Reinvent the Environmental Management System wheel?

    "Reinventing the wheel" can be a huge drain of energy, resources & time. (Image credit: pasukaru76)

    Successful businesses realize that impressive environmental data management is an important priority for longevity. They also realize that a solid environmental management system is serious work. Naturally, this means many of them are turning to technology to develop a system that enhances their reporting and compliance. 

    When they decide that a software-based environmental management system (EMS) is the way forward, they inevitably face an age-old dilemma:

    "Is it time to reinvent the (EMS) wheel?"

    In other words, is it time to build a whole new EMS program from the group up, made specifically for your facility?

    When most executives think of building their own legacy-style environmental management software, the're looking for three qualities:

    • Complete customization
    • Data security
    • A sense of control

    Who would blame them? These three elements are indeed exceptionally important to any EMS.

    In fact, you wouldn’t want to use any software program that didn’t offer a secure way of handling your data or that made you feel powerless without it.

    Theoretically then, building your own EMS seems ideal...

    ...but then things get complicated.

    Consider the Caveman

    Consider that first ingenious caveman who fashioned the first wheel. No doubt, he didn't get it right the first time. It most likely took many failed attempts to get anything half way decent.

    He probably spent an untold amount of time chiselling away at a stone slab, only to find it won’t roll down the hill.

    Granted, things might have gone smoother if he had a few consultants on-call, but the simple matter stands: When building something from scratch, there is always a learning curve, there are always mistakes & there is always the fear that the organization will be left stuck-in-the-mud when the "wheel-builder" leaves.

    The difference between the those early rock'n'rollers (excuse the terrible pun) and your business is that you don’t have decades to get things right. You need amazing results as quickly as possible and with as little investment as possible.

    Things need to get done right, the first time.

    Most businesses don’t have that perfect combination of resources, time, and expertise to make their dream in-house EMS solution.

    How many businesses have a team of environmental specialists who just happen to be software developers? Conversely, it can be just ineffective to have a squad of software developers design an environmental program without having the necessary environmental expertise behind them.

    Unfortunately, when your in-house system breaks down or doesn’t quite work correctly, there’s nothing you can do but throw more money at the problem or just live with faults it creates.

    Neither of these options really helps your business get more sustainable or makes your life easier. It can be like trying to race with a limp foot: you  might make it to the finish line, but you sure aren’t going to win.

    Frequently, businesses end up with expensive, passable, but flawed programs that never live up to the concept set out at the beginning of the project.

    It might work for one site, but not others. Or it will only work until you reach a certain amount of environmental records, and then will slow to a crawl.

    Realizing EMS Priorities

    Let’s go back to those three needs that everyone is looking for in an EMS: security, customization, and control.

    These same things can be found by working with the right EMS developers, at a fraction of the cost and time commitment. The key is to work with someone that has already invested years and earned valuable experience. Someone who has already encountered and overcome all the problems associated with developing an EMS and helped others along the way.

    The reality is that those three values are not about who builds the software, but how good the software itself is.

    A great environmental management system should give you everything you need, whether you built it yourself or relied on the help of someone else.

    One thing is clear though: one option is faster, easier, and more cost effective.

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    This Blog Was Co-Authored By:


    Alex Chamberlain
    Post by Alex Chamberlain
    May 31, 2012
    Alex Chamberlain is a writer for ERA Environmental Management Solutions.