EHS Management

How to Buy EHS Software Right the First Time: Create a Killer RFP

Today, companies across the globe are focusing in on Sustainability and Operational Excellence, which has led to a renewed interest in the work that Environmental, Health and Safety (EHS) professionals are responsible for. For years, EHS has been seen as the cost of doing business, but now companies are seeing the value their EHS teams bring to operations, development and future growth.

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What has lagged are systems and technology to help manage all of this work. You know an EHS software solution could help you streamline processes, engage employees, and ensure regulatory EHS compliance – but taking your software project from vision to reality can be tough, especially if it’s your first time spearheading a digital transformation initiative.

A significant portion of your EHS software journey will be spent navigating the procurement and vendor selection process, which may include developing a Request for Proposal (RFP).  So, what should you consider when evaluating software solutions? Let’s take a closer look at this question and arm you with a shortlist of often overlooked but essential questions to include in your RFP.

First things first – what’s an RFP?

In many organizations, the Procurement Department is required to solicit bids from at least three qualified vendors for any project, including software projects. This is what formally kicks off the Request for Proposal process.

Think of your RFP as a tool to tell the vendors what you’re looking for in a solution and their opportunity to provide you with details about their solutions. Remember, this is one of the main tools you will use to evaluate vendors to ensure their solution is the best fit for your team’s unique needs.

Determine your evaluation criteria and remember: think partnership – not just product

Evaluating software vendors can be tricky. It can feel like you’re comparing apples to oranges or worse.  Your Procurement Specialist will ask you to develop your evaluation criteria, so the vendor selection process is objective and defensible. Be aware: price  will be the most heavily weighted criterion so avoid looking at this first if at all possible. Investing in software to manage some of your most important corporate initiatives – programs that keep workers, partners, and even customers safe – requires you to look beyond price, features, and functionality.

You need to think partnership – not just product. Consider the qualitative aspects of the vendors you’re evaluating, too. Things like industry expertise and customer satisfaction matter just as much as incident tracking and reporting capabilities. You’ll be working together for a long time and want to ensure you’re partnered with a vendor that truly understands your key initiatives and can help you achieve your long-term environmental, health, safety, and sustainability goals.

What should you include in your RFP?

Your RFP should ask vendors to address the following areas:

  • IT security
  • Your EHS requirements
  • Pricing
  • A copy of their terms and conditions
  • Company information – company size, revenue, and installed customer base that are similar to your business

At the same time, you should provide vendors with a complete list of IT security requirements that they are expected to meet, a list of your functional requirements with your ideal state as fully fleshed out as it can be and a list of items you want to know about the company. By doing this, you will avoid getting back ambiguous and confusing RFP responses.

7 overlooked but essential questions to include in your EHS software RFP

Ultimately, it’s your job to create the RFP so before you begin, make sure you have a solid understanding of both the EHS software marketplace (a good place to start is reviewing the Verdantix Green Quadrant) and your project requirements.

Depending on your requirements, the questions you’ll want to ask the vendors on your shortlist will vary, but here are seven foundational questions to consider asking in addition to your standard questions about breadth and depth of functionality:

  • How many certified EHSQ professionals (CIH, CSP, CHMM) do you have in-house to design, implement, and support the solution?
  • What is your software implementation methodology?
  • Who will handle my implementation – industry experts or general consultants?
  • What is your customer satisfaction score (also called Net Promoter Score, or NPS)?
  • Do you have a product roadmap?
  • How involved are your customers in shaping the roadmap?
  • How do you encourage and share industry best practices with your customers?

Next Steps

Once you’ve narrowed down your evaluation criteria and created your RFP, ask all the vendors you’re evaluating to complete it. While the procurement and selection process can feel arduous at times, keep in mind that the vendors’ responses to your questions will ultimately lead you to the best solution for your organization and help you measurably improve your EHS performance. As someone who previously bought an off-the-shelf environmental management solution, trust me when I tell you that doing this work up front will save you a ton of headaches in the future.

Download the RFP Template

To learn what else to include in your RFP, download this sample RFP template for EHS software.

Ian CohenIan Cohen, MS, is the Product Marketing Manager responsible for Cority’s environmental and safety solutions. Before taking this role, Cohen was Cority’s Environmental Product Manager, where he was responsible for developing Cority’s environmental compliance and data management solutions.

Before joining Cority, Cohen was an environmental specialist at Florida Power & Light Company, a NextEra Energy, Inc., company, where he led the development, implementation, and management of various environmental management systems and programs. He is well versed in the development of enterprise environmental management information systems and is a subject matter expert in corporate sustainability, including program development, annual reporting, and stakeholder communications. He has earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology and a Master of Science in Environmental Science, both from The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.