Lexicon Systems, LLC Blog

lex'•i•con: the vocabulary of a branch of knowledge. Thoughts on environment, health & safety (EHS), sustainability and information technology to support them.


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New breed of software market leader has six traits

The environment, health & safety (EHS) software market is hot this year. Six deals announced in the first half of 2016 total $750 million to $1 billion. With all of this investment in the market, which companies will take the money and run—and become the new market leaders?

new-breed-software-market-leader

Creative Art/Freepik

Companies in most all industrial sectors must manage environment, health & safety (EHS) and sustainability information. Managing this information manually is not an option for most organizations, so a niche software market has evolved over the past 20-plus years. Today, the EHS software market accounts for billions of dollars in annual license and subscription revenue and implementation fees.

Big investment in EHS software companies fuels market changes

Investors and software industry analysts alike are paying attention to the EHS software market niche. These significant investments mean that “green”—environment and sustainability—is good for business.

Market leaders exhibit six traits

With all of this investment in the market, which companies will take the money and run, and become the new market leaders? Investment alone does not make a company a leader; money can enable success or it can get in the way. I submit that a new breed of market leader will emerge, and must exhibit six traits.

The new breed of EHS software market leader must exhibit six traits; vision, adaptability, innovation, a customer-centric view, knowledge base, and intellectual capital.

1. Vision. Formulating a vision requires questioning the status quo. Executing that vision requires leadership, a great team, business processes and technology. Communicating the vision internally and externally is critical to success.

2. Adaptability. Internal issues can quash the impact of new investment. Vendors that can quickly integrate and absorb the organizational change will have more success than vendors that cannot. Adapting to external issues like regulatory and market changes is equally important.

3. Innovation. Customers expect more of software today than ever before. Mobile and Cloud capabilities are the rule, not the exception. Usability is king. Vendors that offer innovative, but not bleeding edge, solutions can capture market share over competitors that use older technology platforms.

4. Customer-centric. Vendors that look outward towards market and customer needs—and innovate to meet these needs—will become the new leaders.

5. Knowledge base. Vendors must have a team that understand subject matter, IT, and business issues in the sectors they serve. Vendors that lack knowledge in some of these disciplines will fall short.

6. Intellectual capital. Hiring the “best and brightest” is not enough. Vendors need to invest in developing employee skills to execute the company vision.

Exciting times ahead

Companies in most all private and public sectors must manage EHS information, and the EHS software market accounts for billions of dollars in annual license and subscription revenue, plus implementation fees. Think of it as a sleeping market that recently awoke. It will be exciting to see how 2016 investment invigorates this niche market, and which vendors emerge as leaders by 2020.

This post first appeared on the Strategies for Software Lifecycle Management blog.

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12 tips for killer software demos

When selecting enterprise software, demos are a key part of the due diligence process. Even with a short list of 3–4 vendors, sitting through several days’ worth of demos can try your patience. Learn how you can work with prospective software vendors to deliver a killer demo to engage and inform your stakeholders.

12-tips-killer-software-demos

Freepik/Jill Barson Gilbert

I recently facilitated an enterprise software selection process. This required gathering information on software and vendor capabilities, interviewing reference customers and participating in multiple software demos, among other activities.

While each software vendor on the “short list” can address a vast majority of the client’s business needs, each vendor has a range of capabilities. So, how do you set the stage to allow comparison and to make the demos informative and enjoyable, instead of exhausting?

12 Tips for Killer Software Demos

Avoid “demo killers” like poor preparation, dismissing key stakeholder needs, going off script, talking too much, failing to engage the audience, poor demo skills, bashing the competition and apologizing for the demos or software.

The most successful and enjoyable software demos were those where I worked with my client and the vendor in advance of the demo. Here is insight into my approach for “killer demos.”

1. Prepare

Ask important questions before the demo, for instance, the business drivers for the enterprise software; what systems the company uses today; the company’s primary concerns; the expected benefits of the new software; user community and job roles; stakeholders who will attend the demo; decision-makers and key influencers.

2. Focus on needs

Shape the demo around users’ needs — not wants — and priorities. This requires documented software business requirements, with user consensus on needs and priorities.

3. Avoid the standard demo

Standard demos show that the vendor did not consider the customer’s needs. Instead, take astandard approach as described in these tips.

4. Don’t change a thing… except…

Demonstrate the software in its standard, “out of the box” form — without integration,customization, or significant configuration — unless otherwise requested by the customer. An exception is minor personalization using the customer’s branding.

5. Show a day in the life

Simulate the user’s day-to-day experience. For example, show how a “power user” creates monthly reports, and enters detailed data. Show how a casual user completes an assigned task. Show how a site manager or a corporate manager views key performance indicators (KPIs) on a dashboard.

