If you have stumbled across this blog post, chances are you are unhappy withEHS-software-migration your current software provider. Perhaps their support team is not as responsive as you would like or the system itself is not adapting to your growing business’ needs. We will go over the various reasons for wanting a switch below, but there is one crucial fact you should keep in mind as you are searching for a new provider: whatever the reason(s) you have for switching, do not expect the transition to be trouble-free.

    How easy would it be, for example, to replace your organization’s current email service? How would you store or migrate the countless internal emails your team members have sent in the past? What if you found out halfway through the migration process that the proposed solution did not have a scheduling capability or the downtime was longer than you could tolerate?

    For responsible EHS managers and their organizations, changing software providers is no less complicated, and it only becomes more complicated the more dependent they are on substandard software. Thankfully, there are providers out there who are aware of this reality and put procedures in place to simplify their migrating clients’ lives. Vigilant clients can also rely on a few telltale signs of untrustworthy companies (bound to become the software they eventually switch out of) to spot and avoid them altogether.

    Table of Contents

    Why Companies Change Software Providers

    How to Choose a Software Provider to Work with Long-Term

    Why is Switching EHS/System Software So Difficult

    How ERA Makes Switching EHS/System Software Easier

    Why Companies Change Software Providers

    Migrating from one software system to another is a costly and lengthy endeavor for any company, regardless of the industry in which it operates. The decision to switch likely hinges on more than a competitor’s tactical pricing or brand-new feature; usually, migrating clients are immutably dissatisfied with their providers after voicing their concerns several times, to no avail.

    The following are a few common reasons software clients have for transitioning to a new system. We build on them using an EHS context, but the gist of each applies to any software system.

    The Software's Functionalities are Limited

    At ERA, we’ve had innumerable clients come to us complaining that their current providers offer “glorified databases”. Their systems merely store manually entered data instead of performing the calculations and building the reports that EHS managers require to meet internal goals and fulfill government regulations. Their environmental management systems (EMS), for instance, could be asking them to work out which chemicals in their facilities exceed TRI thresholds and to prepare their Form Rs all on their own, essentially turning the user into a programmer. As a result, report generation hours quickly add up, costing companies thousands of dollars in man-hours (in addition to the cost of the software platform).

    Moreover, users in this situation are often unable to get help from their providers or find themselves forced to invest in training hours and/or data entry/report generation on demand.

    The Software is Not Turnkey

    For the most part, the list of reports that manufacturers submit to the government, as well as the required fields in these reports, stay the same year over year. They are standard and, as such, reporters should not have to build them from scratch every time. Doing so leads them to wonder why there is no automated solution to such a repetitive task, and they start to question whether the software they have purchased is really a complete product.

    Generating these reports also introduces the risk of human error. Users who perform the calculations themselves rather than letting an automated system do it for them can input an incorrect value or fail to catch an anomalous record. Errors like these have the potential to snowball into audits and penalties further down the line.

    What’s worse, in isolated, single-tenant systems (usually true of non-turnkey software offerings), these errors go undetected. Unless the regulatory authority that received the report points them out and the user remembers to fix them, the thought process that led to their appearance is simply not addressed. On the other hand, multi-tenant systems (like ERA!), wherein multiple customers and databases are served with a single instance of the software, benefit from the interplay between users. If one user finds and reports an error (or a bug in the system), the software provider can fix it instantly across all client databases.


    The Software Holds User Data Hostage

    In short, there are providers who restrict access to their clients’ data once it makes its way into the system. They may offer a complete and web-based EHS compliance experience, from data entry to report and KPI generation, as long as the user remains within the confines of the software. If they wish to download a snapshot of their data to their hardware, whatever the rationale, the provider simply refuses to allow them to do so.

    We have even heard from one of our current clients that their previous provider charged them a substantial fee for them to extract their data… their own data!

    While it is true that this limitation is mainly a concern for those users who have already decided to switch out of their current platform, it also serves as a reminder that access and ownership of inputted data is a critical talking point at the time of contracting (see the “Address Potential Issues During Contracting” section below).

    There are No Employee Turnover Procedures in Place

    Every software user has at least one designated tech support and/or regulatory specialist they reach out to any time the software malfunctions or they experience issues with data entry or report generation. Should that person suddenly leave the company or move to a different role, the user may be left without a knowledgeable point of contact capable of delivering the required assistance. Staff turnover can thereby result in client dissatisfaction, namely when it is not handled properly—for instance, if an inexperienced team member or a foreign specialist without mastery of the local regulations and pain points is selected to replace the outgoing staff.

    Users who feel they cannot get the help they need are willing to take a chance on a new provider who promises a better support base (and can prove they have one), even if that provider doesn’t know the ins and outs of the company at all.

