In the words of a recent article regarding digital trends for the next year: The Data floodgates are open. The arising trends and technologies are getting harder and harder to comprehend fully, and businesses are competing to stay in this very fast-paced race.
So what about the core QHSE processes that use these new technologies? Are they going to change? During my experience while working in HSE in a high risk industry (oil & gas), I often witnessed the gap between expertise and corporate efficiency needed in this day and age, fellow colleagues struggling to keep up with the speed information travels today, while maintaining the quality of the process.
Are those employees becoming obsolete? Are we all destined to become IT experts in order to stay valuable on the job market, regardless of our core field of expertise? Or is there a middle ground? That’s where the debate begins…
Let’s see how QHSE experts (and processes) can stay on top of this digital wave and save time for priorities: working with people, ensuring compliance and driving continual improvement.
Where are QHSE process management tools today?
At the moment the most common situation is that not every company, but every department has that one person who creates and manages Spreadsheets (or equivalent) while the rest act as end users.
That means one employee less per department doing what they are supposed to and what they are qualified and paid for, on average.
We all know that the ultimate goal of HSE is all zeros: no fatalities, no injuries, no pollution, no damage. Quite a serious topic which requires our focus, but someone forgot where they saved the report they needed to send you, someone ‘accidentally’ reformatted the spreadsheet and now it’s useless and the report to the management needs to be sent in an hour, and yes, that is the meeting where they decide the details of the HSE budget and the strategy for the near future… so much about focus.
This is a moment where I address a comment from a social network which said: “I didn’t know MS Office was NOT ‘digital’...“- yes, technically it is, you use your computer. You can get rid of some paper forms, draw out some stats, but that is only a part of every business process. We have passed that stage, spreadsheets were good. WERE. As a big fan of Excel myself, I cannot say too many bad things about it, except it takes up too much time. Too much for today’s standards and needs. If you ever tried to replicate an entire business process in a spreadsheet and keep it maintained and report-ready, while the rest of the users trample all over your carefully set conditions and formulas, you know what I’m talking about… It would be great if everybody in a company were Excel savy, and even if you tried to train them it would take you too much time you don’t have. The point is not everybody needs nor wants to be a ‘digital architect’, so why waste resources on it?
Today’s needs for a business tool are Integration (complete Electronic Data Management; as well as connecting all the roles/employees in the given process), Instant access (from every kind of device, available offline mode etc.), and the possibility to Adapt and be Modified (eg. different user interface for different kind of users, depending on the need, or to follow the process modifications as it evolves).
Where do QHSE process management tools need to be?
And now we come to the current state of things – Apps.
A natural evolution where anyone can use a dead simple interface without worrying about what goes on behind the screen. Platforms which connect all levels of users instantly: with easy enough access for the on-site HSE Officer to casually tap a couple of times on his phone or tablet screen, with their entry immediately in the database for the mid-management to generate a statistics report with in a few clicks, with enough power for the most complex BI analysis the top management will use to form decisions. Spice it up with instant GPS location tracking, voice recognition, Cloud hosting… and yes, you can even integrate a spreadsheet in there if you’re feeling nostalgic. Sorry Excel, you were a solid foundation but the QHSE world needs more.
What does all this mean if you are a business considering a digital transition? It means Time and Money saved. It means Efficiency.
Businesses want to stay on top, they want to profit. For that they need expertise, but done efficiently. They need their QHSE experts and they need QHSE processes in place. They need it fast and easy, and there are tools that can help you do that.
The near Future
Since addressing specific needs of a QHSE engineer/manager from a management tool require a more detailed approach, those will be covered in a separate article.
For now, what can we expect in terms of industrial development? All the predictions say the steps to the next big thing will be shorter and shorter, and we all need to adapt, get used to change. Learning to use a new tool will be the best skill to have, but that tool will mean nothing if it’s taking the focus and effort off your core activity or interest. So choose wisely, and stay safe.
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