It’s more than just technology
There are many examples of failed digital technology initiatives in the EHS industry. Poorly designed digital management systems that leave users frustrated or disappointed, automation that fails to yield efficiencies and shiny gadgets that quickly become redundant.
There is more to EHS digital technology initiatives than just the technology itself. Indeed, today many technologies have advanced so far that they are often not the weakest link. Instead, organizations are often burdened by “solution overload” or overwhelmed with “digital paralysis.” So many challenges today are met with an app designed to meet them. Today’s challenge is navigating, coordinating and integrating these multitude of solutions.
Furthermore, it is often other, non-digital factors that determine an initiative’s success, such as:
- Full understanding of the problem to be solved, and therefore the requirements and acceptance criteria for new technologies
- Business-led stakeholder consultation, involvement and education
- Engagement of the required digital and subject matter knowledge and experience
- Presence of a broader digital strategy that considers EHS needs and impacts
- Procurement decisions (e.g., to hire or buy) that improve return on investment, to extract improved longevity and value from technologies
Navigating through these additional factors will increasingly become a core requirement for implementation of EHS technology or digital solutions, as EHS professionals strive to increase the benefits from, and limit the negative impacts of, digital technologies.
What does successful EHS technology implementation look like?
Successful EHS technology initiatives:
- Fulfill key stakeholders’ expectations and objectives
- Improve EHS performance
- Effectively aid EHS risk management
- Integrate into wider business operations
- Yield responsive engagement and adoption across the organization
More specifically, this can result in outcomes such as:
- Enhanced EHS risk management leading to lower injury rates and improved worker conditions
- Increased efficiency and EHS process improvement, relieving resources to focus on more material matters
- Improved decision-making, based on rigorous and real-time data to better allocate resources
- Better workforce capability in EHS technology, resulting in transformative technology and problem-solving skills
Where to from here?
It is a challenge for EHS functions to effectively harness digital technology for providing sustained improvements in EHS performance. But the EHS profession should do that to effectively contribute to the organizational success going forward.
With so many digital technologies emerging, knowing where to start can be difficult. There are no simple solutions; one size does not fit all and one shiny, new gadget is not going to lead to long-term improvement.
So, what should organizations do to successfully leverage digital technologies to better understand and manage EHS risks and reduce harm?
Have a clear understanding of the problem to be solved, and what “solved” looks like
Not unlike incidents, hazards or risks, without a clear understanding of the issue, the requirements cannot be effectively identified.
Assess their current EHS digital maturity
A leapfrog strategy rarely works in digital; without identifying the current state, it is difficult to map a clear, achievable progression plan. Mapping includes assessing the current digital systems as many organizations harbor unused, remnant software licenses and other legacy technologies.
Have a strategic view of digital technology
Design coordinated and integrated initiatives and effective change management processes that are designed to achieve organizational goals — not just solve a specific problem in isolation.
Seek integrated, automated EHS digital systems and solutions
These should support real-time, customizable and accurate data for informed decision-making. Systems need to be robust (so they can be trusted) and engaging (so the workforce wants to use them).
Invest in digital capability and leverage external support
Nobody knows it all, and it is not the role of EHS professionals to know it all. Instead those seeking to leverage digital technology to improve EHS should understand their needs and strategically engage support as required. This includes seeking out trusted advisors that understand the elements required for success. Accessing the right support to achieve successful initiatives, and to build an integrated digital architecture, is critical.
As this article shows, successful implementation of digital innovation requires more than just technology. It requires three elements — subject matter knowledge and experience, technology that works and a human-centered approach.
EY EHS teams work with organizations to help adapt their approach and proactively leverage digital technology to improve EHS outcomes.
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