We love discussing environmental remediation management. If left unchecked - we can go for days.
So when Sean Grady, 25+ year veteran of the environmental industry and host of the Environmental Transformation podcast, invited us on to discuss the ENFOS platform and how technology is reshaping how companies approach their environmental liability management - it was an easy yes.
The Environmental Transformation Podcast is known for highlighting the trends, challenges and innovations that are shaping the environmental industry of today. Sean digs deep into the selected issues with the curiosity of a skilled host and the knowledge and experience of an industry veteran.
The following is a shortened transcription of the Environmental Transformation Podcast featuring host Sean Grady, Roger Well (Co-founder and COO of ENFOS) and Michael Douglas (Director of Accounts at ENFOS).
The ENFOS origin story
Tell us a little bit about the story behind ENFOS?
Craig Modesitt is the founder and CEO of ENFOS. And I'm one of the co-founders along with our Chief Technical Officer, Sandeep Digra. All three of us, obviously are still with the company. We started ENFOS back in 2000. We had a very big vision but no customers. So it was a typical startup, high risk venture that we jumped into and it's been fantastic. It's been a great ride all along. And we really do feel like that we have transformed the industry and have a lot more to do. The vision, when we started ENFOS certainly was that we were starting up as a commercial software developer. Craig and I had spent years in the remediation business as consultants. And we knew there was an opportunity there to create a new technology, a platform that was cloud based for organizations that have large remediation portfolios. And the vision was to get them off of spreadsheets and homegrown databases and so on. And that's what we've done.
How did you come up with the name ENFOS?
A lot of people will ask us what does it stand for? It’s not an acronym. It started out with brainstorming around some acronyms, but it ended up with ENFOS. And that's the name of the company and the name of the product.
What are some of the challenges you guys see in companies that are looking to maybe reach out to ENFOS for help?
We started the company in 2000 as I mentioned before. BP was our first customer in 2001. And BP had just acquired Amoco, ARCO and Castrol. The challenges that we've seen over the last 20 something years are very common from company to company or government agency to government agency. They are very common. So one of those common factors is that they're systemic in nature. These challenges they have about running a large remediation program have been there for a long time. And most of these organizations are mature but their technologies are not. And there's a lot of reasons for that. One of them is remediation has always been a cost center. It's not a profit center.
But a lot of us have made our careers here. So it is important and in some companies, it does get a lot of attention because the liabilities are so large and the annual spend is large. But the challenges, I'm going to just say are basic business challenges. There are inefficiencies, there are redundancies, there's lost opportunities about getting stale or old information and not being able to use that proactively. And then there's issues around risks, risk identification, risk management and mitigation and so on. And it's both with a customer organization as well as with the environmental suppliers doing the work. And that we take that holistic viewpoint.
What does that look like when they're trying to make that decision to say, "Okay, I think I need a tool. ENFOS might be the tool."
Well, as with most things, the first step is admitting that you have a problem, right?
And then you got to agree that it's a problem worth fixing.
So assuming that we've done a good job with that, it's helping someone understand what the future possibility or potential looks like. What does my world look like once we put this platform in place? What am I able to do now that I wasn't able to do before? What can I do better? And then again, the key is bringing in these other stakeholders from IT and from finance and from legal. And a lot of times that's the biggest challenge.
I was just going to say ... I'm just remembering, a few years ago, director of remediation at a very large chemical company. He said to me, "Hey Mike, when someone like me sees ENFOS, we get it. Get it right away."
"The next thought that goes through my head is, how in the heck am I going to navigate this through all of the web blockers and tacklers in the organization?"
What ENFOS really does? What's the value prop? What does it do? If you're a project manager that's managing remediation projects, how is ENFOS going to help you what to do?
ENFOS is an enterprise application that is built with the owner of the liability in mind. So first and foremost, we always will say that ENFOS is the operating system or operating platform that manages the remediation liabilities. So all the known liabilities, what's probable and estimable, it does all the financial aspects associated with those accounting standards around environmental remediation, obligations and asset retirement obligations. So that's really the foundation of it is ... And every one of our customers is using ENFOS for that. So it's the lifecycle forecasting, the changes through time, why are the reserves or provisions changing?
Why are we taking these adjustments either up or down? How are we progressing on our sites and projects? So that's at the high level. Now from there, you get down into more detailed project management functionality around financial information on projects. So that's scope control and cost control and schedule management. And then ENFOS also goes into the technical data management. So the field data, the laboratory data and so on. And that's really one of our core tenants is data and context. So, management information, financial information, environmental data information and let's say remediation compliance information. All together, when joined, provides the highest value for that organization. So if you're the director of remediation and you're reporting to a senior VP on your liabilities and your annual spend, you're using ENFOS as the operating platform to execute the work, but also to plan it and make manage it as well.
The customer experience
What do some of your best customers say about the products? What's the feedback you're getting from them?
I'd say our best customers would tell you that we always deliver what we say.
So our churn rate, churn being customer losses, meaning they start out with us and then they fire us. Our churn rate is zero since our inception. So we've never lost a customer because once they decide to deploy ENFOS, the value generation is there. And I've heard, "My job would be much more difficult." I've heard, "Over the past five years, we've lost three project managers due to retirements. We were not able to backfill those positions, yet we're still managing the same number of projects. We wouldn't be able to do that without ENFOS."
ENFOS’ biggest competitor
What type of competitors in this type of software are there out there in the industry?
Exactly what we do and how we do it, no.
