Environmental software leverages technology to overcome one of the biggest challenges of EMS implementation: the challenge of managing large quantities of data from a variety of sources. An environmental management system is an indispensable part of providing the ability to monitor, manage and report metrics on resource and financial expenditures. The best EMS software platforms streamline the collection of diverse data inputs while providing robust analytical features and opportunities for engagement, follow-ups and goal-tracking. This helps the organization monitor progress towards sustainability goals and identify opportunities for improvement.
The three main components of EMS are reporting, monitoring, and engagement. Broadly speaking, reporting refers to collecting data and setting environmental goal savings. Monitoring includes data analysis and tracking progress towards those goals. Finally, engagement entails the output of relevant information in order to initiate a response or alter behavior.
One of the most important parts of implementing an EMS protocol is choosing the right software platform among an abundance of options. When researching a catalog of possible providers, keep in mind that EMS software platforms offer a range of functionalities and features. It’s important to find a provider whose technology aligns with the reporting needs of the business, ensuring that the software is appropriate for the business size, industry type, and specific sustainability goals. Therefore, making this important choice requires a combined understanding of how the platform works, and how it will address the sustainability needs of the business.
For those interested in the broader steps to implementing an EMS protocol, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has put together a general step-by-step guide to the process.
In this article, we will focus mainly on making the decision to implement a software solution for environmental safety management. Read on for some of the most important questions to research and ask when choosing an EMS software provider.
An EMS works by collecting information from a variety of sources and plugging this data back into the system. Therefore, it is crucial that the technology is capable of tracking the most relevant metrics that go into sustainability calculations. In order to define what kind of data needs to be monitored, look at the data the organization is already tracking and whether it is providing a sufficiently clear idea of energy expenditure. The actual software program can be configured to accept a variety of different inputs, from instant smart-meter readings or sensors to manual-input variables. It is vital to ensure that the software is able to track the types of metrics that the organization values most. Many EMS technologies come with a baseline set of features with the potential to add-on more features to suit specific client needs. Broadly speaking, the choice of software often comes down to the scope of features it provides. If you are looking for a top-to-bottom sustainability solution, you will likely be disappointed with a provider who specializes in tracking one type of metric, such as energy consumption only.
The monitoring and engagement functions of the EMS rely on analyzing the reported data. EMS software collects a wide range of data, so it is crucial to define and prioritize the data that will be most useful and relevant to the company. The monitoring function analyzes the collected data relative to a series of key performance indicators (KPIs). This comparison yields data that can help evaluate the success of environmental tracking and saving initiatives, flagging processes or equipment that are using excessive amounts of energy. Beyond that, a software’s monitoring function can also help identify problems with equipment: whether it is operating less than optimally, in need of repair, or failing. This can help prevent critical issues and reduce operating expenses. The monitoring function can often be customized to account for variations in performance due to external factors. For instance, seasonal fluctuations can affect a variable such as equipment temperature, so that the range of acceptable readings may vary depending on whether it is a hot or cold day. All in all, the best EMS software choice will report on the desired metrics and objectives, reduce operating costs, flag problems, and account for potential externalities.
An overlooked but critical aspect of selecting an EMS software is the compatibility of the technology with the workplace, teams, and employees that will be using it every single day. Regardless of how advanced the technology is, it cannot reach its full potential unless it is compatible with the way employees already perform job-related tasks. There are many sub-questions that accompany this part of the decision-making process. For instance, does the software facilitate mobile use, allowing employees to engage with it on-the-go, or does it require employees to be largely desk-bound? Imposing an incompatible technology can greatly impair the productivity of the EMS and the data it yields. Finally, EMS technology also offers forms of dynamic engagement. This can be anything from a summary of resource use and tips on reducing energy loss, to real-time alerts that help shorten response time and address immediate problems. This function may be important for those companies who would like to raise awareness of the link between behavior and energy conservation, and how that impacts both the organization’s carbon footprint and its bottom line.
As mentioned above, the EMS software should be compatible with the way employees already work. In addition to that, a further step to success is folding the technology into the company’s culture. The EMS software is much more likely to reach its full potential if it is embraced by employees, rather than simply accepted by them. Full employee buy-in makes the entire EMS initiative, of which the technology is only one component, more likely to succeed. Clearly, bringing employees up to speed on navigating the software is a crucial part of implementation through change management, especially if this is the first time the EMS is being transitioned to a software platform. Ideally, this onboarding should be completed well before the official launch date, knowing that there will likely be a learning curve for many employees. During this time, it is imperative to solicit and acknowledge employee feedback to help identify any gaps or confusion that may exist. Addressing these concerns prior to implementation can help reduce unexpected or serious concerns when the system is up and running. It is important to weigh two competing considerations: choosing a more complicated operating system that ticks all the boxes for reporting, monitoring, and engagement, and the length of time that the company should dedicate to training employees on the new technology.
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