When you are evaluating how suitable Environmental Management System (EMS) software is for your business, it’s important to remember that sometimes the features you don't see up front can make all the difference.
This includes the kind of support that comes bundled with whatever third party software supplier you use.
Things like technical support, regulatory support, and flexibility can often be overlooked, but make a big difference after the purchase has been made.
All of those components that you typically don’t notice during your initial evaluation might just be what sells you on a system later on.
Having someone available to answer your questions about technical setups or equipment troubleshooting could prove to be a lifesaving feature.
The last thing you need is a computer glitch getting in the way of a compliance reporting deadline.
Go way beyond having an automated system to help you reset your password - seek out technical support that can help you handle difficult situations. When your business upgrades to a whole new hardware system and you need to reconfigure your setups, will the company your with help you work through it, or will it charge you extra for further implementation?
Also look for a technical assistance program that doesn’t just transfer you to a call center that knows nothing about your business or compliance needs.
When you have a technical support issue as an EH&S specialist, you need assistance from someone who knows all the ins and outs of regulatory compliance and gets why the issue you’re having affects your entire facility.
Environmental professionals spend hours every week double checking and researching regulatory updates and reviewing permit conditions.
That’s because the smallest change in how an emission must be reported or a changed deadline can cause havoc for your regulatory compliance if you didn’t see it coming.
So expect more from your software provider and don’t just settle for technical assistance. Exceptional support includes regulatory compliance assistance, keeping you in the know about upcoming changes, new regulations, and advanced voluntary reporting options.
Having regulatory compliance support differentiates true environmental software from basic database applications. Paying for a software platform that does nothing more than hold your data doesn’t make any sense, and if your provider doesn’t understand how environmental compliance works, how can you expect them to build an application that makes your job easier?
That’s the reason why ERA’s support team always puts you in touch with one of our environmental scientists.
Regulatory compliance support is simply essential to any EMS software you choose. Otherwise, it just changes the way you do things, when you want something that improves them.
Flexible for Your Needs
ERA Environmental recently chatted with some EH&S professionals about why they were (or were not) using EMS software for their compliance needs.
One environmental manager summed up the main obstacles related third-party software pretty well:
“When there are small changes in the company’s strategy, there are also changes in the types of information that we’re using. Therefore, we would have to make some changes in our database or software, paying quite high amounts for a 3rd party developer (it’s like with SAP, a small change = a big amount).”
These concerns are valid, but they don’t paint the whole picture. Fact of the matter is that some EMS software solutions do offer the same flexibility as an internal or custom system, can be agile enough to keep up with your business’ timeline (and not just the developer’s timeline), and don’t have to cost anything for these types of customization.
Those downsides listed in the EH&S specialist’s statement are inherent to database applications, not true environmental solutions.
A static database is inherently rigid and nearly impossible to change without restructuring the entire program.
An EMS is meant to be ever-evolving, and so EMS software should rapidly adjust to any changes you want to make.
That could mean you need to start using it to track a new permit condition, or want to start tracking your toluene from certain processes when you weren’t before.
Your software provider should already supply the ability to make the changes you want on the fly, and help you to implement those changes.
And since the EMS software should make it easy to customize your outputs and what exactly you track, there should be no cost associated with making those changes.
Remember, that EMS software isn’t just about what you see when using it. Like an iceberg, a huge portion of the usefulness of your solution takes place where you can’t even see it.
About the Author: Alex Chamberlain is a writer and blogger who regularly contributes to ERA Environmental Management Solutions' blog. You can find Alex on Google+, LinkedIn & ERA's Environmental Compliance Blog
(Image by Sandman_kk)