The short answer is no. There's nothing really commercial off the shelf out there that's domain specific to remediation, that manages finance, environmental data, and operational compliance in one place. However, there are competitors and parts and pieces of those. So there's environmental data management providers out there. There's EH&S compliance applications out there certainly.
I believe our biggest competitor is status quo. Keeping things the way they are, doing nothing or continuing along using spreadsheets or ad hoc bolt-ons to existing software, SharePoint sites, those sort of things. The business case for whatever reason, just wasn't compelling enough to get them to move towards a new way of doing things.
What would an implementation process look like for you guys? How long does it typically take to roll out a program with a client?
Before I get into the timeline on the implementation, I've had conversations with the individuals that run these remediation programs and talked to them a little bit even about their career paths, and some of the big milestone events of their careers. And what's interesting about it when it relates to ENFOS is most of those folks aren't trained to buy enterprise software. So it's new to them, even if they're 30 years into their career. They've done a lot of environmental work or engineering or science work, they've used a lot of software for that type of work but they haven't purchased or gone through that buying journey around an enterprise software for their business. So it ends up being a once in a career decision process for those individuals that is really responsible for running that business. So that's pretty cool if you think about it. They've done all this work for a long period of time, they've been very successful individuals, and this is maybe the one and only time that they're going to go to bat to get an enterprise business application in place that's designed specifically for their business.
Our out of the box standard implementation is 90 days. Those can be shortened based on customer's needs. So I think Torrie set the world record for us one time when she did a 30 day implementation with a customer. And they've gone for as much as six to nine months, as well. Really depending on the scope and the magnitude, there's a few key variables. One of them is generally the size of their program. Is it a $20 million a year cost center or is it a $500 million a year cost center on their annual remediation spend? So scale has a lot to do with it. Scale brings in more people as well. So you've got more involvement from the other functions that are supporting it like IT or finance and accounting. More people to train, more data to migrate in.
And then probably the other big variable that we see is their back end accounting system. It's their ERP system. The most common ones are SAP or Oracle Financials, but we see others as well. How many instances of the ERP are they running? So a lot of our customers are global. So they'll have EMEA instance maybe an Asia Pacific instance, a North America, South America. So we may have to integrate with multiple ERP systems that involve some of our resources as well, some of theirs. So that sometimes can add duration to an overall implementation. But it's normally 90 to 120 days.
Are you guys doing specific additional training for the community? Are you doing any support there to help them basically adopt and get more familiar with the product so that way they're being a better consultant for their client and your customer?
Yeah, there's a few ways. So when we roll out ENFOS with a new customer, we do user training, and that's for all the users. So the client brings in their internal teams but then they also bring in their strategic partners into those training sessions too. We also do user conferences.
And at those user conferences, we have training breakouts. And those breakouts are persona based. Some are directed more towards maybe the super users of ENFOS, some more to the consulting partners. And some more towards the client organization. And then through these partnerships that I talked about earlier, some consulting organizations have actually started investing and building their own center of excellence around ENFOS internally. And so we're providing additional support to those folks to help get those teams a little deeper under the covers into ENFOS beyond what a normal day to day user might do.
And again, getting back to the goal here behind these relationships with consultants, at the end of the day, we have mutual customers. So let's serve them the best way we can. And if they've made an investment of ENFOS, how do they get the most out of that investment? And so I think that partnership with those strategic partners is crucial for that.
What are some of the features that customers have identified that they've asked for that help make the program better?
We started this up over 20 years ago. And Craig and I and some other people had a lot of ideas of what the functionality should be. And we whiteboarded it and prototyped it and came up with our version of what we thought customers needed early on. But really since then, the evolution and maturation of our product has been through our customers' eyes. So the list is really, really long on what has been changed and added. We're on our third version now already as well. So we're on ENFOS 3. So that upgraded not only the backbone technology, but also features and functionality. But we have a very active customer success program. It's headed up by Torrie Behrens. And she meets with clients and their teams on a very regular basis. And then we take that input into a quarterly software development process. And so four times a year, we do a new release that brings on new features. Some recent examples that I can think of, we've done a lot in automated project controls for scope management and cost management to help ensure that once budgets are set, they're not over committed or overspent down to the task and work breakdown structure level. That came from collaboration with customers.
Visualization of financial information on maps is one. Almost like a geo accounting. As a geologist like I am, we're used to working on maps and visualizations with our technical data. But looking at financial data on maps also adds a lot of value. I can look at my high spin sites or my top 10 or my watch list or sites where we took a big accrual adjustment last year that we need to prioritize. And so I can do data visualization on those as well. And then we also do a ton of work around just the general user experience, making it easier to use. And so much of the feedback on that comes from customers. So things like drag and drop, multiple tabs within the ENFOS browser so they can split tabs and have two different content areas on their ENFOS screen, favoriting pages and sites, creating portfolios. So the list goes on and on. But it's a part of our culture for sure to take that feedback and bring it into the product.
The future of the ENFOS platform
What’s the roadmap look like down the road for you guys? I mean, what are you thinking that could be added to the product to enhance the product? Do have any new targeted personas or audiences out there?
We’re very opportunistic in terms of functionality. So if a customer comes to us and say, "Hey, we're taking over asset decommissioning from another department," we'll listen to that and then we'll take existing functionality and improve it and blend it to help that customer take on that new role within their organization.
Vegetation management is another example of that. If you think about the utility companies, the railroads and so on. So we're always getting asked to expand the use cases of ENFOS by our customers and some of them will take that on and others we won't, because it's maybe too far away from our core mission. But the ones that we do, those are exciting new areas. So, we're managing different types of cost centers, not just remediation and not just asset decommissioning with those.
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