Select the Right NOx Control Technology

Most major industrialized urban areas in the U.S. are unable to meet the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ozone. Atmospheric studies have shown that ozone formation is the result of a complex set of chemical reactions involving volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and nitrogen oxides (NOx). Those studies indicate that many urban areas with VOC/NOx ratios greater tan 15:1 can reduce ambient ozone levels only by reducing NOx emissions. Many states, therefore, are implementing NOx control regulations for combustion devices in order to achieve compliance with the NAAQS ozone standard.

This article discusses the characterization of NOx emissions from industrial combustion devices. It then provides guidance on how to evaluate the applicable NOx control technologies and select an appropriate control method.

Characterizing Emissions

Most industrial combustion devices have not been tested to establish their baseline NOx emission levels. Rather, the NOx emissions from these units have been simply estimated using various factors. In light of recent regulations, however, it is mandatory that the NOx emissions from affected units now be known with certainty. This will establish each unit’s present compliance status and allow definition of fee applicable control technologies for those units that will require modification to achieve compliance.

It is, therefore, important to test each combustion device to verify its NOx emissions characteristics. The testing process should be streamlined to provide timely and necessary information for making decisions regarding the applicability of NOx control technologies.

The basic approach is to select one device from a class of units (that is, of same design and size) for characterization testing (NOx, CO2, and 02). Testing is conducted at three load points that represent the normal operating range of the unit, with excess oxygen variation testing conducted at each load point. Figure 1 illustrates the typical characterization test results. The remaining units in the class are tested at only one load point, at or near full load.

The operational data obtained during testing, in conjunction with the NOx and CO data, are used to define the compliance status of each unit, as well as the applicable NOx control technologies for those devices that must be modified. In most instances, this approach will allow multiple units to be tested in one day and provide the necessary operational data the engineer needs to properly evaluate the potential NOx control technologies.

Fundamental Concepts

Reasonably available control technology (RACT) standards for NOx emissions are defined in terms of an emission limit, such as 0.2 lb NOx/MMBtu, rather than mandating Specific NOx control technologies. Depending on the fuel fired and the design of the combustion device, a myriad of control technologies may be viable options. Before selecting RACT for a particular combustion device, it is necessary to understand how NOx emissions are formed so that the appropriate control strategy may be formulated.

NOx emissions formed during the combustion process are a function of the fuel composition, the operating mode, and the basic design of the boiler and combustion equipment. Each of these parameters can play a significant role in the final level of NOx emissions.

NOx formation is attributed to three distinct mechanisms:

1. Thermal NOx Formation;

2. Prompt (i.e.. rapidly forming) NO formation; and

3. Fuel NOx formation.

Each of these mechanisms is driven by three basic parameters – temperature of combustion, time above threshold temperatures in an oxidizing or reducing atmosphere, and turbulence during initial combustion.

Thermal NOx formation in gas-, oil-. and coal-fired devices results from thermal fixation of atmospheric nitrogen in the combustion air. Early investigations of NOx formation were based upon kinetic analyses for gaseous fuel combustion. These analyses by Zeldovich yielded an Arrhenius-type equation showing the relative importance of time, temperature, and oxygen and nitrogen concentrations on NOx formation in a pre-mixed flame (that is, the reactants are thoroughly mixed before combustion).

While thermal NOx formation in combustion devices cannot actually be determined using the Zeldovich relationship, it does illustrate the importance of the major factors that Influence thermal NOx formation, and that NOx formation increases exponentially with combustion temperatures above 2.800°F.

Experimentally measured NOx formation rates near the flame zone are higher than those predicted by the Zeldovich relationship. This rapidly forming NO is referred to as prompt NO. The discrepancy between the predicted and measured thermal NOx values is attributed to the simplifying assumptions used in the derivation of the Zeldovich equation, such as the equilibrium assumption that O = ½ 02. Near the hydrocarbon-air flame zone, the concentration of the formed radicals, such as O and OH, can exceed the equilibrium values, which enhances the rate of NOx formation. However, the importance of prompt NO in NOx emissions is negligible in comparison to thermal and fuel NOx.

When nitrogen is introduced with the fuel, completely different characteristics are observed. The NOx formed from the reaction of the fuel nitrogen with oxygen is termed fuel NOx. The most common form of fuel nitrogen is organically bound nitrogen present in liquid or solid fuels where individual nitrogen atoms are bonded to carbon or other atoms. These bonds break more easily than the diatomic N2 bonds so that fuel NOx formation rates can be much higher than those of thermal NOx. In addition, any nitrogen compounds (e.g., ammonia) introduced into the furnace react in much the same way.

Fuel NOx is much more sensitive to stoichiometry than to thermal conditions. For this reason, traditional thermal treatments, such as flue gas recirculation and water injection, do not effectively reduce NOx emissions from liquid and solid fuel combustion.

