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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Energy sector looks to integrated EHS IT solutions to manage risk in a complex operational and regulatory enironment

We are in the midst of a 21st Century energy boom. It has created thousands of jobs and reduced the U.S. dependence on imported crude oil. New technologies like horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing (fracking) create new opportunities as well as risks. In light of recent offshore and onshore incidents in the energy and chemical industries, regulatory agencies are in the midst of making new policies and rules. How do organizations keep up with this complex, dynamic business environment?

“Risk is an integral component of a safety culture. It must be the lens through which we view the interaction between technology and the human element.”
–Brian Salerno, BSEE Director

Most organizations use spreadsheets, email and documents to manage environment, health & safety (EH&S or EHS) data. Even those that use more robust information technology (IT) platforms admit that they do not use IT to its fullest.

To better collect, manage, and use EHS information, many energy companies are migrating to integrated EH&S software applications for the first time. Others are taking a hard look at replacing legacy systems with more robust IT platforms.

The latest IT Insight column, 21st Century Energy Boom and Greater Risk Awareness Drive EH&S Software Initiatives, describes the pressure that the energy industry faces in managing mountains of EHS data while also minimizing the risks associated with everyday business. The column describes lessons learned in the Gulf of Mexico and a new risk management approach that is taking hold. Read the full article here.

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Learn from the experts and share best practices at September Sustainable Performance Forum

I am pleased to announce my upcoming presentation, “Business Requirements and Software Selection Best Practices” at the Sustainable Performance Forum, 25-26 September in Chicago, IL. The #Enablon #SPF Americas 2014 program features thought leaders on environment, health & safety (EHS) and sustainability, information technology (IT), and Risk. 

Former NASA astronaut, navy fighter pilot and test pilot and Boeing Chief Technical Pilot John O. Creighton will deliver the keynote talk on risk.

The Keynote panel features senior executives from industry, leading EHS subject matter experts and industry analysts. Author and writer Anna M. Clark will moderate the panel. Enablon CEO Dan Vogel, CTO Marc Vogel, Vice President Pascal Gaude and Enablon North America CEO Philippe Tesler will present their vision and company roadmap.

The Enablon team will lead program tracks on six different Enablon software solutions. Each track will include a session on issues & trends and a case study, in addition to presentations on the solution set and product road map.

Customers will have the opportunity to collaborate with subject matter experts and Enablon on future product enhancements. 

The program features two new tracks this year, beyond solution tracks and software training:

  • Technology Enablers–cross-platform, innovative information technologies
  • Implementation Strategies–best practices for business requirements and software selection; implementation, and more.

SPF also offers networking opportunities like industry roundtables and a gala dinner, and Lunchtime Expert series talks. Learn more here.


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Upcoming Sustainable Performance Forum to focus on operational risk and process safety management

The Enablon Sustainable Performance Forum (SPF) will bring experts on operational risk management and process safety management to Houston, TX on the afternoon of 21 May. Book author and award-winning journalist Loren Steffy will deliver the opening keynote address. Environment, health & safety (EHS) management information system thought leader Jill Barson Gilbert of Lexicon Systems, LLC will moderate a panel discussion. Panelists include Jess A. McAngus, respected compliance expert and Co-founder Spirit Environmental; Jonathan Commanday, Director Applications Services at Axiall Corporation; and Leah Cartwright, Process Safety subject matter expert from Enablon North America Corp.

Enablon’s North America Product Manager Alexis Merydith will present the Enablon V7.0 Road Map and demonstrate the software’s Management of Change (MOC) capabilities. Global risk expert John Kill, Partner in ERM’s Risk Practice, will deliver the closing keynote address.

EEnablon sustainable performance forum houston 2014xisting Enablon software customers are invited to participate in a pre-conference Customer Workshop. Here they will meet with Enablon founders Dan Vogel, Phil Tesler and Marc Vogel and the product team to learn about and provide input on future software releases.

Consulting firm ERM is the conference co-sponsor. Read the press release here and register for the complimentary conference 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.


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$Dollars still drive EHS software decisions

A large manufacturing client of mine recently completed a software evaluation and selection process. The project stakeholders used a set of objective evaluation and selection criteria to arrive at a decision. Interestingly, these criteria did NOT include cost. If in, the final evaluation two software solutions were rated equal, then cost could be a deciding factor. My client and the software vendor were excited to move forward with implementation at warp-speed, as the clock was ticking towards internal deadlines.

Since the EHS business and IT sponsors kept the executive suite updated, it looked as if formal approval would be easy. The company had strong business drivers regardless of the project cost. Of course, no project has unlimited funds. In the end, the project was approved–only after a lot of number-crunching and many revisions to the executive presentation.

