By Ajoy Gonsalves
February 20, 2021
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:
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
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:
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.
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.
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.
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:
If you can find a way to make the pros outweigh the cons, you've got your answer. Start building your own solution.
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:
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.
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.