On a recent webinar, the EHS manager of a mid-size oil and gas company described their environment, health and safety (EHS) software project. During the Q&A session, he was asked “How did you justify the project in terms of return on investment (ROI)?”
His response was a little surprising: the project was approved based largely on qualitative factors. It was a strategic decision, rather than one based purely on financial return. He said they used a lot of visuals to make the case to senior management, showing the inefficient methods that were being used to manage EHS work. This made the problem, and the risk to the business, starkly real to the decision-makers, and helped them buy in.
This was a good reminder that often there’s more to getting an EHS software project approved than crunching numbers and filling out the business case template. It’s also about understanding how such projects are approved in your corporate culture, then building alliances and senior management support in advance.
Lay the groundwork for the business case
If you’re planning an EHS software project, of course you should follow your company’s policies and procedures for getting an information technology (IT) investment approved. Most mid-size and large organizations have templates and approval processes for such projects. The output will likely show financial ROI figures, such as payback period and internal rate of return.
What can you do to help ensure the project gets approved, besides doing a great job on the business case? The essential ingredient is to pre-sell the concept to key stakeholders, especially senior management. Resistance to change is strong in many organizations. The project will have little chance of being realized without senior-level support, both financially and politically. Buy-in is key.
Align early and often
Pre-selling the concept for senior management buy-in will accomplish two wonderful things: 1.) the odds of the business case being approved will be maximized, and 2.) the chances the project will be successfully implemented will go way up because there will be meaningful executive sponsorship.
Here are three strategies you can use to help “soften the ground” and get buy-in on the project:
- Form alliances early- many parts of the business will be affected by the EHS initiative. R&D, manufacturing, and supply chain groups are examples, as well as staff functions like HR, finance, and IT. Their support and resources will be needed for implementation and on-going sustainment. Identify the senior leaders of the relevant stakeholder groups and float your ideas early on. Get their feedback, and even invite criticism. Then refine your concept and set up formal stakeholder meetings to request buy-in.
- Partner with IT – we have seen consistently that one of the hallmarks of successful EHS software projects is a close partnership between the EHS and IT teams. Seek guidance from IT early in the planning process. In most cases, they will be actively involved in building the business case and project approval. Not to mention implementation!
- Align with company business strategy and metrics – understand what your company’s mission and key business initiatives are, and show how the EHS IT investment will help achieve overarching business goals. Focus on the agenda of senior management. For example, align with the ongoing operational excellence program, or emphasize how supply chain risks will be mitigated.
In the individual stakeholder buy-in meetings, tailor your message to show how the project will help that person achieve their key performance metrics beyond safety and environmental ones. For example, talk about return on assets, return on capital employed, employee engagement, market share, etc. – whatever is most important to that stakeholder.
Without senior management buy-in, there will be a big risk that the project never sees the light of day, or if does, that it will fail. These risks can be controlled by doing the ground work needed to gain financial and political support. The effort will be worth it when the project is a success!
For more tips on implementing a successful health and safety program within your business, download our white paper “Critical Steps to a Successful Health & Safety Program”.