When you’re buying an EHS software system, it can feel as though there are a zillion different features to choose from. And while it’s great to have options, the reality is that having too many different features can make your system complex, confusing, and difficult to use.
On a more practical level, you might find yourself limited by your budget. Each additional feature you add makes the system more expensive, but tends to have a diminishing return on investment (ROI).
You can make the software purchase and implementation process much more manageable (and affordable) by choosing a system that does the basic things well without too many extra bells and whistles.
So what are those basic features you should be looking for? Of course, every organization is different, but we’ve identified five core features that every EHS software system needs:
1. Task & document management
At the most basic level, EHS software is designed to help organize all your risk, compliance, and sustainability information and activities. Knowing this, task and document management forms the foundation of any EHS software system.
Instead of having everything spread out across spreadsheets, email, and Word docs, this feature allows you to keep track of all your deadlines and documents, from permit renewals to sampling events, in one centralized location. Not only will this make you more organized, but with a cloud-based system, your whole team will be able to access your information from anywhere, anytime and efficiently share it across need-to-know employees. This is especially powerful for remote or distributed teams, who can share information in real time without the risk of saving over information and duplicating work.
2. Audits & inspections
While the features you need vary widely from one organization to another, one feature almost every organization can benefit from having is audits and inspections. That’s why we consider audits and inspections a core module of any EHS software system. Custom forms allow you to build any type of assessment, from risk assessments to JSAs to stormwater inspections. Once you have audits in place, you can use them to kick off workflows that take you through a resolution process, like a corrective action or training.
To get the most benefit from this feature, look for a system with mobile capabilities. You need simple tools that are designed not only for EHS engineers but also for everyday workers on the "front lines". This will help engage more workers in collecting data anytime, anywhere.
Dashboards are an incredibly powerful tool for organizations of any size. Once your data is in the system, dashboards allow you to visualize the information so that you can make better decisions. Everything from compliance results to safety stats to environmental performance is visible in dashboards. No EHS software system is complete without dashboards, but these can vary widely from one system to another. Your EHS software system should allow you to view data in real time, configure dashboards for different sets of users, and drill down on specific data in an interactive format.
From carbon emissions to lost time incidents, EHS software is a great tool to be able to store all of your environmental, health, and safety data. However, in order to be effective, you also need to be able to get information out of the system easily. It won’t do you much good to put all your information into EHS software if you then have to go back to the vendor each time you need to get data out of the system. It’s nice to be able to go into the system and build the report you need with a few clicks, whether it’s a safety report for an executive meeting or a list of all the incident costs related to motor vehicle accidents. Or, use report templates to generate fully formatted regulatory reports with just a click. Choosing an EHS software system with flexible reporting capabilities will ensure that you have access to your information when and where you need it.
Every business is different, so it makes sense that you might need different things out of your EHS software. For example, you might want to customize your calendar view or build a different type of form. Self-configurable software allows you to make these changes to the system on your own without having to go back to the vendor — in much the same way as you can change the settings on your smartphone.
Keep it simple
These five features provide the starting point for a basic system implementation. With these features, you’ll be able to get the ball rolling and start seeing results from your system within a few short weeks. Depending on your individual business’ needs, you may find that you can stop there and still reap tremendous benefits from your system.
Or, you might decide that you want to add on additional features later once your team has gotten familiar with the system. This is the great thing about choosing a flexible system: you can start small, and add on as you go. In the end the secret to EHS software success is, well, simple.