NOx emissions can be controlled either during the combustion process or after combustion is complete. Combustion control technologies rely on air or fuel staging techniques to take advantage of the kinetics of NOx formation or introducing inerts that inhibit the formation of NOx during combustion, or both. Post-combustion control technologies rely on introducing reactants in specified temperature regimes that destroy NOx either with or without the use of catalyst to promote the destruction.

Conbustion Control

The simplest of the combustion control technologies is low-excess-air operation–that is, reducing the excess air level to the point of some constraint, such as carbon monoxide formation, flame length, flame stability, and so on. Unfortunately, low-excess-air operation has proven to yield only moderate NOx reductions, if any.

Three technologies that have demonstrated their effectiveness in controlling NOx emissions are off-stoichiometric combustion. low-NOx burners, and combustion temperature reduction. The first two are applicable to all fuels, while the third is applicable only to natural gas and low-nitro-gen-content fuel oils.

Off-stoichiometric, or staged, combustion is achieved by modifying the primary combustion zone stoichiometry – that is, the air/fuel ratio. This may be accomplished operationally or by equipment modifications.

An operational technique known us burners-out-of-service (BOOS) involves terminating the fuel flow to selected burners while leaving the air registers open. The remaining burners operate fuel-rich, thereby limiting oxygen availability, lowering peak flame temperatures, and reducing NOx formation. The unreacted products combine with the air from the terminated-fuel burners to complete burnout before exiting the furnace. Figure 2 illustrates the effectiveness of this technique applied to electric utility boilers. Staged combustion can also be achieved by installing air-only ports, referred to as overfire air (OFA) ports, above the burner zone. redirecting a portion of the air from the burners to the OFA ports. A variation of this concept, lance air, consists of installing air tubes around the periphery of each burner to supply staged air.

BOOS, overfire air, and lance air achieve similar results. These techniques are generally applicable only to larger, multiple-burner, combustion devices.

Low-NOx burners are designed to achieve the staging effect internally. The air and fuel flow fields are partitioned and controlled to achieve the desired air/fuel ratio, which reduces NOx formation and results in complete burnout within the furnace. Low-NOx burners are applicable lo practically all combustion devices with circular burner designs.

Combustion temperature reduction is effective at reducing thermal N0x but not fuel NOx. One way to reduce the combustion temperature is to introduce a diluent. Flue gas recirculation (FGR) is one such technique.

FGR recirculates a portion of the flue gas leaving the combustion process back into the windbox. The recirculated flue gas, usually on the order of 10-20% of the combustion air provides sufficient dilution to decrease NOx emission. Figure 3 correlates the degree of emission reduction with the amount of flue gas recirculated.

On gas-fired units, emissions arc reduced well beyond the levels normally achievable with staged combustion control. In fact, FGR is probably the most effective and least troublesome system for NOx reduction for gas-fired combustors.

An advantage of FGR is that it can be used with most other combustion control methods. Many industrial low-NOx burner systems on the market today incorporate induced FGR. In these designs, a duct is installed between the stack and forced-draft inlet (suction). Flue gas products are recirculated through the forced-draft fan, thus eliminating the need for a separate fan.

Water injection is another method that works on the principle of combustion dilution, very similar to FGR. In addition to dilution, it reduces the combustion air temperature by absorbing the latent heat of vaporization of the water before the combustion air reaches the primary combustion zone.

Few full-scale retrofit or test trials of water injection have been performed. Until recently, water injection has not been used as a primary NOx control method on any combustion devices other than gas turbines because of the efficiency penalty resulting from the absorption of usable energy to evaporate the water. In some cases, water injection represents a viable option to consider when moderate NOx reductions are required to achieve compliance.

Reduction of the air preheat temperature is another viable technique for culling NOx emissions. This lowers peak flame temperatures, thereby reducing NOx formation. The efficiency penalty, however, may be substantial. A rule of thumb is a 1% efficiency loss for each 40º F reduction in preheat. In some cases this may be offset by adding or enlarging the existing economizer.

Post-Combustion Control

There are two technologies for controlling NOx emissions after formation in the combustion process – selective catalytic reduction (SCR) and selective noncatalytic reduction (SNCR). Both of these processes have seen very limited application in the U.S. for external combustion devices. In selective catalytic reduction, a gas mixture of ammonia with a carrier gas (typically compressed air) is injected upstream of a catalytic reactor operating at temperatures between 450º F and 750º F. NOx control efficiencies are typically in the 70-90% percent range, depending on the type of catalyst, the amount of ammonia injected, the initial NOx level, and the age of the catalyst.