6. Stick to the script

Create a “storyboard” for the demo based upon business needs and priorities. If the customer provides software scripts and/or demo data, then make sure that the scripts align with the stated needs and priorities. Demo the software to best showcase its capabilities while addressing each script.

7. Start at the end… then go backwards

First demo reports, dashboards and workflow that show how a user interacts with the software. Then demo key data entry forms. Demo a workflow or two. Run a few key data queries. But demo software configuration, workflow configuration, report and dashboard creation only if the users would do this day-to-day.

8. Speak to selection criteria

Understand the customer’s software selection criteria, and address them throughout the demo and dialogue.

9. Address resource needs

Address how many subject matter experts (SMEs), project managers and IT resources the customer will need for implementation, roll-out and ongoing maintenance. Provide customer references that can back up these resource estimates.

10. Have IT experts available

Summarize the software’s architecture, hardware and software needs; installation options (on premises, Cloud, Software as a Service) and implementation — but don’t bore a room full of subject matter experts with IT details. Have IT experts present or on call during the demo to answer IT questions.

11. Distinguish yourself

Address how your software will improve the customer’s business. Be positive about capabilities and transparent about third parties you use to deliver software and services. Boast about your successes, and back up statements with evidence. Do not make negative or false statements about the competition.

12. Deliver strong

  • Know your audience – anticipate and address their needs.
  • Engage the audience – control the content and flow, and encourage dialogue.
  • Have a strong opening – capture the audience in the first two minutes.
  • Make your case – benefits the customers will gain, and what sets you apart.
  • Respect the clock – arrive in plenty of time to set up, and plan to finish early.
  • Get trained – learn how to speak to a group and how to demo software. 

Conclusion

A well-delivered demo can make up for software shortcomings, while a poorly-delivered demo can destroy the chance of customers embracing even the best software. Demos can be compelling and enjoyable when the software vendor and prospective customer organize a “killer demo” through preparation, focus, speaking to business and IT issues, and strong delivery.

This post first appeared on the Strategies for Software Lifecycle Management blog.


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3 ways to avoid costly software selection mismatches

Some organizations faced with enterprise software selection make emotional, rather than objective, decisions; select technology before understanding their needs; get caught up in vendor hype; or find a solution that does not match their ability to adopt it. Here are three ways that software selection pros make the selection process easier.

Recently, I joined a tech product review forum. This is a volunteer assignment where the sponsors encourage objective reviews. The reviews help prospective customers to make informed buying decisions.

My first assignment was to review a robotic vacuum cleaner. I found the product easy to unpack and set up. I needed to watch the robot the first few times I used it, to ensure that the machine did not get snagged on something. After multiple random passes, it cleaned the ground floor of my home. This took about three hours and two battery charges to do what I could have done manually in 20 to 30 minutes with a regular vacuum cleaner. The robot did only a fair job of picking up typical debris.

In the end, I did not recommend this product.  This tool did not meet my basic needs—to clean quickly and effectively, with little effort. The robotic vacuum cleaner is an interesting technology, but not developed to where it can replace traditional vacuum cleaners. It is early in the product lifecycle, slightly costly for what it does, attractive to techies, though not ready for the majority of us to adopt.

If I had purchased this product, I would have been out a few hundred dollars at most. But what if I had purchased enterprise environment, health & safety (EHS) software? I could have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars, only to have a mismatch. Here are three things the pros do to avoid costly software selection mismatches.

1. Start at the beginning

Don’t start looking at software until you know what you need. First understand your needs and priorities, and then seek out products that best match them. If you know your needs, you should focus on at most, two or three candidate software platforms that best meet your needs.

Do not review the universe of available software, because this only creates confusion. Back to vacuum cleaners for a moment… If you need to clean hard flooring and pile carpeting in a four-bedroom house with five family members, one cat and two dogs, then forget handheld vacuums and shop vacs. Instead, focus on the products and technology that meet your needs.

Since enterprise software initiatives can involve multiple phases over month or years, consider your most pressing needs, as well as mid-term and long term needs. Mid- and long-term needs—and project objectives—may call for software that is flexible, configurable, and scalable to accommodate new users, new business processes, and future mergers & acquisitions.

2. Separate the wheat from the chaff

Sometimes it’s hard to tell one software package from another, just by sitting through a couple of hours of demos. You may like each software platform better than the one before, or worse, may like them all, when, in reality, they differ greatly. And you may be subject to marketing hype like, “We are the leading provider of EHS software to Fortune 500 companies” or “We provide the lowest Total Cost of Ownership in the industry.”

To make your life easier, take a systems lifecycle approach and carry prioritized business needs from one project phase to another. This helps you to create an environment for apples-to-apples comparisons.

