Like most organisations, you’ve probably developed your own version of the plan-do-check-act cycle through the years and now you’re looking for a way to digitise it. Certainly, there should be EHS software that does what you need it to do, right?
Sooner or later, you’re bound to face the same dilemma that’s been dogging tech shoppers since the dawn of enterprise software:
- Should you Build an EHS solution? This is the better option if you don’t want to change your existing processes, but it could take months or even years (during which time the project will probably spin out of budget more than once).
- Should you Buy an EHS solution? This certainly takes less time than building your own solution but there will be trade-offs because you will be getting a pre-made EHS platform.
In the end, no matter if you build or buy, you will have to compromise. So, which one is the ‘lesser evil’?
We’ll outline the pros and cons of building vs. buying, and inform you on the 7 things you need to look out for when acquiring EHS software
When building an EHS platform internally
The allure of this option is that you are in full control of the end product and you get to create a custom solution that checks all the boxes. However, an internal build might take up a lot of your precious time—probably more than you can afford to spare.
So, before you set the ‘internal build’ machine into motion, it’s worth evaluating how fast it can move. Here are the most important questions to ask:
- Do we have the in-house developer expertise to realise this?
- Do we have the in-house UX expertise to make this accessible to all employees on all devices?
- How long will it take? Is that time better spent on other things?
- How special (read: custom) are our needs?
- What are our competitors using?
- Do we need complex integrations? Are there any EHS software vendors that offer these integrations?
- How are we going to handle maintenance?
- Does this solution add to our core value proposition? If not, is it really worth building it?
It’s clear that, if you manage to develop your own EHS platform, it will have the exact features and workflow that you need. However, there are a few things you need to know before you decide to build your own EHS software.
The 3 things you need to know when building your own EHS solution
1. Expectations might not match reality
Unfortunately, building a custom software solution in-house often turns into a fool’s errand. Statistics show that 46% of in-house software projects fail to deliver on the initial requirements. Even worse, 43% of those that do deliver go over budget and 49% are late; if they are ever launched at all. Before you know it, your project could end up dead on a pile.
2. The work never ends
Aside from needing the internal expertise to build an EHS platform, you also have to be prepared that your IT team’s time will be dedicated to this project for the next few months, maybe years. Once the solution is live, it’s not like the work ends. It’ll have to be maintained and upgraded continuously to stay current on industry trends and compliant with government regulations.
3. You’ll need more IT staff on payroll
Another main factor to consider is the onboarding and support of your personnel. If your solution has been built internally, you’ll also have to provide support internally. Typically, this means that you will have to hire more IT support staff to handle the influx of requests. In fact, companies with in-house solutions end up spending 80% of their budget on maintenance.
Of course, there are advantages to building an EHS platform internally. To summarise, let’s make a good old-fashioned pros and cons list:
- Tailored to your business needs
- Complete control
- Developers know the product closely
- Ownership of code
- Support from developers
- New features implemented upon request
- Extended development time
- Internal resource drain
- Software goes out of date quickly
- No economy of scale
- No documentation or training & minimal support
- Ongoing support & maintenance costs
- Stability & security questions
If you can find a way to make the pros outweigh the cons, you've got your answer. Start building your own solution.
When buying EHS software
In the past, companies didn’t have the option to buy off-the-shelf EHS management systems. This technology has only recently become widely available at a reasonable price. Besides, most IT decision-makers did not tolerate the few ready-made solutions due to a lack of transparency, limited integrations, security concerns, etc. On the business side, buying EHS software was avoided because companies didn’t want to compromise on features and functionality.
Today, however, you can evaluate a handful of software solutions for EHS management, packed with features and functionality for just about any industry. On one end of the spectrum, there are the highly-specialised EHS platforms that offer solutions for specific verticals. On the other end, there are the all-in-one platforms that come with an abundance of features and can be customised for the needs of any company.
The short time to market can look like an overpowering reason to buy EHS software. However, there are some important questions to ask before you sign on the dotted line:
- How customisable are the available solutions?
- How user-friendly are these solutions?
- Can we adjust our process to fit any of the existing solutions?
- What changes will we have to make to our business processes?
- How much time does it take to configure and implement the solution? Does the company provide help in setting it up?
- What integrations do we need?
- What are the maintenance options?
- Does the vendor have customers in our industry?
Despite the variety of solutions out there, implementing an off-the-self EHS management system can feel like trying to fit a square into a hole. Let’s see why.
The 4 You Need To Know When Buying An Off-the-shelf EHS Solution
1. It might work for others but not for you
An industry-focused solution may claim to ‘understand your business’, but, in reality, this can’t be 100% true. Each organisation has its own EHS process which means that, more often than not, it requires a solution that’s tailored to its workflow.
2. Your data is on their servers
Then, there is the security concern. Most of the time, your data is hosted in the cloud, on your vendor’s servers. It’s great if they are GDPR compliant and all but how comfortable are you with them storing and processing your sensitive business data?
3. ‘Customisable’ is a slippery term
Even though most off-the-shelf EHS solutions are customisable, there is a limit to how much you can adjust. Most of the time, you will end up having to alter your business processes to fit the solution, not the other way around. This can wreak havoc in your organisation since you’ll need to get everyone up to speed with the changes.
4. “We’ll add that in a future update”
Finally, when it comes to adding new features, it’s very unlikely that you’ll get your suggestions implemented quickly. After all, pre-built software serves hundreds or even thousands of customers that all have feature requests. So, you can wait for up to 1-2 years until the functionality is actually implemented; if ever. With some vendors, you can hope to get custom capabilities developed but that will cause a significant bulge in your licensing costs.
Just like building, buying a ready-made EHS solution has both upsides and downsides. So, how about we make a pros and cons list again?
- Covers most of your requirements
- Short time to market
- Great economy of scale
- Guaranteed to work, with fewer bugs
- Automated upgrades
- Low total cost of ownership
- Might not meet your unique needs
- Limited customisation options (if any)
- May not integrate with your current IT systems
- Have to wait for features to be developed (if ever)
- Security concerns
- Limited control
If you do decide to go for an off-the shelf solution, make sure to compare. Only when you're able to make the pros outweigh the cons, should you commit to buying.