Green with Envoy

Mercedes-Benz, Philips, GlaxoSmithKlein and the United Nations Environment Programme all know what it is to have environmental management customer support before they realise they've got a problem.

Entropy International, an environmental IT consultancy based in Lancaster, recently won the BT Businessconnections Award for Innovation. The reason? ENVOY - a software product developed to meet the growing need for a corporate environmental, quality, and health and safety (EQS) management system solution that enables companies to easily develop, implement and maintain management systems certifiable to ISO 14001, ISO 9001 and OHSAS 18001.

The first version, Envoy Enterprise, was developed for an organisation's internal network of computers or 'intranet', and was launched in August 1999. The next version was web-based to cater for companies without a corporate intranet or those which did not want to host the program or data themselves. This version, completed a year later, was aptly named Envoy Web.

To top it all off, Entropy devised an information transfer system called the Alliance Program, a mutually beneficial partnership scheme whereby clients can contact both Entropy and each other, via the web, and share their knowledge. This provides the Envoy package with that extra something which makes it so attractive. The partnerships collect expertise and pool a vast amount of resources as well as provide support in all areas of management.

Breaking ground
At first, the market was slow to pick up that a solution to EQS problems was available. Hewitt Roberts: "We're not only selling software but a solution that changes the way people do business - that's where the efficiency, the innovation, the value lies - and at first, that's difficult to overcome, a sort of pioneer's gap."

The system is designed as an electronic template that is used for developing and maintaining systems for EQS management. It consists of a backbone called 'Home' containing six base modules. "The site management base module contains all the components or tools that are common to all subsequent management system modules," Roberts explains. "Clients are able to pick and choose the modules they require, whether it be environmental management, health and safety management, quality management or monitoring."

"Or, alternatively," he adds, "they can buy all of the modules at once."

Buying only a few at first, however, doesn't preclude a business from upgrading in the future. Roberts assures me that it is even possible to buy the Web-based version for a single site and then transfer to intranet as your business grows. "Clients can pick and choose modules as and when they wish, starting with one module and adding more." A bit like building a house, brick by brick, buying windows or doors when needed.

Roberts supplies customer support that provides service before clients realise they are having a problem - another advantage of the web-based system.

"We are able to track web-based users to see if they are having any trouble, such as not being able to log-on because they have forgotten their password. Sometimes it surprises people because we ring up and tell them how to solve their problem before theyƕve had a chance to contact us!"

New modules
Clients are offered a maintenance contract which guarantees ongoing support and regular upgrades. Problems are dealt with usually by providing the client with an upgrade or installing new modules to suit their needs.

With the launch of the web version, Entropy's reputation is growing as big organisations like Mercedes-Benz, Philips and GlaxoSmithKlein sign up. Clients range from environmental consultancies to waste management organisations to the United Nations Environment Programme. Which, Roberts admits, does help: "It's becoming more and more common for people to feel comfortable about the solution, not only because the technology isn't so new, but because we have a number of large and reputable international clients."

The next step is increasing the scope by developing new modules. "The latest thing we're doing is adding a module on information security to comply with BS7799, a British Standard regulating the security of information transfer." But it won't stop there.



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