10 insights to implement EHS management information systems successfully

Understanding the challenges and lessons learned from leading companies can support a smooth environmental, health, and safety management information system (EHS MIS) implementation or improvements and help ensure the EHS MIS investment yields the anticipated benefits.

As we prepare for our upcoming annual Environment, Health, and Safety Management Information Systems Thought-Leaders Forum, we reflect on the insights from last year’s program. The best minds and leading companies using EHS MIS came together to share best practices, explore common challenges and address lessons learned. It was clear that these insights focused mainly on people and processes, rather than the software, to implement management information systems successfully and take their organization to the next level of information driven performance.

We’d like to share our top 10 lessons learned from the 2017 forum for anyone planning or leading enterprise MIS programs in EHS, sustainability, quality or risk.

Top Ten Lessons Learned

  1. Consider the big picture.
  2. Ask yourself where your organization will be in ten years, and allow those answers to help drive your program. Systems are deployed for the sole reason of achieving business objectives. Clarity on those objectives will drive the process. Stay connected with business units and divisions to ensure alignment with those objectives.

  3. Expand your network.
  4. Talk to others in your industry or peer group about products, solutions and vendors that have worked for them – and those that have not. However, it’s important to remember that just because a product, system or vendor worked well or poorly for one of your peers, that doesn’t mean the same will happen for your implementation. Understand the root of the struggles of your peers in their journey, as all implementations are different.

  5. Aim for improvement before replacement.
  6. Lessons learned and internal scoring can be helpful in considering options for solutions. Narrow the field of solutions before continuing dialogues using a data-driven approach. Start with a company “wish list” for improvements and changes to the existing system before considering full replacement – this reduces anxiety and improves change management. This process of forming a wish list is often called a gap analysis. Consider multiple solutions rather than one big, complex solution that may leave some issues behind.

  7. Document your journey.
  8. Keeping good documentation – ideally created by process owners and subject matter experts – throughout the implementation process provides history and context for down the road. These notes allow for transparency across all stakeholder groups, continuous improvement throughout the process and after, and the development of lessons learned and change management strategies.

  9. Lead boldly.
  10. Strong leaders should lift barriers and make the hard but necessary decisions. Leaders play a critical role in shaping culture through spoken and unspoken words. The absence of strong leadership is the number-one predictor of system program failures.

  11. Be agile.
  12. Using an agile-like method – holding configuration reviews early and often to identify areas requiring configuration and client personalization – saves time and effort from beginning to end. Most companies have similar needs from their EHS MIS software, and most commercial off-the shelf options meet basic needs “out of the box,” which allows for easy client personalization as an extension of the standard functionality.

  13. Make use of user stories.
  14. As part of an “agile-like” process of setting up an EHS system, acquiring user stories — rather than technical system requirements — allows the project team to identify needs and baselines. Once user stories have been developed, the team should rank stories by priority, asking, “Which stories are most critical? Which stories are met and unmet by the current systems? How can current processes be streamlined with the new system?”

  15. Take a fresh look at your processes and data.
  16. Aim for flexible data to align your system with your existing processes. Consider ways to streamline processes and reduce input by evaluating required outputs – if data doesn’t appear in reporting, why is it being captured? Much time and money is spent collecting, managing and integrating data that is never used.

  17. Implement strong program governance.
  18. A strong program governance defines roles and responsibilities that are crucial in cross-organizational teams. The purpose of a governance program is to describe the specific roles and responsibilities of program management and its stakeholders, focusing primarily on authority level and decision-making structures. It often includes:

    • Monitoring program outcomes and ensuring accepted good practices are followed.
    • Monitoring measures that focus on strategic alignment; investment appraisal; monitoring and controlling risk opportunities and threats acceptable to the organization; and ensuring expected benefits are in line with the original business plan.
  19. Empower and support super users.

Identifying functional super users helps the change management process by having local, internal, trusted “evangelists” of the new system. This empowerment is critical for user adoption.

Joanne Schroeder, P.E.

Vice President

Collin Lyons

Senior EHS MIS Consultant

Joanne Schroeder, P.E.

Vice President Ask me a question