Digital innovations such as Cloud computing, mobile apps, Big Data Analytics, and the Internet of Things (IoT) are fundamentally changing industry business models and operations. This presents Environment, Health and Safety (EHS) and Operations business leaders with an unprecedented opportunity to leverage technology to improve safety and environmental performance while adding value to the business.
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As more companies embrace Digital Transformation, the EHS business function will end up participating one way or the other. The opportunity is to do so proactively, instead of being dragged along. So, let’s get started, right? There’s just one small sticking point: getting approval and funding. This requires the development and communication of a convincing, compelling business case for the initiative. Here are seven common business case pitfalls, which, if anticipated and managed, will help ensure success.
1. Disobeying the Local Rules
Most likely your company has a standard business case process and template. You should understand this in detail, and implement it by the book. This may include the models and ROI calculation tools needed to assemble data and crunch the numbers. A tip is to identify people, from both the business and IT, who have successfully navigated the process and model their approach. Learn from their experiences about what works and what doesn’t.
2. Failing to Understand Your Audience
You need to know who will review the business case, and who will make the final decision; whether it’s an individual or a group. Otherwise, you’re shooting in the dark. There may be some unwritten rules about the way things get done in your organization. Make a concerted effort to seek out influencers and insiders who can coach you in meeting the decision maker's expectations.
3. Focusing on Your Goals, Not the Organization’s
The business case should address how the investment will help achieve organizational goals. To do this, you need a clear understanding of the enterprise strategy, including mission, vision, value drivers, and strategic objectives. A good first step is to align the business case with key organizational initiatives like Operational Excellence, Lean Manufacturing, or whatever program your organization has going.
4. Not Bothering to Get Stakeholder Buy-In
The EHS initiative will impact many people in many parts of the business, in beneficial ways or not. Any time you spend to understand and align with the goals of the executive team, operations, frontline workers, and business functions such as quality, manufacturing, and maintenance will be well worth it. Their buy-in and support could make or break your initiative. This requires proactive engagement and helping understand what’s in it for them.
5. Viewing the Initiative as an IT project
An EHS software project isn't all about technology. The software is necessary, but not sufficient. It's more about enabling business transformation that improves how people work and drives business results. It’s best to focus the business case on the positive business results, not on the technology as a silver bullet.
6. Glossing Over the Risks Involved
Any improvement initiative involves organizational and process change and creates some degree of risk. Failure to adequately manage change is one of the big downfalls of improvement initiatives. This is especially true of initiative software and IT projects, which are notorious for not delivering the value promised. Addressing these risks head-on, and how to mitigate them, will make the business case more credible.
7. Boiling the Ocean
The business case is a journey, not a one-time event. The end goal of the journey is to get executive sponsorship of a master business case for a strategic approach to EHS management. But it’ll probably take a while to get there. The idea is to start where you are, get an early win, sustain it, and clearly communicate the results. Then rinse and repeat with additional initiatives that produce even higher value. Think big, and start small.
A successful business case for a technology-enabled EHS improvement initiative requires much more than calculating some cost and benefit numbers to plug into a business case template. The chances of success will be much greater if time and efforts are spent to align the business case with the company’s strategic objectives and get buy-in from key business stakeholders.
These and other strategies for getting the most value from EHS technology investments will be discussed on July 26th when EHS business leaders gather for a virtual roundtable meeting, "Excellence in EHS: Best Practices for EHS Technology Initiatives." If you are thinking about, engaged with, or trying to manage an EHS software initiative, this online meeting will provide valuable insights into what works and what doesn’t.