  • During the Analysis/Needs Assessment phase, make sure to clearly identify and prioritize requirements, considering key stakeholder input.
  • Use prioritized requirements (and, as appropriate, mid-term and long-term needs) as the basis for a Request for Information before the demos.
  • Ask each of the “short list” of 2-3 vendors to demo their software according to use cases that you provide, and evaluate how each of the vendor packages meets your needs.
  • Make sure to discuss and document your software and vendor evaluation and selection criteria before inviting vendors in for demos.

3. Understand IT maturity

  • Technology Enthusiasts love tech first and foremost and want to be on the cutting edge; they are the first to try a new product.
  • Visionaries love new products as well, but they also consider how those new products or technologies can be applied. They are the most price-insensitive part of the market.
  • Pragmatists are open to new products, but need evidence the products will work and be worth the trouble. They are much more price conscious.
  • Conservatives are much more hesitant to accept change; they are inherently suspicious of any new technology and often only adopt new products to keep up with others. They don’t highly value technology, and are not willing to pay a lot.
  • Skeptics are not just hesitant, but actively hostile towards technology.

When you select software, make sure that you understand your organization’s IT maturity. Is your company an innovator, salivating for the latest technology, and willing to work with software vendors to iron out the wrinkles in a beta product? Or does your company sit solidly in the market majority, willing to wait for software to be tested and proven before you purchase it?

Also consider where the software lies along a product lifecycle curve. Is it an early market product, lean and mean, gaining momentum, made by a vendor with lots of innovative capabilities? Or is it a more mature technology with plenty of breadth and depth, integration and reporting capabilities, in its fourth or later version, with more enhancements on the way?

Select enterprise software that’s a good fit for your organization and its needs. These are just three ways to make a better-informed and objective enterprise software selection. If you do not have all these capabilities within your organization, do not be afraid to ask your IT group or a trusted advisor to help.

This article originally appeared in the Strategies for Software Lifecycle Management blog.


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Debunking common software implementation myths

I read an article this morning about three ERP (enterprise resource planning) implementation myths. I come across the same ones in EHS (environment, health & safety) software implementations. Let the debunking begin…

Myth 1. You cannot use your software selection consultant to implement the software.

no entryI have seen resistance to using a software selection consultant to implement the software. The hiring organization perceived that the consulting firm could not do both; there should be a separation between selection and implementation.

If your consultant has proven project management, communications, subject matter and technical skills to successfully implement the software, then use them. Once your consultant helps you to document and prioritize needs and select software, then they know your needs and business better than anyone else at this point! Take advantage of this knowledge.

Bringing in another group to implement the software will cost you lost productivity, duplication of efforts, extended timelines, and other avoidable costs.

Myth 2. You must have a software vendor or reseller implement your software.

sign-160675_1280While the software vendor/reseller should be conversant in the software, they may lack subject matter expertise or a broader perspective of implementation best practices.

Instead, I recommend a team approach to implementation:

  1. an integrator/implementer that is comfortable with the software and its configuration,
  2. vendor representatives–implementation and product specialists, and
  3. software customer key stakeholders.

Myth 3. The most important aspect of implementation is technical proficiency.

signs-38588_1280I have seen talented technical staff lead software implementations that become “challenged” when the teams focused solely on technical issues.  Warning!

Instead, I recommend a team skilled in several disciplines. Beyond technical (IT) proficiency, subject matter expertise, and industry experience, remember to round out the team with skill sets such as:

  • project management
  • risk management
  • business process management
  • organizational change management
  • training
  • analytics
  • etc.

With these implementation myths are debunked, you can make more informed decisions on your path forward for software implementation. This is my “quick take.” You can read the Panorama Consulting perspective here.


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Lexicon Systems, LLC to speak at SPF Houston 2015

Enablon North America tapped Lexicon Systems, LLC President & CEO Jill Barson Gilbert for the keynote panel at their 20 May 2015 event. Gilbert is a thought leader in the environment, health & safety (EHS) and sustainability software market who advises senior management in industrial and software companies, venture capital and consulting firms.

Anna M. Clark will moderate the panel. Clark began her career in management consulting with PricewaterhouseCoopers and IBM before starting sustainability consulting and communications firm EarthPeople, where she is President.

houston skyline nightEnablon is a leading software provider. SPF Houston is a one-day event for EHS managers and subject matter experts, IT managers and business leaders. 2015 marks the Sustainable Performance Forum’s fifth year in Houston.

This year’s conference theme is “Leveraging Technology to Increase the Efficiency of EHS Management Processes and Generate Cost Savings.”Learn more and register here.


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Five global predictions for 2015

Today was all about tomorrow. Let me explain… this morning, I attended a Webinar on 2015 trends in the Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) market; this afternoon I completed a survey on the top global trends for 2015. Here’s my take on five global trends for 2015. The common thread is information technology (IT) and the environment.


