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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A great user experience can promote software adoption

“If you build it, they will come” may work in a baseball movie, but it’s an unreliable strategy for deploying enterprise software. A better approach is to provide a great user experience, coupled with feature-filled software, to promote user adoption.

Credit: freepik.com

Credit: freepik.com

Read the post by Jill Barson Gilbert @JillBGilbert on the Strategies for Software Lifecycle Management blog at CIO.com.

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Lexicon Systems, LLC President & CEO Jill Barson Gilbert will speak at #SPF Americas 2014, 25-26 September in Chicago, IL. She will speak on “Business Requirements and Software Selection Best Practices” on the morning of 26 September in the Implementation Strategies track, applying many years of experience and observations.

Most software initiatives fail, and the greatest cause of failure is poor definition of business requirements and the ability to turn those requirements into useful features that users will adopt.  

–Jill Barson Gilbert

The presentation will address

  • the challenges of complex software initiatives
  • how clear, prioritized business requirements lead to better software implementation outcomes
  • the importance of establishing objective evaluation and selection criteria
  • why executive support and early stakeholder involvement are critical to success.

If you don’t know where you are going, you will wind up somewhere else.

–Yogi Berra

Sustainability Performance Forum (SPF) Americas 2014

Image: Enablon

Jill Gilbert is in the company of environment, health & Safety (EHS), risk management, sustainability and IT thought leaders on the two-day conference program. Founder of Lexicon Systems, LLC, she is a trusted advisor to C-level executives. Her firm has has helped clients in a range of industry sectors to achieve business objectives, streamline #EHS management systems through the use of IT, reduce operational #risk, enhance #compliance and become more productive.

Click here to register for the complimentary two-day conference. In addition to the value-packed information exchange during more than 55 technical sessions, SPF offers free Enablon software training and a wealth of networking opportunities with professionals from global companies.


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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.


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The paperless office: are we there yet?

The other day I tackled overstuffed file drawers and the papers piled on my desk. I filed, recycled or shredded several reams of outdated documents. During this exercise (it was pretty physical), I noticed that my company saved fewer paper records in the last few years than when we started the business. Likely, we continue to retain more printed paper than needed. How much is enough?

office clutter

Image: USA Today

We are far from the “paperless office.” Running a management consulting firm with an environment, health & safety (EHS) IT focus, one might think that most transactions are electronic, not paper. We send essentially all work products electronically and print some of them. We use accounting software and print invoices and reports for our records, even if delivered electronically to clients. We receive electronic documents from others, and print some of those, too. Each party seems to save time, printing and postage costs. Are we reducing paper use, or just shifting the burden to others?

 “Less is More” aptly describes paper records. Lack of trust in electronic records may cause us to use more paper than necessary.

In businesses large and small, email remains the most common transmission method. Email is inefficient because it allows multiple document copies, versions and “message threads,” not to mention redundant storage. With so many email attachments, which version is the correct one?

I prefer shared workspaces to email and have promoted their use for many years. Collaboration tools like Google Documents, Microsoft Office 365, SharePoint and Zoho are gaining acceptance in large, global organizations. These tools are worth every penny when they

  • promote consistent business processes,
  • increase productivity,
  • make content readily available,
  • provide a “single version of the truth,”
  • have a user-friendly interface, and
  • offer a secure way for people to interact 24/7.

Collaboration tools are in their infancy and have limitations. Often, the tools seem easy to administer but require multiple attempts to properly set user permissions. Often, their interfaces and features are so simplistic that they do not meet user needs. For instance,

  • online document editors are simpler (read: less functional) than desktop office software.
  • document work spaces have limited functionality without customization.
  • calendars are rudimentary.
  • survey tools are rudimentary with few data analysis features.

Software vendors, please make tools more functional, yet keep them simple!  And offer me more FREE Cloud storage space, so I do not need several Cloud accounts to manage my work.

I welcome more mature, yet user-friendly collaboration tools.  With increasing content management in the Cloud, we can better manage day-to-day work. The result? Less paper, I hope!

Pixel This: No Paper! sums up the “paperless office” issue pretty well.