When prospective clients approach us about an EHS software system, they’re usually worried about two things.
First, how do I get my data out of my spreadsheets or existing EHS software and into the new system? And second, how do I connect the new system with the other tools my team uses so that I can share information?
Previously we’ve addressed the first question in this article on how to import your data into a new software system. Today, we'll answer the second question about sharing information between systems — namely, by using integrations.
You may have heard vendors talking about integrations, but you might not be sure exactly what they are or how they work, so first let's look at a simple definition of integrations.
What are software integrations?
Integrations connect your software to third-party applications so they can share information. This allows your systems to “talk to” one another.
There’s a good chance you might already be using integrations — for example, if you connect your Google Calendar to Slack so that you can schedule events, or if you connect Microsoft Teams to Zoom so you can start or join video calls. In both of these scenarios, integrations are the connectors that link the two different platforms together.
Why are integrations important?
In most businesses, each department or function has its own software system. For example, HR might use one system, while maintenance uses another, and EHS yet another. These tools are very effective within the departments that use them. However, it also creates “information silos” which prevent you from easily sharing information between departments.
You’ve probably found yourself having to enter the same data into multiple different systems, or toggle between different systems to compile a report. Not only is this inefficient, it creates lots of opportunities for human error.
That’s where integrations come in. Integrations give you the ability to share data between systems, breaking down information silos and giving you a complete picture of your operations. “For EHS software to be any good, it needs to integrate with existing enterprise resource planning systems,” Perillon CEO John Neimoller recently told IOSH Magazine.
“You can integrate to an HR system that logs training, absence or illness, or to fleet management systems, so that you can start measuring miles driven without incidents. It’s about mapping interfaces and linking one set of data to another,” Niemoller says.
How do you get integrations?
Not all systems will be able to integrate or play nicely with your other systems. Some can do so more easily than others. That’s why it's so important to think about integrations when you're comparing EHS software vendors.
Assuming the vendor you’ve chosen offers integrations, there’s not much else to do on your end. The vendor’s client services team will usually set up integrations for you. This typically involves mapping data fields from one system to the other so that the information flows where you want it to.
Now that you know what integrations are, how they work, and why they’re important, let’s take a closer look at a few potential use cases.
Let’s say you want to know how many hours your company has worked without an incident. To do that, you’ll need to know two things: when your most recent incident occurred, and how many hours your employees have worked.
In that case, you could use an integration to connect your HR system (which tracks employee attendance and hours) to your safety management system (which tracks incidents and injuries). Data about hours worked is automatically pulled into your safety management system, so you can see the total number of working hours without an incident. This information is readily available in your dashboards, meaning there’s no need to compile the information manually.
Another time you might want to use integrations is if you need to know how many miles your company fleet has driven without incidents. If you have a fleet management system that tracks the number of miles driven, this is easy to do. The integration takes this information directly from your fleet management system and compares it with the data on vehicle incidents in your safety management system so you don’t have to.
With the rise of mandatory and voluntary greenhouse gas (GHG) reporting, having the ability to report on carbon emissions related to specific activities is also quite useful. For example, you might want to be able to report on your emissions related to driving company vehicles. Again, all you need to do is connect whichever system you’re using to track your fuel consumption (ERP, fleet management, etc.) to your EHS software system. From there, you can configure calculations to estimate the total tailpipe emissions from your fleet and report on the data as part of your overall GHG reporting.
As you can see, integrations are an important feature of an EHS software system — and any business information system, for that matter. Integrations allow you to link multiple systems together so you can track and report on information across different programs and departments. This will result in less manual work on your end. It will also provide more meaningful insights and a greater return on your investment for all the systems your business uses.