It’s all about the Cloud

Businesses continue to move to the Cloud in droves, with a large percentage already there. A big benefit of the Cloud is the shift away from internal management of IT infrastructure, placing part of the risk onto Cloud providers. Another benefit is the ability to shift from older, “on premises” enterprise software license models that require constant upgrades to newer, Software as a Service (SaaS) apps where all user organizations are on the same version of the software. And a third benefit is anytime, anywhere access to information that allow more informed decision-making.

It’s not just mobile technology, but mobile technology enabled by the Cloud, that will allow businesses to break from old paradigms and utilize Internet-enabled solutions. My article on the Cloud will publish on 01 February 2015.

Information security remains a top concern

Information security will remain a top concern among organizations into 2015 and beyond. ApplePay went live this quarter, and it was supposed to be an alternate cashless payment method, but not a Point of Service (POS) app. With the release of the iPhone 6 and the latest iOS, Apple has teamed with Bank of America (and others?) and ApplePay is a POS app! Many remain concerned about Near Field Communications, where a cyber hacker can steal sensitive financial information.

Magnetic stripes on credit and debit cards are so 20th Century. A few years ago, many merchants tried laser bar code readers for payment cards (e.g., payments at gas pumps), but removed the readers… were the readers that hard to use, or were they too costly to maintain? After recent security breaches some U.S. banks are revamping credit card security measures–adding security “chips” that other countries have used for decades. It’s about time… but users still must “swipe” their cards through a reader.

Global energy and natural resource challenges

The U.S. is enjoying the “energy boom,” at the highest domestic production rates in decades, and needs to ensure that there is not a rapid “bust.” Despite the drop in oil prices (barrels of West Texas Intermediate Crude), North American Shale Oil plays will continue into 2015.

Cheap natural gas prices will allow the chemicals industry to continue with large projects, the scale of which we have not seen in the U.S. since the late 1970s and early 1980s. While the demand for new natural gas and liquids pipelines remains high, these projects will slow a bit. Why not deposit some of the cheap oil and gas to increase the National Petroleum Reserve?

Changing demographics and consumer spending

Many emerging countries will continue to see the largest increase in spending power in the under-35 population. The consumer population in the U.S. will continue to increase dramatically in two segments—over-60 and under 35 years old—thus creating the challenge of serving both markets.

Considering how much consumer technologies spill over into business, the challenge is applying these technologies to address the needs of divergent populations. In 2015, software applications will be all about the user experience, and the real challenge will be the balance between the user experience and addressing enterprise needs such as information security and scalability.

Cashless payments

Consumers will continue to increase their comfort level with online, cashless payments. Mobile cashless payments will take a while to gain market share amid concerns of cybersecurity and as consumers upgrade their mobile technology. Regardless of the method, companies in the payment business must move to multi-factor authentication and anonymous, one-time authorization codes that are more difficult to steal, or, if stolen, are useless.

While consumers–especially the 35-and-under demographic–have handily adopted paperless check deposits, this will not quickly spill over into the business world. Businesses will continue to remain entrenched in hard-copy checks, P-cards (Purchase Cards) and ACH (automated clearinghouse) payments in 2015. So, keep the car gassed up (or charged) for those trips to the post office and bank.

With the new year coming upon us quickly, there is plenty to think about with respect to information technology and the environment. Your thoughts?


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Energy sector looks to integrated EHS IT solutions to manage risk in a complex operational and regulatory enironment

We are in the midst of a 21st Century energy boom. It has created thousands of jobs and reduced the U.S. dependence on imported crude oil. New technologies like horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing (fracking) create new opportunities as well as risks. In light of recent offshore and onshore incidents in the energy and chemical industries, regulatory agencies are in the midst of making new policies and rules. How do organizations keep up with this complex, dynamic business environment?

“Risk is an integral component of a safety culture. It must be the lens through which we view the interaction between technology and the human element.”
–Brian Salerno, BSEE Director

Most organizations use spreadsheets, email and documents to manage environment, health & safety (EH&S or EHS) data. Even those that use more robust information technology (IT) platforms admit that they do not use IT to its fullest.

To better collect, manage, and use EHS information, many energy companies are migrating to integrated EH&S software applications for the first time. Others are taking a hard look at replacing legacy systems with more robust IT platforms.

The latest IT Insight column, 21st Century Energy Boom and Greater Risk Awareness Drive EH&S Software Initiatives, describes the pressure that the energy industry faces in managing mountains of EHS data while also minimizing the risks associated with everyday business. The column describes lessons learned in the Gulf of Mexico and a new risk management approach that is taking hold. Read the full article here.