The retrofit of SCR on existing combustion devices can be complex and costly. Apart from the ammonia storage, preparation, and control monitoring requirements, significant modifications to the convective pass ducts may be necessary.

In selective noncatalytic reduction, ammonia- or urea-based reagents are injected into the furnace exit region, where the flue gas is in the range of 1,700-2,000º F. The efficiency of this process depends on the temperature of the gas, the reagent mixing with the gas, the residence time within the temperature window, and the amount of reagent injected relative to the concentration of NOx present. The optimum gas temperature for die reaction is about 1,750°F; deviations from this temperature result in a lower NOx reduction efficiency. Application of SNCR, therefore, must be carefully assessed, as its effectiveness is very dependent on combustion device design and operation.

Technology Selection

As noted previously, selection of applicable NOx control technologies depends on a number of fuel, design, and operational factors. After identifying the applicable control technologies, an economic evaluation must be conducted to rank the technologies according to their cost effectiveness. Management can then select the optimum NOx control technology for the specific unit.

It should be noted that the efficiencies of NOx control technologies are not additive, but rather multiplicative. Efficiencies for existing combustion devices have been demonstrated in terms of percent reduction from baseline emissions level. This must be taken into account when considering combinations of technology.

Consider, for example, the following hypothetical case. Assume a baseline NOx emissions level of 100 ppmv and control technology efficiencies as follows: low-excess-air operation (LEA), 10%; low-NOx burners (LNB), 40%; and flue gas recirculation (FGR). 60%. The three controls are installed in the progressive order of LEA-LNB-FGR.

It should also he noted that combining same-principle technologies (for example, two types of staged combustion) would not provide a further significant NOx reduction than either of the combination, since they operate on the same principle.

It must be emphasized that virtually all of the available control technologies have the potential for adversely affecting the performance and/or operation of the unit. The operation data obtained during the NOx characterization testing, therefore, must be carefully evaluated in light of such potential impacts before selecting applicable control technologies. Operational limitations such as flame envelope, furnace pressure, forced-draft fan capacity, and the like must he identified for each potential technology and their corresponding impacts quantified. (Reference (4), for example, discusses these items, in detail.)

As anyone familiar with combustion processes knows, one technology does not fit all. Careful consideration must he used to select the appropriate, compatible control technology or technologies to ensure compliance at least cost with minimal impact on performance, operation, and capacity.

The Importance of Information Technology Training from a Management Perspective

Information technology training for IT managers and systems analysts may seem superfluous – these folks are usually well-learned in their areas of expertise. But, do they understand how a company’s technology fits into the bigger picture from a business perspective? That’s where management training becomes important. Every manager who plays a role in researching, selecting or implementing enterprise technology needs to have a firm grasp on the basics of emerging technologies, as well as how they serve a larger business purpose, to ensure that technology is being used to the company’s best strategic advantage.

Stay Current on Revolutionary, Emerging Technology Applications

A program of continual information technology training is crucial to the success of any IT team. Technology is constantly evolving, and it seems that there is a new application released every day that is meant to simplify doing business. This can be overwhelming if you do not stay current on the high-level trends of technology and their corresponding impact on business. With the Web 2.0 revolution in full swing, management training is a useful tool for managers to become familiar with the online trends such as blogs, wikis, podcasts and RSS feeds, as well as how the trends are going to change the ways we view the Internet and communicate with each other. It is estimated that these technologies will have significant business impact in the coming years, and companies everywhere have to consider directly how it affects their business strategies.

Information technology training can help managers determine the impact of new technologies and how to adapt their business processes. Trying to envision how Web 2.0 changes traditional business models is difficult when you have no knowledge of how these new technical applications are being used from a business perspective. First and foremost, managers must take it upon themselves to become proactive by keeping abreast of emerging trends and understanding them not only from a technical standpoint, but evaluating them from a higher-level, strategic standpoint. Management training courses on technology focus specifically on the ways that emerging technologies affect businesses on a high level. This is the type of knowledge needed to make conscious and informed decisions on what aspects of new technologies will affect your organization in the next few years and transition your thoughts into strategic action and implementation.

Collaboration and information sharing, within and outside of enterprises, are two areas that have made huge strides that management training can help your organization harness to improve business strategies. The advent of user-created content sharing has transformed the way that enterprises communicate. Enterprise-class blogs and wikis boost productivity and innovation by enabling ad hoc teams to participate in complex, collaborative problem solving, and then make the results available to the rest of the organization with ease. Information technology training gives managers the high-level information about these technologies that they need to bring them effectively into your organization.

Large companies will often struggle the most with adopting new business strategies based on emerging technologies due to organizational inertia and the lag that comes from changing any integrated system. Not only do the right people need to be convinced of the value of a new application, but the proper infrastructure often needs to be developed or tweaked to implement the technology. This is where the importance of management information technology training to understand the potential impact of technology from a business perspective comes into play.

