EHS software is the foundation of a robust, effective safety and environmental management program. But choosing the right EHS software is challenging.
With so many different vendors to sift through, it's essential to know what to look for and what questions to ask.
The product itself is only one aspect you’ll need to evaluate. In this article, we’ll walk you through five different areas to consider as you’re comparing different software vendors.
Of course, it’s wise to pick a system that has all the basic features you’ll need, like task tracking, document management, and dashboard reporting. But many first-time buyers mistakenly believe that the best system is the one with the most features.
There are several problems with this line of thinking. First of all, those extra bells and whistles add to the cost. What’s the point of paying for additional features if your team never actually uses them? Unnecessary features just make the system more expensive, complicated, and hard to use.
Second, just because a system has a lot of different features doesn’t mean they’re all good. You’re better off choosing a vendor who’s devoted a lot of time to getting the key features right than one who is constantly cramming new features into the system without ever improving the existing ones.
It’s the whole “less but better” concept: focusing on the core features that help you achieve your goals without any distractions.
Some things to keep in mind:
- Instead of asking about specific features, try to stay focused on the problems you’re trying to solve. A good vendor should be able to point you to the right features to address these challenges.
- Look for a system that allows you to start small, with the option to add more features later. This will make the implementation and training process much easier.
No matter how great your software is, you’re going to run into bugs from time to time. When that happens, responsive support can make all the difference between a minor inconvenience and a major disruption to your business. This is why, when you’re comparing different vendors, the type of support they offer is just as important as the product itself.
Some vendors include 24/7 email and phone support in the cost of your subscription. Others include basic support Monday through Friday but charge you extra if you want a response outside of regular business hours. Or, they might give you access to a support forum but force you to upgrade in order to speak to an actual representative.
Here are some ways to spot a winning customer support program:
- Make sure you know what kind of support is included in the base price, and what will cost you extra.
- Find out if you’ll be assigned a dedicated account manager. Your account manager will be your point of contact when issues pop up.
- Check out reviews to see how their support is rated. Do they respond quickly? Are customers happy with the support they receive?
Price shouldn’t be the only consideration when comparing different EHS software systems. That said, most of the time you’re going to be working within a set budget, so it’s wise to only evaluate systems you can actually afford.
EHS software prices can vary widely depending on the vendor, the type of system you go with, and the features you choose. This, along with the fact that most vendors don’t post their pricing on their website, can make it really difficult to accurately compare the cost of different software systems.
A few things to keep in mind:
- There’s more to the cost of EHS software than just the price on the sticker. Pay careful attention to “extras” like data migration, configuration, and adding additional users.
- Cheaper upfront doesn’t always mean cheaper in the long run. Runaway implementation costs can quickly double the cost of your software purchase, so be sure these are included in your cost comparison.
- Be sure to ask which features are included in the base price of the software, and which ones require an upgraded subscription.
4. Industry presence
Choosing the most popular software vendor might seem like a safe bet, but just because a brand is a household name doesn’t mean they’re going to be the best fit for your business specifically. This is especially true for small to midsize companies, who might find that the big name software companies are more designed for big enterprises than their needs.
There are plenty of lesser-known EHS software systems that offer great value. On the flip side, be wary of new vendors who don’t have an established industry presence. You don't want to sign a contract with someone that's going to disappear in a year.
Here are some ways to assess a vendor’s industry presence:
- Research the company’s history. Were they just founded in the last year, or have they been around for a while? Is there a lot of turnover, or do key employees stay with the company for years?
- Check out their current customers. What types of businesses use the system (small, midsize, enterprise)? Are there specific industries they work with?
- Find out how active they are in the industry. Are they regularly attending (or better yet, presenting at) industry events and conferences? Do they publish and share articles about industry news and best practices?
5. Product demo
By this point, you’ve most likely narrowed your list down to 3-4 vendors. Now, it’s time to request a product demo.
A demo gives you a chance to see the product firsthand and get a feel for the user experience. It's also an opportunity to get to know the vendor's team and see what it might be like to work together.
Here are a few questions to ask during the demo:
- Is the system easy to use?
- Can this integrate with our other tools?
- Is the system self-configurable, without needing to go back to the vendor?
- How long does it take to implement the system and train employees?
Now that you know what to look for, you’re ready to start researching and comparing different software vendors. We’ve also created a free checklist that will help you screen potential vendors and discern the best solution for your organization. Click here to download your copy!