    The Provider Versions the Software

    Versioning refers to the practice of restricting new software features and necessary updates behind a paywall. In the long run, this business model is unsustainable for users: those unable to afford the switch are stuck with an obsolete product that receives little to no maintenance or support from its developers, whereas those who pay the extra fees are locked into erratic contracts that eat into their profits.

    From a financial perspective, it makes more sense for users of versioned software to look for a provider (like ERA!) that incorporates new features and recent updates to environmental regulations at no extra cost and without additional installation requirements. Users also prefer this approach from an emotional standpoint, as it affirms a provider’s life-long commitment to their clients’ success… actions are always louder than words!


    How to Choose a Software Provider to Work With Long-Term

    There are three checks you can put in place before signing on the dotted line in order to avoid purchasing software you will ultimately leave behind. We recommend applying all three of them each time you go out looking for a provider.

    Speak with a Consultant

    Like every other user, consultants deal with a software’s imperfections and restrictions day in, day out. Unlike other users, they are in contact with a larger share of any given software market by virtue of representing multiple clients with varying providers. Put these two conditions together and you are left with an ideal judge of quality—a person or company who knows quality software when they see it and has the requisite exposure to identify the best software for a given need.

    Reaching out to one or several implementation consultants in your industry for their appraisal of the software you are thinking about purchasing is an essential best practice. You may also find that one of them offers precisely the kind of cost-effective assistance you were after!

    For a list of trustworthy EHS consultants, visit our Consulting Partners webpage.

    Address Potential Issues During Contracting

    As mentioned above, access and ownership of data can become a point of contention or, worse, a cause of outright client dissatisfaction if it is not discussed and agreed upon from the outset. That is why we recommend you approach the contract negotiation stage (after selecting a provider that fulfills your requirements functionality-wise) with a checklist of demands that you suspect were left to the perhaps inconspicuous fine print.

    Some examples of topics that would be good to discuss at this stage are:

    • Data ownership and access
    • Turnover procedures and points of contact
    • Updates and software versioning
    • Templates and capability to override the system
    • Other terms and conditions

    Beware of Evasive Responses

    Knowing what you know now about the probability of “hidden” insufficiencies and taking into account the likely complexity of transferring all your data from one system to another, how would you react if a software provider responded to your inquiry into their migration procedures with a curt “Just buy the software and we will figure out how to migrate you later”?

    Hint: you should expect additional costs further down the line.

    Whenever the topic of data migration inevitably comes up in a conversation with a potential provider, be skeptical of easy answers. It might sound counterintuitive, but the more time and effort a provider allocates to thoroughly assessing the magnitude of the work, the cheaper it is for you. Gaps in the definition of the scope of the work are opportunities for the provider to claim they were not aware of a difficulty inherent in your data (for example, your facility having too many sources) and charge a fee for resolving it.

    In other words, always request a complete cost assessment prior to purchase. It will give you a clear idea as to the importance the provider places on your data and transparency in general.

    Why is Switching EHS/System Software So Difficult?

    A lot has been written online about the intricacies of software migration, in part because anyone who has ever used and relied on a particular software for an extended period of time struggles to picture life without it (either changing providers or getting rid of it altogether). Therefore, we will limit ourselves to an overview of the common explanations for this difficulty.

    1. Large quantity of data: The more data, reports, and KPIs, the more dependent the user is on their existing system, and the more complex and lengthier the migration to a new one.

    2. Downtime: Businesses for which constant uptime is essential must either coordinate the sunsetting of their old software with the take-up of the new one or have a stretch of overlap (in the EHS field, a reporting period, ideally) where they pay for both services. The first option is risky and may underestimate the amount of training, setup, and debugging needed to onboard the new software; the second option is considerably more expensive.

    3. The black box: It is not uncommon for clients to dump data into their software as if it were a figurative black box. In these cases, clients rarely feel like they own it. They have a poor understanding of the software’s internal logic and often fear being unable to find a one-for-one replacement. If they do settle on a new provider, they struggle to communicate the full breadth of the functionalities they seek to replace, creating friction and prolonging implementation.

    4. Multiple systems: Keeping data (such as product specifications, usages, etc.) in more than one system vastly complicates its migration, as the provider of the new system has to substitute the functionalities of multiple software and recreate their relationships, in addition to transferring the data in its entirety.

    5. Lack of executive buy-in: A B2B software’s end users are rarely the people who decide to purchase it. This means that those directly affected by a software’s limitations (including the five listed above) have to convince their company’s leaders that the organization’s needs exceed their current software’s capabilities. What’s more, they will have to frame their arguments from a financial standpoint, justifying the search for and eventual purchase of a new software to frugal executives whose budgets may already be tight (partially due to paying for the existing software).


