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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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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New Apple MacBook Air appeals to the mobile business set

In late April Apple beefed up its MacBook Air product line. The lightweight notebook computers now boast faster, 4th generation Intel processors, longer batter life, bigger flash storage, faster and better WiFi and slightly lower price tags. This makes the Air more attractive to on-the-go business travelers who need or prefer a full-fledged computer over a tablet or smartphone.

Apple MacBook Air 2014

Photo: Apple

The new MacBook Air specs go head-to-head with the most powerful Windows laptops. Apple is taking the opportunity to win business users over to its hardware and the OSX operating system.

Why? Here are several issues that left market share up for grabs:

  • Windows XP End of Support
  • heartbleed and security vulnerabilities with Internet Explorer
  • Sarbanes-Oxley compliance concerns
  • increased use of Cloud applications in large organizations
  • Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) and mobile apps.

Read New MacBook Air specs make for better business laptops and visit the Apple Web site here.

Those who need less powerful computing power have a number of other options, from smartphones to “phablets” to tablets and ChromeBooks. For further reading on the risks and benefits of sticking with Windows XP, and the increase in organizational use of non-Windows operating systems, see recent IT Insight columns:


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With Windows XP End of Support, Chromebooks are a popular option to Windows PCs

Now that Windows XP is no longer supported by Microsoft, organizations that still use the 13-year-old operating system (OS) must face reality–at some point, they must upgrade their OS, and likely their computer. When Microsoft released Windows XP to market, more organizations provided desktop than laptop computers. Using a laptop meant sacrificing features and forking over more dollars to gain mobility.

Those who have yet to “sunset” Windows XP no longer need to be tethered to their desks (See: Windows XP Sails into the Sunset… Maybe). A world of technologies became available (and affordable) since 2001, notably:

  • Wireless networks (WiFi) and Mobile hotspots (MiFi)
  • Lightweight notebook computers
  • Smartphones, tablets and apps
  • Social networks, Cloud applications and data storage
  • More power-efficient chips and hours of operation between charges
  • Solid state “flash” drives
Image: hp

Image: hp

Windows XP End of Support lets organizations rethink their IT strategies. Businesses and educational institutions alike can consider alternative Windows , Mac and Google OS and hardware. Chromebooks are a popular option, with their simplicity and low entry cost of $275 to $300 USD.

Read 10 Reasons Today’s Chromebooks Look Like a Smart Mobile PC Buy.

 


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Metrics matter in Google vs. Apple market leader competition

Perhaps the greatest tech rivalry of the 20th century was Oracle (Larry Ellison) vs. Microsoft (Bill Gates). Fast forward to 2014, with Google and Apple in hot competition for market leadership. 

200px-Apple_logo_black

Image: Apple

Image: Google

Image: Google

Like Oracle (enterprise database software) and Microsoft (operating system, desktop and server software and PCs), Google and Apple started in different market niches. Today, their two markets overlap.

  • Google’s Android OS and hardware overlap Apple’s OSX and iOS operating systems.
  • Both companies are smartphone and tablet market leaders, with Google Android sales surpassing Apple iOS sales for the first time in late 2013.
  • Together, the two companies offer one million-plus applications through Google Play, iTunes and the Mac Apps Store.
  • Both companies offer “wearable tech.”
  • Google and Apple both grow organically and through acquisition. Notable Google acquisitions include Android, YouTube, Picasa and Motorola Mobility; notable Apple acquisitions include iOS, iWorks, TouchID and Maps software.

So, who wins the competition? It depends upon which metrics you use. I prefer a combination of several. Read Apple vs. Google: The goliath deathmatch by the numbers 2014.


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Business texting on the rise

Text messaging is a quick and easy way to communicate–as teenagers and twenty-somethings have known for years. Business texting is on the rise, part of the BYOD (bring your own device) trend.

Benefits and risks

Sometimes texting is more convenient than email or a phone call. It is “short and sweet” and promotes an almost immediate response. I send business texts to certain clients, as I know that they prefer it. When I can, I use iMessage service available to iPhone, iPad and Mac users.

No technology is risk-free. Some of the risks of business texting are:

  • Commingling of personal and business text messages on the same device–some users prefer to separate the two.
  • Security of data transmitted over cellular and WiFi networks.
  • e-Discovery–as with email and other electronic communications, the texts stay in the system.
  • Recipient of text does not respond quickly–if you need an immediate response, or something more than a few words, a phone call or email is better.
  • Potential injuries. Texting while walking causes more–though usually less serious–injuries than texting while driving (more…).

Texting

Next time you have the urge to send a text message, decide if this is the best way to communicate. Weigh the risks and benefits. And don’t text while on the move (unless someone else is driving)!

For further reading, see The Rise of Business Texting.


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Microsoft rebranded its Cloud service (again)

What’s in a name?