Management Training for Appropriate Technology Selection and Recommendation

Management training courses typically deal with logistics and personnel management but fail to guide managers when it comes to making decisions about technology. As a manager in today’s world, what really matters isn’t just your ability to lead and maintain technology infrastructure – it’s your ability to deliver positive business outcomes. Cutting IT costs and managing infrastructure are only part of the equation. Technology must also reduce business risk and generate new opportunities and growth. Information technology training can help managers transition their views of technology as an isolated island off the coast of a business and look at it as one working part of the whole machine that is the organization.

Finding a cool application that has all the shiny bells and whistles you dreamed of and recommending implementation based on the technology’s sheer innovation is no longer enough to make a good business case. Before presenting a recommendation, you must understand every step involved with the successful implementation of the technology. A thorough study will need to be conducted to determine what departments, processes and functions will need to be modified in order to benefit from the new technology. Management training courses focusing on information technology gives managers the tools they need to make that determination.

If you are going to make an impact on the decision makers of a business, you have to get on their level. When it comes down to making a decision, for many business people it is all about the numbers. That is why it is essential to participate in information technology training courses that help you perform your due diligence and gather the data you need to compile hard numbers around your recommendation. What is the true return on investment that the company can expect to achieve by implementing the technology? It is much easier to convince an associate of the merits of your idea if you can show a real increase in profit based on proven research instead of attempting to sway them based on opinion only.

Conclusion

Technology is rapidly changing the way that businesses communicate and function every day. It is important for managers to take a proactive role in understanding emerging technology trends and how they may affect a company’s business model by investing in an ongoing program of information technology training for all levels of staff. Management training in particular is essential for ensuring the right technologies are pursued to ensure business success. Viewing technology as a direct influencer on the business as a whole ensures consistent alignment of goals throughout the enterprise.

Past, Present and Future Evolution of Technology

These days, tablets, computers and Smartphones run our lives, but in a short time, the market has exploded with technology more than most people can imagine and to the point that they cannot imagine being without it. To understand the evolution of this technology from the dark ages to today, you should began with understanding how it evolved. Technology was born out of a purpose. An example would be in the creation of search engines, which are used to sift through all the massive quantity of online data.

As upgrades are made to technology, it combines with the present technology and creates a better technology that it was before. As this continues to happen, technology evolves to the point that it is an essential thing to have. Present technology continues to evolve into being even greater and more powerful. As fast as technology has evolved, many people have to struggle to keep up. Below is a short overview showing you how fast technology and the internet have evolved in recent years.

The Past: Back in the 1990s, the internet was something new that most, but not all, businesses and households had. If you were living at that time, chances are high that you remember the sound of the extremely slow dial up signal that would connect you to the internet. Technology began to take off when more people discovered value in the internet, especially when access eliminated the need for a phone line. With the advancement of webpages, most people had either a Tripod or Geocities webpage.

It was during this time, blogging started on the consumer level making sharing information much easier. Rather than using a floppy disc or CD-ROM, people started using either email or a USB drive to store and share large files. As more new technologies began to pop-up, they would combine to form a faster, stronger and better technology. With every new technology and internet development, people’s lives, were changed, as well as the way they work and operate.

The Present: Since those early days of dial up, there are very few places you cannot find the internet. Rare are the days now that Wi-Fi internet cannot be found at the library, coffee shop or place of business. Even if you cannot find a Wi-Fi signal close enough, many people still can access the internet with their cell phone or Smartphone. Because of the anytime/anywhere internet access, most businesses have created for their customers, web applications, or apps, that will answer most common needs. Consumers can use these apps to do everything from keeping track of food portions to sending large amounts of information with just the click of a button. One difference that is most noticeable with today’s internet is its ability to be personable in a very impersonal setting, while improving the way people engage with each other online.

Even though the internet is superficial, it is a form of communication that has helped to keep people closer when they may have lost contact otherwise. You can even have face to face conversations via video/web conferencing, which bridges the geographic barriers. Businesses can also communicate with customers on a more human level and without the need for long distance travel, they can communicate face to face with people even on the other side of the world. Due to all the new technologies people use to access the internet, each other and information, the future looks promising for more technological developments.

The Future: With every present technology that is bound together, they are developed into other technologies that are even greater for the future use of both businesses and consumers alike. Future technology will undoubtedly be able to accomplish more, be even faster and will make work easier. Tablets, Smartphones and other smart devices will keep on evolving to work better together.

These devices will be able to automatically share information and limit the need for human involvement. Rather than store everything on a single device or online, most companies and people will put their companies on the cloud. Not only will this give a huge potential to change how companies do business, it will also change the traditional way an office looks as well as the way people and businesses interact.

