Four things to consider before you change your sustainability software

Four things to consider before you change your sustainability software

23 October 2014 by Ailsa Burns

Sustainability data management software has developed rapidly over the past decade and there are an abundance of options varying dramatically in functionality and cost.  As a sustainability, EHS and CSR professional you may have the luxury of choosing a software solution to help manage your sustainability and CSR data and for the creation of reports.  However, you may have inherited a sustainability data management tool and are pulling your hair out over the glitches and bugs in the system.  It may have reached the point where you want to throw the system out the window both figuratively and literally.  Surely, you ask yourself, a brand new system takes a minute fraction of the time and effort that you are currently wasting?  Surely your time is better spent focusing on developing an effective sustainability and CSR strategy for your company?    However, before you begin creating as much distance as possible between you and your current sustainability data management software solution, you need to consider the full implications of throwing the system out.


There are four things that you need to consider before you throw out your sustainability data management software solution.  Considering these four things will help you decide whether moving to a new system is worthwhile and identify the repercussions should you decide to move.  These considerations do not require the knowledge of a specialist software developer; they require you to fully understand your sustainability strategy.  By consciously assessing the functionality and support of your current system as well as cost and the potential for mediation, you can ensure that any decision you make is wrapped in reason and logic rather than frustration.



Have you taken a long hard look at the functionality available to you?  Is it really doing what you want?  Have you even thought about what you actually want it to do?  Sitting down and writing software requirements specification will be the most effective tool for you when assessing your software.  By fully understanding what you need and what you want in the future then you will be able to assess and critique the functionality of your current system.  Perhaps you already have clear software requirements but the goal posts have changed as your company is restructuring or has merged and therefore you have more than one system doing the same thing.  Again, you will need to review your software requirements but will only have to compare two software options.  



As well as the sustainability data management software itself, you need to consider the service of the software vendor.  Are you receiving the support you need?  Do you even know what support you need?  It might be that you are completely lost and you are not able to identify the solutions you need in order to rectify glitches and bugs in your system.  Is the support service up to scratch?  Is it suitable for the way you work, for example does the service level agreement (SLA) meet your requirements?    Receiving consultancy from a third party could clean up the issues that you are experiencing?  Also, by looking at the way you manage your processes, you might be able to bypass the need for external support.  By answering these questions you will be able to determine the gaps in your current software experience.  



It might be that a lot of the issues you are experiencing are associated with your relationship with your vendor.  You need to identify if there are any ways to improve your relationship.  A possible solution to this might be looking at a third party consultancy where you will have a dedicated technical contact who understands the vendor and can ensure that you do not pay developer costs when all you require is support time.  



Cost is usually the primary consideration for any company choosing a software solution.  It is integral that you look at both the face value cost of the sustainability data management software solution and the hidden costs associated with managing the system.  For example, does the company Sustainability Manager waste their time managing the system rather than developing and implementing a sustainability strategy?  Another hidden cost can be the time lost during the shutdown of your current system and the implementation of a new system.  Vendors can also charge you for exporting data to be moved to the new system.  Once you have assessed the hidden costs, you can consider the licensing fees.  How much do you currently spend on the system?  Are you prepared to spend more and what is your overall budget?  Are you maximising your costs in terms of fully utilising the system?  Perhaps you are not using all the modules you have available and therefore you can reduce these and free up budget.  It is important that you consider both the actual costs and the hidden costs before making a decision as throwing out your software solution could potentially be much more expensive than first thought.


Deciding whether to move from an old established sustainability data management software solution is a tough choice exacerbated by the fact that many sustainability, CSR and EHS professionals are not IT experts.  However, by standing back and reviewing your current system logically and critically, the conclusion and the business case can be more easily justified.    


A sustainability, EHS and CSR software health check may aid your decision making during this process.  

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