Environmental Achievement Track also will create positive reinforcement. Integration with disparate systems and workflows will enable an instant roll-up of critical information so people can make quicker decisions. New user interface tools will enable any user to configure his or her desktop and tailor the software to meet their specific needs. Wireless handheld devices will be used and supported for applications such as audits and inspections, as people rely more and more on mobile information."
Niemoller, 2018: "All my predictions from 2004 have held true: Mobile apps are now mainstream—downloadable in the app store. Simple workflow features are now standard, driving a manage-by-exception approach. Highly flexible and powerful BI [business intelligence] tools enable on-the-fly analytics and much easier data exports. Automated integrations with client systems are now expected, to eliminate manual re-keying of data.
Looking ahead, big data analysis will be a key theme for EHS and risk management. Mobile apps and automated integrations provide the ability to capture large volumes of data at the source, from financial data to production rates, energy usage, incident rates, scoring values from audits and inspections, and more.
Consequently, the amount of EHS data available for analysis is exploding. The volume of business data across all companies worldwide is expected to double every 1.2 years. (Source: KnowIT)
With so much information pouring in from so many different sources, new tools and metrics will provide a more accurate, granular picture of the enterprise in real-time. Executives will be able to get ahead of safety and environmental issues before they happen, from preventing chemical spills to avoiding falls. The value of this can be seen in lower insurance premiums, higher shareholder value, and higher profits."
Join me at the upcoming AWMA Conference on the Environment (COE) in Minneapolis on November 7, where I'll be presenting on “EHS 3.0: The Next Generation of Standardized Cloud-based Solutions”. Click here to register for the event.