5 Steps to Ensure the Success of Global EMIS Projects
With shareholders and customers increasingly demanding sustainability and non-financial operational data, large organizations are realizing that such information needs to be easily available, standardized and consistent across their multiple operations in locations around the globe. In order to do this, many are embarking on projects to implement environmental management information systems (EMIS) and drive operational excellence.
In the natural course of doing business, companies are being asked for information about sustainability performance, and the data needs to be available quickly and it needs to be of the same quality as financial information. The only way an organization can do that is to have a standardized, enterprise-wide system that allows a company to recognize and track what is happening at every level of the organization.
An EMIS underpins a company’s management system and gives the company a place to outline its policies, risks, and performance.
For example, if an organization has hundreds of plants across the world, and each plant is left alone to choose how they’re going to collect and manage hundreds or thousands of data points, everything being reported from the plants will be inconsistent: there is no way of knowing if data from plant one is measured the same way as plant two.
With these thoughts in mind, I’ve put together 5 steps that will help you ensure a successful EMIS project:
Step #1. Know whether your project is strategic or tactical.
Every day we see requests from customers for projects that focus on one small EHS process being executed by a small number of experts within the company. And the facts are that those processes interrelate with other processes. There is no doubt that all the processes touch each other. Customers go after one small tiny thing without thinking strategically. Understand if whether what you are doing is strategic or tactical. When you think tactically – that is, the project vision is set out to simply collect incident information or improve compliance auditing – your project will end up funded as a tactical project aligned with your vision. That is starkly different than a project with a long-term vision to reduce the number of systems and processes that underpin the current operational excellence management system and improve the quality, visibility and velocity of information available for your operational excellence program.
Developing the long-term vision is critical to setting the direction of the project.
Step #2. Effectively communicate the value of the project to your organization.
It’s a challenge for companies to communicate value to the right executive, but they need to know why they are investing, and why now? Executives have multiple choices on where to invest, and the projects that are successful are those that clearly communicate the business value – both tangible and intangible gains.
Step #3. Bring together the right people within an organization.
Without the right groups, a project’s vision can not be fully defined. Requirements of the project, delivery, long-term care – all are dependent on multiple groups:
–IT: How does this fit with IT policies? How will this interoperate with existing systems?
–Facility EHS: do you have the right functional requirements? Does each group agree that those are the correct requirements?
–Corporate & business line EHS: what other enterprise-level obligations are required?
–Representatives from teams around the globe: what are regional differences and how might they affect the project?
Remember, when you’re putting an EMIS into place, you have to look ahead five, ten or fifteen years. You can’t just have the resources currently. You have to make sure you have the right people, the right systems and the right budgets in place to maintain it and keep it up to date.
Step #4. Pick the right partner to support your project.
Just as you will now have a long-term vision and plan, choose a partner who has worked on projects with similar long-term effects. Be aware that the term “enterprise-wide project” can refer to a project that touches hundreds of users and sometimes includes interoperability with global systems like an ERP or plant operating systems, but it can also refer to a project that supports a single EHS manager who is responsible for a small group of users. A true enterprise-scale project includes people on a daily basis working within the system, not just in plants and facilities, but in IT, corporate and beyond.
When investigating potential partners, talk with their customers in-depth. Ask how the system actually works for each group within an organization, who uses the software, how many people touch it, how long it is meant to last, what level of executives know about the project.
Step #5. Create a long-term communications plan.
EMIS projects encompass cultural changes; people need constant reminders of why you’re implementing the project and get their help with solving problems as the new processes take root. This requires steady feedback and communication between the project “sponsor,” functional users, IT customers and other stakeholders.
Ultimately, the success of a project can often be traced right back to step one: are you being tactical or strategic?
When a company’s goal for a project is to develop an inexpensive way to collect data, they are thinking tactically. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; if you’re just beginning to think about data – defining it, collecting it, measuring it – you’re likely not ready for an enterprise-wide global process.
As companies grow and mature, their strategic vision might include phrases such as: “We’re trying to increase up-time of our operating plants because we know that if we reduce the number of injuries and the cost of injuries, we can apply that capital back to the business, making the business more competitive,” or, “Next time there’s downtime, we won’t lose all our compliance information because it will be in a system and not in a single employee’s head.”
A company thinking this way is likely to implement a successful EMIS project, one that gives a disciplined approach to managing this information, the ability to use the information to learn proven, best-in-class processes, and ultimately to drive greater operational efficiencies.
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