A couple of years ago I started to use the Microsoft #Live Cloud storage solution to collaborate with project team members across the U.S. Then Microsoft Live morphed into Microsoft #SkyDrive and used a nifty cloud logo. Microsoft was sued over copyright infringement and had to change the name. This month, Microsoft changed the name of its cloud service from SkyDrive to #OneDrive. I hope that the auto parts manufacturer with the same name does not take issue with Microsoft.

Microsoft OneDriveOneDrive is a cloud-based collaboration tool. It allows allows users to store and access files from virtually any internet-capable device–smartphone, laptop PC, tablet, ChromeBook, Mac, or desktop. Users can elect which “folders” to share with others. Microsoft Office 365 subscribers get 100 GB of OneDrive storage space free; those without Office 356 can get 7 GB free; subscribers can pay for additional storage space.

Good news, bad news

The bad news: repeated name changes confuse the market. The good news: Microsoft offered extra Gigabytes of free storage space to “legacy” users to compensate them for the inconvenience. And users can earn extra free storage space by referring friends.

View an eWeek slide show about #OneDrive here.


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Trends shaping EHS & sustainability software

Several trends are influencing the  environment, health and safety (EHS) and sustainability software market. This article touches on just a few.

Software as a Service (SaaS). Ten to 15 years ago, most software was installed “on premises” on a company’s own servers, with more software installed on each user’s desktop or laptop computer. Today, Software as a Service (SaaS) delivers software differently. The software vendor installs the software on its servers and each user accesses the it through secure Internet connections, with little or no other software on their desktop or laptop computer.

More and more organizations, including Fortune 50-sized companies, are embracing SaaS, where they would not consider it five to ten years ago. Some issues that changed acceptance:

  • information technology (IT) is not the core business of most organizations; adopting SaaS is a way to leverage limited IT resources.
  • SaaS allows transferring some of the risk of software development, deployment, maintenance, upgrades and support to the vendors.
  • they trust the SaaS providers to manage and deliver data securely, protecting sensitive information and trade secrets.
  • they seek alternative cost structures with “pay-as-you-go” subscriptions rather than large up front capital expense associated with “on premises” installation.
  • they can avoid hardware costs associated with traditional, “on premises” installation.

Global standardization

Standardization. Organizations place great value on streamlining and standardizing business processes across the organization. While most companies believe that they–or their data–are unique, the truth is, they are not that different from others. Companies can can benefit from the best practices of others within their company, as well as others within and outside of their industry.

Let me clarify… while regulatory standards and specific data points vary widely from company to company, the business processes are similar. For example, regulatory intelligence requires applicability analysis and regulatory change management processes regardless of the industry sector or regulatory topic.

Globalization. Organizations need to manage data and deliver information in context as close to real-time as possible to make sound business decisions. An enterprise-wide EHS and sustainability software solution that delivers rolled-up information from disparate operations can enhance compliance and sustainability.ghs-pictogram-harmful-human-healthThe leading EHS and sustainability software solutions provide multilingual capabilities without the need for translation services. This is important not only for companies with facilities spread across several continents, but also for companies that have customers spread across several continents. Think of the Globally Harmonized System (GHS) and the updated OSHA Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) that require multiple language versions of a (material) safety data sheet (M)SDS.

Improved user interfaces. Users will not readily adopt software that is difficult to use. The leading EHS and sustainability software applications push beyond the competition for a reason–they are much easier for end-users to adopt. Both the “data in” and “data out” interfaces are more intuitive and visually appealing. Improvements include:

  • Kinder, simpler data entry forms.
  • More intuitive tabular data displays that allow “live” data sorting, filtering and “drill-down.”
  • Configurable dashboards with assorted graphic, charts and tables.
  • The ability to apply multiple dashboards tailored to different user needs.
  • Ready access to online help.

Ease of configuration. Many EHS software providers stress ease of configuration. The software architecture allows a trained user to add new users, update reports and forms, create reports and dashboards without writing software code. Why is this important?

  • the customer does not need to call the vendor or a consultant each time they need a small change.
  • it allows a custom look without actually customizing the underlying software code, allowing for standard upgrades.
  • companies can tailor help files to use their own terminology and to meet end-user needs.

Cloud, mobile, social and big data. These technologies–more than buzzwords–greatly influence software development. This is a good thing:

  • ID-10083418public and private clouds allow data access 24/7 from different devices, many of them mobile.
  • mobility allows data management at the point of generation; it  it allows automated data gathering that in the past used clipboard- and operations log-based methods.
  • in areas with limited or no Internet access,mobility allows offline data gathering with later sync to the database.
  • social tools allow data sharing and collaboration through automated workflows, messaging, shared work spaces and document repositories.
  • big data technologies allow quick data mining of very large data sets (1 TB and more) to spot trends.

Business and technical trends continue to shape the EHS and sustainability software market. Be up-to-date on these trends to have more informed discussions among your organization, software vendors and consultants.