As a provider of EHS software, I often see EHS software projects suffer from what is
known in the technology space as the “Hype Cycle.” The Hype Cycle is a branded graphical tool that was developed by the Gartner Group to represent the maturity, adoption, and social application of specific technologies (Fig 1). Each hype cycle drills down to five (5) key phases of a technology’s life cycles. These phases are as follows:
- Technology trigger: A potential technology trigger kicks things off. Early stories and media attention triggers interest. Often the commercial viability or usefulness is unknown.
- Peak of inflated expectations: Early publicity produces a number of early success stories. Some companies take action, but many do not.
- Trough of disillusionment: Interest wanes as experiments and implementations fail to deliver. Investments only continue if providers improve their product or service.
- Slope of Enlightenment: More instances of how the technology can benefit the enterprise crystallize and become more widely understood. Second and third-generation products appear from technology providers.
- Plateau of Productivity:. Mainstream adoption starts to take off. The technology’s applicability and relevance are starting to pay off.
EHS Software and the Hype Cycle
So, how do these five phases relate to EHS software projects? My thoughts are as follows:
- Regulatory trigger. A new regulation, potential technology threat (nanotechnology), or international standard, such as ISO 14001 is proposed. Consultants and technology providers jump on the band wagon and begin to tell everyone they can that this is going to be an EHS game-changer and they need to start preparing. Trade magazines, professional societies, webinar providers, and conferences pick up on the “trend’ and begin to “hype up” the new regulation or trend.
- Peak of inflated expectations: Publicity from the above mentioned events produce early success stories about reduction in accidents, incidents, and cost savings. These are usually in the form of case studies or presentations at conferences. Expectations or potential risks are inflated and many believe that the new regulation or standard is the “EHS savior.”
- Trough of disillusionment: EHS software or risk-reduction program implementation begins. User adoption is not up to expectations. Management involvement and interest is minimal. Cost overruns and project delays occur. Secret discussions about “killing” the EHS project occur.
- Slope of enlightenment: Implementation phase is completed. EHS software provider makes improvements to the system. Additional and focused training occurs. A few “super-users” emerge and “sell” the program to others in the organization.
- Plateau of productivity: Wide-spread adoption occurs and the EHS software becomes the way business is done.
How to use the hype cycle to your advantage?
The best way to use the hype cycle to your advantage is to first know that it exists and it should be expected. When hearing about these “trends” and “game-changers” through the media and conference, try to ignore the hype and understand how it truly impacts your business. In addition, understand how it fits in your company’s overall strategy. As a mentor of mine said many years ago, “If you go to a conference and you pick up on one 0r two things that you can actually use, then you’re doing pretty good.” Remember, you can’t implement everything and it should fit within your current goals and objectives. Don’t get into the habit of changing your goals and objectives based on something you hear at every conference you attend. Stay focused.
Next, understand that when you first implement EHS software or a new project, people are generally excited and positive. After all, it breaks up the routine day-to-day activities. But, unfortunately, it is also a common reaction to get tired of the “new project” once they understand that implementation is hard work and they have yet to see the benefit. As a person with experience in implementing such projects, you have to carefully monitor user adoption and plan for a few short-term wins. These short-term wins will help you muddle through the “trough.” Once you’re through the trough, plan for engaging the super-users and making them shine on their own. Let them be the ones to present the success stories to others. Finally, once you have reach the plateau of productivity, hold periodic user conferences to keep people engaged and excited about the system.
Let me know your comments about the above article.