Why? Executives run the business using performance-based metrics. Most C-level executives are trained to value a project based on “hard numbers” metrics such as cost saving, cost avoidance and Return on Investment. Often, they dismiss the value of compelling “soft numbers” associated with benefits that are harder to quantify, such as making decisions based upon solid data, the ability for users to adopt (and gladly use) the software, data entry at the point of activity, and productivity gains from EHS process automation, self-service reports and dashboards.

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Dollars, Euros, Pounds, Yen

Prepare a compelling business case based upon a good understanding of your business. While this does not require exhaustive research, you need to know where to look.

  1. Keep it simple. Find 2-3 relevant “hard numbers” cost avoidance and cost savings examples.   These savings alone could pay for the project in 3-5 years.
  2. Consider the total cost of ownership (TCO). This includes software license/subscription, maintenance and implementation fees PLUS the cost of internal EHS and IT resources, external consultants, hardware and other expenses over the lifetime of the software. Many organizations have tunnel vision and compare only license and implementation costs; TCO allows a more realistic and credible evaluation.
  3. Avoid selecting the low-cost option just to save a few dollars. If the software fits current, near-term and long-term needs, then it may be a good option. Reread item 2 above. You may wish that you had chosen a more “expensive” option, as it would save effort and money over the life of the software.
  4. When in doubt, seek expert advice. Seek assistance if you lack the know-how to prepare a business case for C-level or Board approval. The skills needed to develop a business case are very different from the skills needed to administer the software after implementation. This expertise may lie within or outside of your organization.

While dollars still drive EHS software decisions, look at the bigger picture. You will be glad you did!


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The environmental impact of tablets

Industry analysts predict that tablet purchases will outnumber laptop purchases by 2013. The increasing use of tablets, both business and personal, has quite an impact on the environment. Their use results in lower ink and paper consumption, lower CO2 emissions, as well as lower water consumption during production.

Twenty-five percent of adults in the U.S. own tablets, compared to only 4%  in 2010. And 45% of tablet users say they have decreased printing. 

–morganstanley.com and appleinsider.com 

ID-10081890Uberflip, a Canadian company that helps organizations to deploy content on electronic platforms, identified four environmental sustainability trends related to tablet use:

A decline in printing. Although many people feel that they still require hard copies of just about everything, this is no longer the norm.  Printer manufacturers like HP are feeling the crunch as the demand for ink shrinks.

I work with more electronic documents than paper documents these days. I buy less paper and ink than I have bought in the past. When I need a paper copy, I print wirelessly from my iPad or notebook computer.

Eco-friendly devices. Over their lifetime, tablets result in lower CO2 emissions, notably when people use their tablets as e-readers rather than buying paper books. The CO2 equivalent emissions from a tablet are about 1/3rd that of a small notebook and 1/25th that of a 60-watt incandescent light bulb.

E-waste. The volume of electronic waste will double by 2025. To combat this, electronics manufacturers and big box retailers have implemented recycling programs. I took advantage of this free recycling service at least four times this year, giving up an old notebook computer, a desktop computer, a laser printer and an inkjet printer. I reused the computer hard drives, converting them into external hard drives with a simple enclosure kit.

Green business. More and more businesses use tablets to demonstrate products and services, and for sales transactions. My local grocery chain uses iPads to sign up customers for their loyalty coupon program, which has computer and mobile apps. This replaces printing and mailing costs.

A national electronics chain uses iPads to demonstrate how tablets connect to big-screen TVs to display streaming videos. The Apple store uses iPads that allow customers to compare products and view features. A sales technician is on hand to answer questions and complete the sale–by entering transaction information on an iPhone and then swiping a credit card. You get a small paper receipt and an electronic receipt by email. There is no cash register evident in the store (there may be one in the back for cash sales) and no waiting in lines.

See the full Uberflip InfoGraphic on Sustainability of Tablets.


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Companies often overlook organizational change management in enterprise software initiatives

Whether you are considering a brand new enterprise EHS software application, or replacing or updating legacy systems, change happens. Change is unsettling, and people’s past experiences and emotions affect the way that they perceive it. Change management is a “people” issue that companies often overlook or do not give sufficient attention when taking on an enterprise software initiative.

Organizational change management is a structured approach to get people from the current state to the desired state. It is a process that involves preparing for change, managing change and reinforcing change. This process involves much more than training, and parallels the software/systems life cycle.

How you handle the change and prepare your people can make or break your IT initiative. Read IT Insight column, Change Happens… Embrace It! to learn how to create an atmosphere that enables software-related changes to work in your organization.