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Four (less obvious) tips for selecting the right sustainability software

Sustainability software helps companies collect, manage, report and ultimately drive positive change using a variety of data sources and areas. When we speak about sustainability data, we’re not just looking at environmental sustainability but instead, data related to a sustainable world in general including governance, health & safety, supply chain and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).

‘Sustainability’ is such a broad word and means different things to different people. There are now a truly vast number of software solutions on the market helping covering this broad sustainability, environmental and health and safety area in order to support companies driving positive change through the efficient use of data.

Selecting and implementing the right tool can be a long, grey hair inducing and costly exercise but as with everything, the more time taken at the beginning of this process, the more likely the system is to start providing ROI and adding value to your data management process.

With that said, SustainIt have lots of experience helping clients plan, search and implement large software solutions.

Here are four (less obvious) things to keep in mind when selecting and implementing a new sustainability platform:

Cultural Fit

Cultural fit may not be something that you think of as important when selecting software but it can be a key factor. The sustainability and EHS software market is vast and varied and contains a mix of large enterprise solutions who’ve developed out of a stringent risk and compliance culture to more niche, start-up orientated businesses with a flexible user-focused culture and everything in between. The difficulties in maintaining a strong relationship between a company and their software provider is one of the main reasons we’re in business today; a good cultural fit will help to build a strong relationship that will last.

The rapid acceleration of mergers and acquisitions in this space is also something to consider as this could impact your company positively or negatively.

Understand your internal procurement process

Involving the right stakeholders in the project to select and implement a new software is key, especially when a project like this usually involves a variety of departments: Sustainability, Legal, Finance, Procurement and any other department requiring data being put into or pulled from the software.  Building a cross-functional team and understanding the processes required by all members early in the project is key.

This is even more critical if you’re part of a large organisation looking to purchase an ‘enterprise solution’, that is, a central digitalized solution for all your non-financial data and reporting.

Understand your critical requirements

Start by building a detailed and agreed requirements specification. Once defined, weighting your requirements becomes a vital step in being able to quantify the responses from software vendors. Companies tend to weight requirements using a scale similar to this one: ‘must have’, ‘should have’, ‘could have’ which is helpful but from our experience, defining your ‘absolute’ or ‘critical’ requirements are a must. These could be technical requirements such as ‘must comply with ISO 14:001 standards’ or functional such as ‘must have a library of emission factors updated automatically within the system’. Understanding these and the expected workflows from all stakeholders will save time and help progress the decision making and implementation process. Even the most complex RFP for an enterprise sustainability data management system can boil down to how well the software meets these critical requirements. Many other workflows and parts of the system can be configured later and we often see an unofficial decision to skip over non-critical requirements and focus on the critical requirements when choosing between solutions.

Current versus Future scope

This can be really difficult, especially when trying to create a cross-departmental roadmap for the system where you’re almost certainly going to be learning as you go. But being aligned internally will help you be clear externally when speaking to software vendors. This links to the critical requirements tip but goes further. A large-scale system implementation will usually be approached in a phased way; identifying what your company could not live without straight away versus what you configure later on. Being really clear when speaking to software companies will also help them provide a more accurate quotation as well as advice. Another benefit to taking a phased approach is that, following initial implementation, you and your stakeholders will have a much better grasp of the system’s capabilities and the conversation about changes and increased scope of the product will be more targeted and less conceptual in the long-run.

Increasingly software vendors are encouraging companies to start with a slimmed down version of their tool in order to accelerate implementation and adoption and to start embedding the system into the company. Whilst this is clearly a sales ploy in some areas, there are huge benefits to this approach in general.

The sustainability and EHS software market is vast with many different solutions available. As well as building a detailed requirements specification and engaging your internal stakeholders, finding the right cultural fit and meeting your critical and future needs are all vital to ensure that you choose the right solution first time. At SustainIt we have the expertise to ensure your success and our free, independent GoMarketWise tool can help get you started. Get in touch to find out more.

By Callum Rees, Strategic Account Manager at SustainIt

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