Imagine you had a time machine… the only catch is you could only use it to going back in time in order to experience what your profession was like in the past. Sorry, we know it’s way less exciting than using it to see dinosaurs, visit your great-great-grandparents, or experience what the future might hold for you. Nevertheless for the sake of this article’s logic let’s stick with the original idea i.e., seeing only the past at first hand and only from your profession’s standpoint.
Glimpsing into the past
I know, I know, who in their right mind would like to struggle with extra slow internet, ancient devices, or piles of paper? Better yet, relive images like workplace accident reporting of old, filling out the shipping documents in multiple copies in the indigo era, managing waste records in a paper-based notebook, sending statistics to the parent company on a floppy or faxing hundreds of pages long studies to the competent authority. Wouldn’t it drive you crazy if they were still a thing today?
Back to the present
At best, you are over that era and glad such the time machine was never invented. You operate with inventions and opportunities of the 21st century that transformed the EHS field in recent years. It’s essential for EHS experts to have an advanced digital presence if they wish to keep up with legislation, best practices, the management’s needs for information, and the increasingly conscious expectations of workers. So how do organizations tackle these demands? Well, if we stick with our time synapsis there are three categories.
1. Chasers of the past
There are places where a paper-based notebook method still works, with another colleague uploading an extract to a shared database, or even that you have software installed on your company laptop that communicates with local servers, which you can only access with a tortuous effort from home.
2. The ones living in the now
There is a trend nowadays that more and more companies are freeing up resources to adopt newer solutions, and it’s no wonder: they are significantly reducing the time spent on administration, with less room for error, much more time and energy for strategic planning, more efficient day-to-day tasks, and a safer, more sustainable working environment.
3. Those who are pursuing the future
There are – currently “high tech industry practices” – online interfaces, mobile applications, with data that can be downloaded and uploaded from the cloud. It’s also quite common nowadays to see your various EHS records moving across a broad spectrum.
Why gaze at the horizon?
Nevertheless, if you are in the first two categories, what is important is to understand that the more we lag behind the technological norms of the time, the more challenging the change will be. Changes are ideally induced by profession or by competition (internal motivation to do better), or worse, imposed by law (external constraint). To take a simple example, if you bid a tearful farewell to your car – one that is well into retirement – and try out a car-sharing luxury for the first time on the way home, it can feel like driving a spaceship. It’s shiny, it flashy, it smells new, but you have no idea where to even turn the ignition. We encounter similar reactions and amazement when we introduce our software solutions to organizations where digitization has only just begun, while elsewhere they are handling newer and more complex interfaces with ease. It is also a challenge to load previously collected data into the new system. Naturally, the digitization of paper-based records will be the biggest task. But it might be surprising to many professionals that entering data in spreadsheets is not much easier, even though many people already consider it “digitized”. Yes, there are zeros and ones defining the values of the cells, but the logic of data entry follows the paper-based way, with the same rows and columns appearing in them, as well as errors that are filtered out by entering them into the software.
A brighter future starts today
We cannot (yet) provide a time machine for our customers to travel forward in the future, asking themselves which software they were happy with and which they should have avoided. In the meantime, however, we recommend that before choosing software, you not only consider your current professional needs but also ask the following three questions about competing solutions:
- In which format do we currently keep our data? Do we need to import them? If so, how can they be imported into the chosen system?
- Does the chosen software developer develop its product in an innovative way, keeping up to date with the latest trends, which also keeps its customers up to date?
- Is the provider knowledgeable enough in our field of expertise so that we can get not only IT support but also professional support during implementation and daily use?
In conclusion, why ask yourself these questions?
The first question optimizes the implementation time, thus allowing a more realistic allocation of the necessary resources for this period, as technically, the earlier the data is received from, the earlier format, the more effort is required from both sides.
The second question ensures that the rapid changes that are typical in the IT field will be smoothly and seamlessly rolled out to the users of the system in small steps, without generating lengthy migration and training procedures.
The third and perhaps most important question is whether, in this constantly changing environment, EHS professionals must fight their own battles, or whether they can at least consult the IT service provider for the areas covered by the software and get good practices and tailor-made solutions.
Written by Anita Rozgonyi– EHS Specialist & Product Owner