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.


Leave a comment

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.

Advertisements


Leave a comment

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.


Leave a comment

Internet of Things and other innovations help electric utilities to survive

Image courtesy of 2nix at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of 2nix at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Most Americans take reliable electricity for granted. Electric utilities can no longer count on customers to use more and more power, as conservation efforts and alternative energy sources gain popularity.

To survive, utility companies must focus on efficiency and cost control. The Internet of Things and other innovative technologies will help them to improve and survive despite slow market growth.

Deloitte University Press just published an insightful report,  The power is on: how IoT technology is driving energy innovation.


Leave a comment

How to build compelling mobile enterprise apps

Enterprise software usability and adoption remains a concern; we are so used to clean and simple mobile consumer apps, that we expect the same usability and performance from enterprise apps.

CIO Senior Writer Sarah White presents good practices for building compelling mobile enterprise applications in How to create enterprise apps employees will actually use. Getting IT on Board and engaging end-users are perhaps the two most important points.

Credit: mobile phone apps image designed by Freepik.

 


Leave a comment

New CIO.com blog post | 5 ways a consultant can benefit your software implementation

lifecycle-navigationIf you shudder when you hear the word “consultant,” you’re not alone. Yet a consultant can invigorate and strengthen your software initiative, while saving time and money.

Here are five ways that a consultant can positively impact your software initiative (read the full post).


Leave a comment

What golf teaches us about evaluating legacy systems

golf-ball-on-lip-119364397-100265266-primary.idge

Credit: Thinkstock

A decade ago, a 72-hole score of 10 under par could win the PGA championship. Today, it’s a new game, where 20 under par clinches the trophy. As in golf, the right software and information technologies – when used strategically by skilled pros – can make a business more competitive. Here are some pro tips for evaluating legacy systems.

Last weekend, I watched the PGA Championship on TV. Several 20-something golf pros made the tournament exciting, setting new distance and scoring records. I asked an avid golfer friend how the young players could score 20 under par for the four-day event, when a decade ago, 10 or 11 under par would have won the trophy. My friend said that it’s the equipment – high-tech golf clubs make the high-tech balls go farther. Yet the average golfer would be thrilled to score par, which has remained the same forever.

Business performance and agility depend on IT equipment – hardware and software – and how well you use it. If your organization has a variety of legacy systems that are not integrated, do not communicate with each other, are built with outdated technology, or do not perform the way you would like, then it’s time for an evaluation.

Take lessons from a pro

Few great golfers are self-taught; nearly all use teaching professionals with specific methods and drills.

If your organization does not possess the skills to evaluate legacy systems, then enlist a pro. Your pro should employ a proven methodology and should be conversant in business, subject matter, and IT.

Assess your game

Pro golfers periodically assess their game and make adjustments to stay in the game.

Take the time to properly assess your IT systems to keep your organization in the competition.

  • Does your short game (immediate needs) or your long game (mid-range and long-term needs) need improvement? What are the most critical unmet needs?
  • Are your legacy systems agile, flexible, and scalable to meet your needs?
  • How well do your legacy systems align with your current IT strategy? For example, have you transitioned from on premises to Cloud deployment? Do you have a lean IT staff and outsource maintenance and support? Is mobile technology a must for new systems?

Look in your bag

It is good practice to empty your golf bag every now and then. You never know what you will find – unused gadgets and old golf balls just make the bag more cumbersome.

You should do the same with legacy systems. Put everything on the table. Identify all of the software and tools assigned to the task at hand. This includes “shadow IT” systems and small tools that are not approved software applications. Also, you may find that some software is not used as intended. These complicate, rather than enable, your business.

Engage lines of business and power users to help triage legacy systems. Document which systems and tools you should keep, eliminate, or replace.

Rank your legacy systems in order of importance. At the same time, consider what you can consolidate to lighten your load.

Get a grip

If you’re still using small wooden drivers with steel shafts (e.g., Excel spreadsheets and homegrown databases) and everyone else is using oversized titanium drivers with carbon fiber shafts (e.g., integrated, holistic software apps), then it may be time to replace your legacy systems with newer technology.

Sometimes all you need is a new set of grips on your golf clubs. This is a low cost, effective, solution that can provide additional years of play. The same goes for software. You may be able to extend the life of your system by

  • expanding the user community,
  • extending the systems to additional facilities, or
  • enabling new features and functionality.

If legacy systems are holding you back, then enlist a pro to help you sharpen your game. Conduct a proper legacy systems evaluation, triage your IT tools and apps, and determine if extending their life makes sense.

Up-to-date tools and equipment, coupled with a good strategy, skills and training, can make both golf pros and organizations more agile and competitive.