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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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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TIME’s “top 10 tech gadgets” list for 2012 has pleasant surprises

Most of us are familiar with David Letterman’s “Top 10” lists, the “best-dressed” and “worst-dressed” lists, etc. Time magazine released its “Top 10 of Everything 2012 with a whopping 55 lists in numerous categories. Here’s their list of the top 10 tech gadgets for 2012:

  1. iPhone 5
  2. Nintendo Wii U
  3. Sony Cybershot RX100 camera
  4. Raspberry Pi Model B
  5. Lytro light field camera
  6. Apple Macbook Pro 15″ with Retina Display
  7. Microsoft Surface with Window RT
  8. Samsung Galaxy Note II
  9. Nest thermostat
  10. Simple TV

The list includes two of the best smartphones, a new tablet and a notebook with a stunning display–no surprise. What did surprise–and intrigue–me is the innovation and ingenuity in three items on the list:

  • Raspberry Pi

    Raspberry Pi is a $35 computer. Yes, you heard this correctly! It’s stripped down to bare essentials; all you need is a monitor, mouse and keyboard.

  • Lytro cameraThe Lytro camera captures the direction of light rays, as well as color and intensity, letting the user refocus photos after they’re taken. It’s by no means a pocket camera, but it is affordable. 
  • Nest thermostatThe Nest learning thermostat incorporates simple form and function, with a touch screen display. Former Apple employees designed it.

You can view all 55 TIME Top 10 of Everything lists here.


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Green Quadrant® Environmental Management Software names market leaders

Verdantix  named IHS, Enablon and SAP as the leaders in the enterprise environmental management software market in its report, Green Quadrant® Environmental Management Software (Global) 2012. Enviance, Locus Technologies and BSI group are in the second tier.

Verdantix defines environmental management software as

enterprise-scale software that enables firms to capture, analyse and report data, and manage performance across their assets on environmental indicators such as air, green house gases, water, waste and toxic chemicals.

The U.K.-based research firm used their proprietary methodology to evaluate the capabilities of 12 firms in 19 areas. Other findings of note:

  • Overall spending on environmental management software will increase over the next three years in 60% of companies with revenues of $1 billion or more.
  • Spending on sustainability will increase in 2012 vs. 2012 in nearly 60% of companies surveyed.
  • Greenhouse gas, hazardous waste and water top the list of customer’s monitoring requirements.
  • Automated task management, notifications and workflows are important.
  • Customers want to integrate/interface other data sources with their environmental management system.
  • Customers prefer to buy from large environmental/sustainability software firms.
  • Two-thirds prefer that the software firm or an engineering/sustainability consultant implement the software.

For more information, see the full report.


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Enablon Sustainable Performance Forum 2012 attracted a crowd

I spent the better part of this week at an environment, health & safety (EHS) software user group meeting in Chicago. The Enablon Sustainable Performance Forum at the Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel drew a crowd of approximately 400 executives, EHS and sustainability professionals and service providers.

The plenary sessions were top-notch, with a keynote panel of executives from a national environmental association, a leading accounting firm, a Global Reporting Initiative non-profit and two global environmental consulting firms. Breakout sessions each day focused on four to five topics, also with pertinent talks, case studies and software demos.

SPF 2012 provided a great opportunity for networking and knowledge transfer, in the perfect setting—a LEED-certified “green” building.


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IHS adds EHS regulatory content provider to its portfolio of companies

IHS acquired CyberRegs from Citation Technologies. This strategic acquisition fills a previous regulatory content gap in its environment, health & safety (EHS) and sustainability solutions offerings. CyberRegs helps organizations to keep up to date on regulatory changes that affect their assets. In the past 3-4 years IHS has acquired a series of EHS software companies.