So you’ve decided that your business needs environmental data management software to help keep you in compliance and make your operations more efficient…
The next step is picking an environmental software provider that can meet your unique needs. This can be a difficult process if you don’t know what to look for.
But fear not - we’ve written a handy article to get you started on the right track. You can read it here.
But when you start talking with potential providers it’s also important to listen for certain cues that will tell you just how well they know their stuff.
(The Right) Experience Counts
Because environmental management can get incredibly complex and it puts your profitability on the line, you don’t want to trust your environmental management to someone without any experience.
(It’s also a good reason why you don’t want to build your own internal software if you’ve never done it before).
But experience goes far beyond just the number of years they’ve been providing environmental software. The number of years doesn’t really give you the whole picture.
Instead of just asking how long your potential provider has been in business, listen for more important types of experiences:
- What was the most difficult compliance situation they’ve designed a solution for?
- Do they already have a client from the same industry and with similar permits?
- Do they know what reports you need to submit just by looking at your processes (or do you have to spoon-feed them everything?)
It’s also vital to find out how much experience they have as environmental specialists, and not just software developers.
Find out if your provider has spent time doing actual environmental management or has a strong environmental sciences background – that experience means ten times more than just software development.
It’s also the best indicator of whether your provider understands what you actually need, and not just what looks good on paper.
They Ask (The Right) Questions
Environmental software providers will always need to ask questions to figure out what you’ll need from them. The process of finding the right fit will be a constant back and forth between provider and potential client.
And the types of questions that they ask can be a great indicator of how good a fit they could be for your business. Listen carefully to what they ask you and the type of information they need:
- Do they try to assess your environmental needs before talking budgets? That’s a good sign they price fairly and not just by how much they think you’ll be willing to pay.
- Do they want to know about all your processes, materials, and emission points in detail? A great software provider will want all the information they can get their hands on before delivering a solution.
- Do they ask you what you expect from their software, or do they just tell you what they think you need? While you want someone with expertise to give you compliance advice, you should still always be in the driver’s seat.
- If they don’t provide a certain service or report, do they ask what you’re looking for and do their best to customize a solution for you?
- Are they talking about what kind of references you'd like to see? Any provider worth their salt will have a list of references that have completed the same reporting you have, and be willing to share them with you.
They Make (The Right Promises)
Your potential environmental software provider should be willing and able to make certain promises about their service. If your software provider isn’t willing to put certain things into writing and say them out loud proudly, it may be time to reconsider.
Before you even open your wallet, make sure you hear these types of promises from your provider:
- “We offer full tech support during and after implementation. There will always be someone available to help you out with any questions you might have.”
- “We have a money-back guarantee if our software doesn’t deliver the results we’ve promised. We know our product works and will put our money where our mouth is.”
- “We do all the work in-house. No third party will handle your data or answer your tech support calls.”
- “Your data will always be safe and secure. We have tight security measures and do full back ups of your data to make sure nothing ever gets lost.”
- “You always own your own data. We keep it confidential and will store it only as long as you ask us to.”
If you can find a software provider that seeks to understand your needs and provide a customized solution to you, snap it up....they are in short supply.
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