    How ERA Makes Switching EHS/System Software Easier

    Now that you are familiar with some of the typical reasons for changing providers, the laboriousness inherent in this decision, and a few tips to steer clear of unsustainable software, we are ready to go over the ways ERA addresses software migration challenges with its four-step process.


    EHS Data Migration – Step One: Review

    The starting point for any software migration project is to review the magnitude of the stored data and the ease with which it can be obtained from the previous provider. As long as it is available to the client in some form of database (Excel, SQL, Microsoft Access, etc.), ERA can take it and use it to evaluate the scope of the required work. It varies significantly based on the size of the client—one small site calls for a fraction of the man-hours and software capacity needed to migrate a large enterprise with multiple facilities in several states.

    If you have purchased another software, this would also be the appropriate time to bring up data ownership and access concerns, not to mention guaranteeing you will never have to pay for your own data (see “The Software Holds User Data Hostage” and “Address Potential Issues During Contracting” sections above).

    This conversation, however, is redundant when working with ERA. We always write in our contracts that the client is the owner of the data entered into the system, the way we have been doing since our beginnings in 1995.

    EHS Data Migration – Step Two: Upfront Assessment

    Once we have the data, we perform a heavy-duty discovery from start to finish to determine how clean it is and how complicated it will be to recreate the facility/ies in our system (in terms of quantity of sources, permit types, reports, etc.).

    Considering that the extent of migration varies from client to client, we take the time to discuss some crucial questions with the client, such as “How much of the historical data should be transferred?”, “Is the system being 100% replaced?”, and “When will access to the current system expire?”. We use the answers to these questions to draft an upfront assessment of the magnitude of the work, cost- and time-wise.

    It is at this stage that seemingly “little” differences (a source accidentally not accounted for in the list of sources to migrate, for example) can add up and snowball into more migration hours. Other companies might tack on the cost of these man-hours to the initial bill, claiming the client did not properly communicate the full breadth of migration requirements (see “Beware of Evasive Responses” section above).

    At ERA, we absorb the cost of any mistakes/omissions made during the discovery and assessment process, sticking to the initial, agreed-on valuation for our client’s peace of mind.

    EHS Data Migration – Step Three: Tandem Implementation

    The scope of migration defined, the next step is to transfer the data and its internal logic to the ERA software.

    Here, we take a markedly different approach than several of our competitors: ERA has its clients participate in the migration process, which is carried out in tandem.

    Our tandem implementation methodology aims to familiarize clients with their new software from the moment they purchase it and discontinue their old one. We work around their schedules (and their consultants’, where applicable) to meet with clients and ensure they understand where the data is going and how to best utilize it. This effort dispels the notion that their software is a black box with limited functionalities; we firmly believe that the more training sessions the client attends and the more exposure they have to the software (or any software, for that matter), the bigger the benefit (ROI) they receive from it.

    Migrating data hand-in-hand with our scientists has the added advantage of putting clients in direct contact with their technical support liaisons, establishing a fruitful working relationship and giving them various support avenues in case of staff turnover (see “There are No Employee Turnover Procedures in Place” section above).

    EHS Data Migration – Step Four: Verification and Start-Up

    Lastly, we thoroughly inspect the data in our software to confirm it is equivalent to the data the client provided us with at the beginning of the process. The client is then free to start making use of the ERA software as they see fit.

    To incentivize clients to enter data regularly and avoid data dumping immediately prior to a reporting deadline, ERA scientists handhold them during the first couple of months (including the first upkeep) until they get the hang of entering it on their own.

    We also suggest to clients that they interact with the software on an (at least) monthly basis, as this frequency paints an accurate picture of their operations and environmental footprint and gives them time to identify and gradually resolve issues along the way.

    Step four marks the end of the migration/implementation process. We then encourage clients to contact us for any general or support queries they may have.

    Get the Help You Need

    Do the pain points we presented above sound familiar to you? Is your EHS software provider giving you a hard time whenever you generate a report, download your data, or ask for assistance?

    ERA is well aware of the difficulties some EHS managers face in their day-to-day data entry and analysis efforts… difficulties that detract from the all too important work of keeping employees safe and environmental impacts at a minimum.

    If you would like to speak to an implementation expert about the limitations of your current provider and how migration to one of ERA’s software offerings can resolve them, schedule a call today.


    Contributing Scientists: 

    sarah-sajedi erin-manitou


    Andres Cabrera Rucks
    Post by Andres Cabrera Rucks
    May 7, 2024
    Andres is a Science Content Writer at ERA Environmental Management Solutions.