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.


1 Comment

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.

Advertisements
Office 2016 for Mac


Leave a comment

Microsoft announces Office 2016 for Mac preview

Microsoft typically updates its Office suite (Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Outlook and OneNote) about every three years. And with the introduction of its Office 365 Cloud version, the software giant can tweak the software any time it wants.

What about the Mac users who rely upon MS Office? The number of Macs in the enterprise is growing, with BYOT (bring your own technology), as well as corporate adoption of the Mac platform.

The last product release was Office for Mac 2011, over five years ago. So the recent announcement of Office 2016 for Mac was welcomed by Mac aficionados. You can install the Office 2016 for Mac preview without impacting your existing Office 2011 version; you can use both–just not at the same time. Look in your App Launcher and you will see icons for both the 2011 and 2016 versions of each app.

First takes

The biggest change is the addition of OneNote, which is logical considering last year’s release of OneNote for iOS (free). Having used OneNote for Windows for over ten years, I find the Mac version lacks a few “must have” features, like the ability to

  • toggle grid lines on and off, and to print the grid if desired.
  • create reusable page templates.
  • set default paragraph (line) spacing, as well as paragraph spacing within the document.
  • use a variety of bullets, vs. one (•), when using multi-level bullet lists.
  • create and save user-specific styles, e.g. headings in different fonts, styles and colors.

Microsoft advertises Office for Mac as “the familiar office you know and love.”
Unmistakable office | Designed for Mac | Cloud Connected.

Microsoft is working to consolidate the Office brand and bring Mac users into the fold. The application icons resemble the Office 2013 Windows version icons.  I happen to like the (old) Office 2011 icons because they are more innovative, just like a Mac user expects. However, today’s design trend is “flat” user interfaces with bold colors.

Office 2016 for Mac

Photo: Microsoft

All Mac Office applications resemble their Windows counterparts, with the goal of a familiar, but simpler, user experience. I think the Mac version may suit many, but will disappoint others who expect quantum leaps in features in the new version. After all, it has been five years in the making! A few examples…

  • the ribbon interface resembles that in the Windows version. So far, in the Office 2016 for Mac preview, the user cannot move the ribbon below the menu, as is possible in the Windows version.
  • Office 2016 offers a limited number of built-in design templates (style, color and font combinations) and does not appear to take advantage of the default and built-in Mac OSX fonts (i.e., Helvetica Neue for late-model Macs, plus a laundry list of Apple fonts).
  • When opening a new file, the user can choose from a few pre-formatted letters, rėsumės, spreadsheets and presentations, but there is no link to hundreds more on the MS Office Web site. The solution: Mac users can download Windows templates and open them without losing data and formats.

Release plans

Microsoft plans to release Office for Mac 2016 in the second half of 2015. Look for it in the Mac app store. According to the Microsoft Web site, if you have an  Office 365 subscription, you will get the current version of Office for Mac, free.

I look forward to the official rollout. As an ex-Windows user, I will continue to use and explore the capabilities of the Office for Mac Preview versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote–despite the feature gap. I don’t use Outlook, as Mac mail provides me with a consistent user experience across my smartphone, tablet and notebook. I do miss some Outlook features that Mac mail lacks, especially the seamless integration of mail, contacts, calendars and tasks and the ease of data import and export.

Those interested in downloading the preview can find it here.


Leave a comment

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?


Leave a comment

Microsoft Pulls Plug on Windows XP Support

Just last week—08 April 2014—Microsoft stopped supporting the tremendously popular Windows XP operating system. They will provide security updates/patches for another fifteen months, through July 2015.

Loyal XP users need to decide if “I’d rather fight than switch” or “I’d rather switch than fight…” and they need to decide soon, since upgrades in large organizations can take 12-18 months.

pull-the-plug-square

Windows XP Sails into the Sunset… Maybe speaks to the impacts and unintended consequences of the long-announced end of support.

End of support impacts millions of users. Where does that leave the millions of business and consumer users still on that operating system? Will they fight upgrading to Windows 8.1, or switch to an alternative operating system. What challenges will people face when upgrading to a new OS?

End of support has unintended consequences. First, it resulted in a resurgence in Windows 7 laptop sales and Windows 7 OS upgrades. Second, it resulted in the purchase of Windows-alternative hardware and software. End of support gives organizations a reason to evaluate whether they need laptops into the future, or if other technologies (cloud, mobile, and social) are better alternatives.


Leave a comment

Windows XP support ending soon

Microsoft stops support for the Windows XP operating system (OS) early in April, and stops support for the associated malware software in July. Despite Microsoft’s warnings to update from Windows XP to Windows 8.1 before “end of support,” many large organizations continue to use the almost 13-year-old computer operating system. It is the most popular OS next to Windows 7. And some companies will switch to Windows 7 rather than Windows 8.x.

windows-xp-computer

Image: Microsoft

Companies can

  1. continue to use Windows XP and later change to another OS;
  2. upgrade to Windows 7 or Windows 8.1; or
  3. upgrade to an OS such as Chrome OS, Mac OSX Mavericks or Android.

Windows XP end of support allows an opportunity to evaluate how IT needs have changed in the last 13 years. Organizations can decide which new technologies—hardware, operating systems, mobile, Cloud and Big Data—will work best for them.

The next “IT Insight” column, Windows XP sails into the sunset… maybeappears in em Magazine on April 1. Check back here or on our web site early in April for a link to the column.


Leave a comment

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.


Leave a comment

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.