Software for HSE – Customized development v/s Off-the-shelf Application

HSE - Customized development

Dave firmly announced, “There’s no way that my safety team is going to adopt any ready-made software application. We’re proposing to customize the software for HSE management”. Tracy was quick to respond, “And we have absolutely no time or resources to spare for any customized software application. We’re proposing implementation of ready-made HSE software”

Sandcam Inc.** was a multinational corporation having 32 work sites/manufacturing facilities across 15 different geographies. A total of over 70,000 people were employed around the world.

The quarterly summit of managers from all geographies was always a volatile event. As a progressive corporation, Sandcam invited all its front line managers to come up with fresh ideas that would result in better productivity. The meet would inevitably bring out the best ideas from its truly committed employees and stakeholders. The theme for the quarter was the enhancement of HSE.

Dave Capello** was the Plant Head of the manufacturing facility of Sandcam Inc. in Mexico. He had received a strong mandate for automating several safety processes that were prevalent on his site. After studying the requirement for several weeks, he had firmly come to the conclusion that a custom developed software application was needed.

Tracy Renner** was the Warehouse Operations Manager for the same corporation, in Istanbul, Turkey. She had joined just about 6 months back. She had also received a mandate for procuring a software application that could be implemented quickly.  She was convinced that a ready-made software application would be able to do the job. She was backing it up because she had done it in her previous employment.

Most managers had come equipped with one or the other idea but Dave Capello had done extensive study and research for their propositions. He happened to be the top performer in their organization and routinely met his targeted results. He was the go-to person, for introducing any new process, system or innovation. He cared deeply about safety and his commitment came from his strong bond with the staff that worked under them, including the safety team. Tracy was extremely driven and pursued a project with sensibility and enthusiasm. She did not have much knowledge about safety but had experience working in the operations department.

They both had studied the need for safety software after getting multiple inputs from their respective safety teams. Based on that, they had both already engaged with several external agencies / service providers for their respective requirements.

In her presentation and proposition, Tracy laid out some of the primary (and urgent) requirements of her facility which included:

  • Monitoring and managing basic safety activities like safety observations and registering near misses
  • Application to be configured according to facility’s nomenclature
  • No investigations were needed
  • Data would be collected and used for reporting numbers only
  • Cloud based application
  • Minimal training required to operate software

As she moved forward, she continued to validate the above points. She clearly mentioned that considering her budgets and overall time, she had decided to get a ready-made application.

Dave, on the other hand, countered her points with his own. He was staunchly supportive of a customized software application for several reasons. Perhaps his decision stemmed from the fact that his plant was much bigger and entailed multiple processes in comparison with the warehouse operations that Tracy was managing. In his thorough discussions with the safety team on site, they had clearly defined their requirements and future outcomes that were expected out of the application. After viewing multiple demonstrations from different vendors, they had concluded that customization of the software application was indeed required.

Dave presented the following primary objectives to the council:

  • Hierarchies that are specific to their work site/facility
  • Work flow (cycle) that is exactly as per their existing one
  • Meets all requirements (100%)
  • Scalability needed (future ready)
  • Can be easily modified and expanded as per requirements – whether now or in future

Fully supported by vendor

Dave said that already, a significant amount of money had been invested in the review and revamp of their existing HSE systems. The new system promised to enhance the safety performance on site. He counter argued Tracy’s proposition in the following manner:

  1. For every organization, quick fixes can be highly detrimental. In trying to cover basics, especially in the safety spectrum, one must not forget to take a long term view.
  2. An application must adhere to the existing hierarchies, work flows, approval stages, processes, cycles and other complex operational procedures. This is only possible through a custom built software
  3. Data will be collected extensively. It would only make sense if the data can be used for getting useful insights, trends and predictive analysis.
  4. In fact when a ready-made application is procured, all members might have to unlearn their existing systems / processes and adopt the new ones that are available in the app.

Dave had also presented some extended benefits that customized software can provide, like:

  • Application shall be built to integrate with any prevalent or future applications
  • It would be far easier to train stakeholders in the digital application containing their existing (well verified) system rather than the other way around
  • Chances of a successful implementation are high considering that the actual users will be involved in the development of the application
  • Preferences available for hosting it “On-Premise” or “On-Cloud”
  • Total control considering the long term road map – factoring in future requirements as well (Scalable)

Initial investments might be higher comparatively, but will even out in the long run. There is the added advantage of owning the software rather than renting it

Well they didn’t go to Dave purely for advice. They truly respected his line of thought, homework and commitment towards its successful implementation as well. His reasoning of a seemingly simple but highly important decision was always well received.

But what do you think? Was Dave right in suggesting a customized software? Was Tracy being hasty in procuring an “off-the-shelf” safety application?

We’d love to hear your views in the comments box

**Disclaimer: All names of organizations, characters, geographies and other objects are purely fictional. They bear no resemblance to any person or organization, whether living or dead, whether active or inactive. Any and all resemblance to any person or organization is purely coincidental.


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