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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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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IT Staff, Engineers among Top 10 Hardest Jobs to Fill

Manpower Group’s 2014 Talent Shortage Survey Results are in. Science, Technical, Engineering and Math (STEM) positions–IT staff and engineers–remain among the top 10 hardest jobs to fill, as they have been for years.

Fully 40% of U.S. employers report difficulty in filling jobs, and 56% of U.S. employers believe that this has a medium or high impact on their ability to meet client needs.

Top 10 hardest to fill jobs in 2014

  1. Skilled Trade Workers
  2. Restaurant and Hotel Staff
  3. Sales Representatives
  4. Teachers
  5. Drivers
  6. Accounting and Finance Staff
  7. Laborers
  8. IT Staff
  9. Engineers
  10. Nurses

inc_standard_stacked_rgbView the Manpower Group 9th Annual Talent Shortage Survey infographic.

See the complete survey results here.


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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.

Fresh off two software selection projects, I am reminded that software should benefit its users, not the IT group. A well-designed software application–or commercial software implementation–starts with documenting clear, solid business requirements.

Solid requirements (prioritized business needs) are critical to success. Good business requirements, coupled with objective evaluation criteria, can help a company to identify a short list of vendors and select a solution that best meets their needs, fits the company’s IT maturity and culture, and that users will adopt.

what happens in vagueness stays in vagueness

Business requirements must be clear, not ambiguous, to both users and IT.

Consider the following tips when developing business requirements. When eliciting requirements, the business analyst should:

  • be clear, not ambiguous.
  • document business needs in terms familiar to the users–not IT terms.
  • help stakeholders reach a consensus on needs (“what” the software does).
  • help the stakeholders to develop standardized business process work flows that are simple enough to use day in and day out. The software implementation will reflect these work flows, which “behind the scenes” are well thought out and can handle exceptions with built in “business rules.”

When eliciting requirements, the business analyst should not:

  • document “molecular” requirements; each should be “atomic” and describe a specific need.
  • discuss the software features or look and feel (“how” the software does it) This will happen after software selection, during design.
  • allow certain stakeholder’s opinions to override what is best for the group as a whole.
  • help stakeholders to develop different work flows for different locations. Use “business rules” to address differences and to allow consistent, enterprise-wide data roll-up and reporting.

Read more about an approach to well-designed software.

Click here for a wealth of articles on software business requirements, evaluation and selection, and managing the IT systems life cycle.

 


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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.