The Impact of Technology on the Developing Child

Reminiscing about the good old days when we were growing up is a memory trip well worth taking, when trying to understand the issues facing the children of today. A mere 20 years ago, children used to play outside all day, riding bikes, playing sports and building forts. Masters of imaginary games, children of the past created their own form of play that didn’t require costly equipment or parental supervision. Children of the past moved… a lot, and their sensory world was nature based and simple. In the past, family time was often spent doing chores, and children had expectations to meet on a daily basis. The dining room table was a central place where families came together to eat and talk about their day, and after dinner became the center for baking, crafts and homework.

Today’s families are different. Technology’s impact on the 21st century family is fracturing its very foundation, and causing a disintegration of core values that long ago were what held families together. Juggling work, home and community lives, parents now rely heavily on communication, information and transportation technology to make their lives faster and more efficient. Entertainment technology (TV, internet, videogames, iPods) has advanced so rapidly, that families have scarcely noticed the significant impact and changes to their family structure and lifestyles. A 2010 Kaiser Foundation study showed that elementary aged children use on average 8 hours per day of entertainment technology, 75% of these children have TV’s in their bedrooms, and 50% of North American homes have the TV on all day. Add emails, cell phones, internet surfing, and chat lines, and we begin to see the pervasive aspects of technology on our home lives and family milieu. Gone is dining room table conversation, replaced by the “big screen” and take out. Children now rely on technology for the majority of their play, grossly limiting challenges to their creativity and imaginations, as well as limiting necessary challenges to their bodies to achieve optimal sensory and motor development. Sedentary bodies bombarded with chaotic sensory stimulation, are resulting in delays in attaining child developmental milestones, with subsequent impact on basic foundation skills for achieving literacy. Hard wired for high speed, today’s young are entering school struggling with self regulation and attention skills necessary for learning, eventually becoming significant behavior management problems for teachers in the classroom.

So what is the impact of technology on the developing child? Children’s developing sensory and motor systems have biologically not evolved to accommodate this sedentary, yet frenzied and chaotic nature of today’s technology. The impact of rapidly advancing technology on the developing child has seen an increase of physical, psychological and behavior disorders that the health and education systems are just beginning to detect, much less understand. Child obesity and diabetes are now national epidemics in both Canada and the US. Diagnoses of ADHD, autism, coordination disorder, sensory processing disorder, anxiety, depression, and sleep disorders can be causally linked to technology overuse, and are increasing at an alarming rate. An urgent closer look at the critical factors for meeting developmental milestones, and the subsequent impact of technology on those factors, would assist parents, teachers and health professionals to better understand the complexities of this issue, and help create effective strategies to reduce technology use. The three critical factors for healthy physical and psychological child development are movement, touch and connection to other humans. Movement, touch and connection are forms of essential sensory input that are integral for the eventual development of a child’s motor and attachment systems. When movement, touch and connection are deprived, devastating consequences occur.

Young children require 3-4 hours per day of active rough and tumble play to achieve adequate sensory stimulation to their vestibular, proprioceptive and tactile systems for normal development. The critical period for attachment development is 0-7 months, where the infant-parent bond is best facilitated by close contact with the primary parent, and lots of eye contact. These types of sensory inputs ensure normal development of posture, bilateral coordination, optimal arousal states and self regulation necessary for achieving foundation skills for eventual school entry. Infants with low tone, toddlers failing to reach motor milestones, and children who are unable to pay attention or achieve basic foundation skills for literacy, are frequent visitors to pediatric physiotherapy and occupational therapy clinics. The use of safety restraint devices such as infant bucket seats and toddler carrying packs and strollers, have further limited movement, touch and connection, as have TV and videogame overuse. Many of today’s parents perceive outdoor play is ‘unsafe’, further limiting essential developmental components usually attained in outdoor rough and tumble play. Dr. Ashley Montagu, who has extensively studied the developing tactile sensory system, reports that when infants are deprived of human connection and touch, they fail to thrive and many eventually die. Dr. Montagu states that touch deprived infants develop into toddlers who exhibit excessive agitation and anxiety, and may become depressed by early childhood.

As children are connecting more and more to technology, society is seeing a disconnect from themselves, others and nature. As little children develop and form their identities, they often are incapable of discerning whether they are the “killing machine” seen on TV and in videogames, or just a shy and lonely little kid in need of a friend. TV and videogame addiction is causing an irreversible worldwide epidemic of mental and physical health disorders, yet we all find excuses to continue. Where 100 years ago we needed to move to survive, we are now under the assumption we need technology to survive. The catch is that technology is killing what we love the most…connection with other human beings. The critical period for attachment formation is 0 – 7 months of age. Attachment or connection is the formation of a primary bond between the developing infant and parent, and is integral to that developing child’s sense of security and safety. Healthy attachment formation results in a happy and calm child. Disruption or neglect of primary attachment results in an anxious and agitated child. Family over use of technology is gravely affecting not only early attachment formation, but also impacting negatively on child psychological and behavioral health.

