Health and Safety Software: Customised or off the shelf?

How do you go about deciding what solution is right for you?

When it comes to software there are 2 options available – develop your own customised solution or buy off the shelf solutions. Whilst the temptation to develop your own customised solution is attractive, there are some significant considerations you need to be aware of.

These include:

  • The high reliance of whomever you choose to develop the software for you (once you are in you will find it very difficult to get out)
  • The fact that you NEVER stop developing software – it needs to keep pace with your changing business needs – so you will need to ensure the resource you source can supply this ongoing service

Unless every aspect of your business process is fully mapped in a high degree of detail:

  • There will be a high number of iterations required and this will take far more time than you ever imagined.
  • It will cost you far more than you budgeted and, if you cannot continue to fund the development, will suffer a significant financial loss and still be left without a solution.

Off the shelf solutions may not supply a solution that 100% meets your business needs and your budget. However, off the shelf software solutions, supported by the companies whose business it is to supply these solutions, are ever changing to keep pace with the needs of the business. So the selection of the right solution will, in most cases, be the most cost effective and quickest way of transitioning.

Choose a software partner who understands your business and its EHS needs.

There are many EHS Software suppliers who will offer solutions in various forms, however, the solutions may not be the right fit and culture for your business. Remember that the software solution should follow YOUR BUSINESS PROCESS, and not the other way round. Your chosen supplier must be experienced enough to understand your business process and be able to implement your solutions so that they mirror this.

A good way to ensure they can offer this service is to ask for the following:

  • References of customers they currently service with similar needs.
  • What their deployment methodology is – make sure it will suit your business and deliver as you need it to.
  • What is required from both parties to ensure the solution is implemented according to the proposed plan and timeline – make sure both parties are clear on the required deliverables and can achieve them.
  • Proof of concept – the least risky way of ensuring you have chosen the right solution is to implement 1 of your processes with a small sample size over a 2 month period. A solution supplier that is prepared to back their product with this investment is always good proof of their confidence in their product.

Make sure that the solution covers all aspects of your risk and compliance policy.

This means that as a minimum, it should be able to accommodate.

  • Incident management and reporting.
  • Risk assessment, management, and reporting.
  • Training – both induction and ongoing – to both internal and external stakeholders.
  • Contractor management, verification, training, and reporting (including the automated issuing of permits to work).
  • Asset management – servicing, maintenance, reporting.
  • Audit automation, non-conformance reporting & required action management and reporting.
  • Visitor access, induction, and reporting.

Ideally, these solutions should be modulized, so you can start in your most critical area and ensure the solutions are a good fit. Once one of the modules has been adopted, the commissioning of the other modules becomes much quicker and easier.

Critical to your decision making should be the track record of the solution supplier you chose. Make sure you ask for their retention record and for their project deployment success rating.

Choosing a software supplier that has been recognized by its industry as award-winning will also go a long way to giving confidence that the solution is well supported and keeps pace with business requirements.