Further analysis of the impact of technology on the developing child indicates that while the vestibular, proprioceptive, tactile and attachment systems are under stimulated, the visual and auditory sensory systems are in “overload”. This sensory imbalance creates huge problems in overall neurological development, as the brain’s anatomy, chemistry and pathways become permanently altered and impaired. Young children who are exposed to violence through TV and videogames are in a high state of adrenalin and stress, as the body does not know that what they are watching is not real. Children who overuse technology report persistent body sensations of overall “shaking”, increased breathing and heart rate, and a general state of “unease”. This can best be described as a persistent hypervigalent sensory system, still “on alert” for the oncoming assault from videogame characters. While the long term effects of this chronic state of stress in the developing child are unknown, we do know that chronic stress in adults results in a weakened immune system and a variety of serious diseases and disorders. Prolonged visual fixation on a fixed distance, two dimensional screen grossly limits ocular development necessary for eventual printing and reading. Consider the difference between visual location on a variety of different shaped and sized objects in the near and far distance (such as practiced in outdoor play), as opposed to looking at a fixed distance glowing screen. This rapid intensity, frequency and duration of visual and auditory stimulation results in a “hard wiring” of the child’s sensory system for high speed, with subsequent devastating effects on a child’s ability to imagine, attend and focus on academic tasks. Dr. Dimitri Christakis found that each hour of TV watched daily between the ages of 0 and 7 years equated to a 10% increase in attention problems by age seven years.

In 2001 the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a policy statement recommending that children less than two years of age should not use any technology, yet toddlers 0 to 2 years of age average 2.2 hours of TV per day. The Academy further recommended that children older than two should restrict usage to one hour per day if they have any physical, psychological or behavioral problems, and two hours per day maximum if they don’t, yet parents of elementary children are allowing 8 hours per day. France has gone so far as to eliminate all “baby TV” due to the detrimental effects on child development. How can parents continue to live in a world where they know what is bad for their children, yet do nothing to help them? It appears that today’s families have been pulled into the “Virtual Reality Dream”, where everyone believes that life is something that requires an escape. The immediate gratification received from ongoing use of TV, videogame and internet technology, has replaced the desire for human connection.

It’s important to come together as parents, teachers and therapists to help society “wake up” and see the devastating effects technology is having not only on our child’s physical, psychological and behavioral health, but also on their ability to learn and sustain personal and family relationships. While technology is a train that will continually move forward, knowledge regarding its detrimental effects, and action taken toward balancing the use of technology with exercise and family time, will work toward sustaining our children, as well as saving our world. While no one can argue the benefits of advanced technology in today’s world, connection to these devices may have resulted in a disconnection from what society should value most, children. Rather than hugging, playing, rough housing, and conversing with children, parents are increasingly resorting to providing their children with more videogames, TV’s in the car, and the latest iPods and cell phone devices, creating a deep and widening chasm between parent and child.

Technology and Our Kids

With most people plugged in all the time, I often wonder what effect technology is having on our kids. Some say technology is another helpful learning tool that is making our kids smarter and some say it is having no significant effect at all. Still, others propose that technology use is encouraging social isolation, increasing attentional problems, encouraging unhealthy habits, and ultimately changing our culture and the way humans interact. While there isn’t a causal relationship between technology use and human development, I do think some of the correlations are strong enough to encourage you to limit your children’s screen time.

Is television really that harmful to kids? Depending on the show and duration of watching, yes. Researchers have found that exposure to programs with fast edits and scene cuts that flash unrealistically across the screen are associated with the development of attentional problems in kids. As the brain becomes overwhelmed with changing stimuli, it stops attending to any one thing and starts zoning out. Too much exposure to these frenetic programs gives the brain more practice passively accepting information without deeply processing it. However, not all programs are bad. Kids who watch slow paced television programs like Sesame Street are not as likely to develop attentional problems as kids who watch shows like The Power Puff Girls or Johnny Neutron. Educational shows are slow paced with fewer stimuli on the screen which gives children the opportunity to practice attending to information. Children can then practice making connections between new and past knowledge, manipulating information in working memory, and problem solving. Conclusively, a good rule of thumb is to limit television watching to an hour to two hours a day, and keep an eye out for a glossy-eyed transfixed gaze on your child’s face. This is a sure sign that his or her brain has stopped focusing and it is definitely time to shut off the tube so that he can start thinking, creating, and making sense out of things again (all actions that grow rather than pacify the brain).

When you do shut off the tube, don’t be surprised if you have a melt down on your hands. Technology has an addictive quality because it consistently activates the release of neurotransmitters that are associated with pleasure and reward. There have been cases of addictions to technology in children as young as four-years-old. Recently in Britain, a four-year-old girl was put into intensive rehabilitation therapy for an iPad addiction! I’m sure you know how rewarding it is to sign onto Facebook and see that red notification at the top of the screen, or even more directly how rewarding playing games on your computer can be as you accumulate more “accomplishments.” I am guilty of obsessive compulsively checking my Facebook, email, and blog throughout the day. The common answer to this problems is, “All things in moderation.” While I agree, moderation may be difficult for children to achieve as they do not possess the skills for self discipline and will often take the easy route if not directed by an adult. According to a new study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, children spend about 5 hours watching television and movies, 3 hours on the internet, 1 1/2 hours texting on the phone, and a 1/2 hour talking on the phone each day. That’s almost 75 hours of technology use each week, and I am sure these results are mediated by parental controls and interventions. Imagine how much technology children use when left to their own defenses! In a recent Huffington Post article, Dr. Larry Rosen summed it up well, “… we see what happens if you don’t limit these active participation. The child continues to be reinforced in the highly engaging e-world, and more mundane worlds, such as playing with toys or watching TV, pale in comparison.” How are you ever going to get your child to read a black and white boring old book when they could use a flashy, rewarding iPad instead? Children on average spend 38 minutes or less each day reading. Do you see a priority problem here?

With such frequent technology use, it is important to understand if technology use encourages or discourages healthy habits. It’s reported that among heavy technology users, half get C’s or lower in school. Light technology users fair much better, only a quarter of them receiving low marks. There are many factors that could mediate the relationship between technology use and poor grades. One could be decreased hours of sleep. Researchers from the Department of Family and Community Health at the University of Maryland found that children who had three or more technological devices in their rooms got at least 45 minutes less sleep than the average child the same age. Another could be the attention problems that are correlated with frequent technology use. Going further, multitasking, while considered a brilliant skill to have on the job, is proving to be a hindrance to children. It is not uncommon to see a school aged child using a laptop, cell phone, and television while trying to also complete a homework assignment. If we look closer at the laptop, we might see several tabs opened to various social networks and entertainment sites, and the phone itself is a mini computer these days. Thus, while multitasking, children are neglecting to give their studies full attention. This leads to a lack of active studying, a failure to transfer information from short term to long term memory, which leads ultimately to poorer grades in school. Furthermore, it is next to impossible for a child to engage is some of the higher order information processing skills such as making inferences and making connections between ideas when multitasking. We want our children to be deep thinkers, creators, and innovators, not passive information receptors who later regurgitate information without really giving it good thought. Therefore, we should limit access to multiple devices as well as limit duration of use.

Age comes into play when discussing the harmful effects of technology. For children younger than two-years-old, frequent exposure to technology can be dangerously detrimental as it limits the opportunities for interaction with the physical world. Children two-years-old and younger are in the sensorimotor stage. During this stage it is crucial that they manipulate objects in the world with their bodies so that they can learn cause-effect relationships and object permanence. Object permanence is the understanding that when an object disappears from sight, it still exists. This reasoning requires the ability to hold visual representations of objects in the mind, a precursor to understanding visual subjects such as math later in life. To develop these skills, children need several opportunities every day to mold, create, and build using materials that do not have a predetermined structure or purpose. What a technological device provides are programs with a predetermined purpose that can be manipulated in limited ways with consequences that often don’t fit the rules of the physical world. If the child is not being given a drawing app or the like, they are likely given programs that are in essence a lot like workbooks with structured activities. Researchers have found that such activities hinder the cognitive development of children this age. While researchers advise parents to limit their baby’s screen time to 2 hours or less each day, I would say it’s better to wait to introduce technology to your children until after they have at least turned 3-years-old and are demonstrating healthy cognitive development. Even then, technology use should be limited enormously to provide toddlers with time to engage in imaginative play.

Technology is changing the way children learn to communicate and use communication to learn. Many parents are using devices to quiet there children in the car, at the dinner table, or where ever social activities may occur. The risk here is that the child is not witnessing and thinking about the social interactions playing out before him. Children learn social skills through modeling their parents social interactions. Furthermore, listening to others communicate and talking to others is how children learn to talk to themselves and be alone. The benefits of solitude for children come from replaying and acting out conversations they had or witnessed during the day, and this is how they ultimately make sense of their world. The bottom line is, the more we expose our children to technological devices, the worse their social skills and behavior will be. A Millennium Cohort Study that followed 19,000 children found that, “those who watched more than three hours of television, videos or DVDs a day had a higher chance of conduct problems, emotional symptoms and relationship problems by the time they were 7 than children who did not.” If you are going to give your child screen privileges, at least set aside a time for just that, and don’t use technology to pacify or preoccupy your children during social events.

There’s no question that technology use can lead to poor outcomes, but technology itself is not to blame. Parents need to remember their very important role as a mediator between their children and the harmful effects of technology. Parents should limit exposure to devices, discourage device multitasking, make sure devices are not used during social events, and monitor the content that their child is engaging in (ie. Sesame Street vs. Johnny Neutron). Technology can be a very good learning tool, but children also need time to interact with objects in the real world, engage in imaginative play, socialize face-to-face with peers and adults, and children of all ages need solitude and time to let their mind wander. We need to put more emphasis on the “Ah-ha!” moment that happens when our minds are free of distractions. For this reason alone, technology use should be limited for all of us.

Technological Innovation Through Tech Mining For Market Dominance

Innovation means technological change. The technology change results in practical implication or commercialization, it does not mean just generation of ideas. The importance of technological innovation in today’s competitive economy is very clear, as today the worldwide economy depends on technology and technological innovation to an extraordinary degree.

Technological innovation plays important role in the economical growth of any country. Us, Japan, and other European countries are developed only due to there technological progress. In recent years, Singapore, India, China and many other countries are advancing dramatically due to technological innovations and progress. High technology companies are a significant and growing component of the economy. The competitive of these companies depends on technological innovations. Innovations improves standard of living. Developments in medical and pharmaceutical technologies have delivered extensive returns in health and life span.

Technological innovation involves tech mining. Tech mining includes understanding the technological innovation processes to track them more effectively and get informed about latest happenings and make valuable business decisions about R&D and subsequent implementation and adoption choices.

Innovation is defined as the process by which technological ideas are generated, developed and transformed into new business products, process and services that are used to make a profit and establish marketplace advantage. A better understanding of the innovation process is essential to figure out empirical measures deriving from innovation activities to generate actionable technological intelligence.

Tech mining is done through data or information extraction from multiple data sources, compilation and analyzing the results and represents key findings in actionable visual representation for easy understanding to what is happening now and predicting the future technologies.

Various types of technology analysis that can be aided by tech mining is as follows:

(A) Technology Monitoring (technology watch) – cataloguing, characterizing, identifying and interpreting technology development activities

(B) Competitive Technological Intelligence (CTI) -exploring out “Who is doing what?”

(C) Technology Forecasting-anticipating possible future development paths for particular technology domains

(D) Technology Road mapping – tracking evolutionary steps in related technologies and, sometimes, product families, technology diversification and technology tree

(E) Technology Assessment – anticipating the possible unintended, direct, indirect, and delayed consequences of particular technological changes

(F) Technology Foresight – strategic planning (especially national) with emphasis on technology roles and priorities

(G) Technology Process Management – getting people involved to make decisions about technology

(H) Science and Technology Indicators – time series that track advances in national (or other) technological capabilities

Reasons to Do Tech Mining

Forecast likely development paths for emerging technologies – identify new products, research or service opportunity
Identify competitors, or collaborators, at the “fuzzy front end” of new product development – keep tract of your competitor’s activity for market dominance.
Identify potential customers for your intellectual property (“IP”) – new licensing, collaboration, acquisition and merger opportunities.
Discover additional application arenas for the outputs of your R&D – identify how to develop new products and services from your existing business processes, without inventing more.
Gauge market potential for prospective technology-based products and services
Be a wiser consumer of others’ science and technology
Manage the risks of technology development and implementation based on better information.

Recruiter Technology, Why Recruiters Need To Embrace Technology

I have been in recruitment for over 15 years and am a true believer in the use of good technology within the recruitment process. This has led me to make it a mission to keep informed of what resources are being developed and made available on the technology front within recruitment.

I have therefore conducted continuous and extensive research in this area and have been involved in developing software and tools specific to our industry.

This brings me to an interesting topic which has come up time and time again during my research and discussions with numerous recruiters, I am sure all recruiters have discussed this in length and with much passion at some time. The replacement of recruiters and the recruitment process by technology!

I have heard from some clients as well as recruiters that some feel our days are numbered, as technology, for example on-line job portals / boards, both general and in-house developed will soon replace us.

These are my thoughts and findings on this issue:

Technology is fantastic! A great resource for Recruiters and should be embraced with open arms.
Many recruiters are afraid of technology, they would still prefer to work with flip cards and say that anyone using technology is not a “Real Recruiter”!

My experience is: ignore technology and “Real Recruiter” or not your business is doomed, it will not progress far into the future as a viable entity. You will be replaced.

Technology is not a replacement for recruiters but a powerful tool to assist us, make us more productive, give us more reach, make us more competitive. We should (in fact must) welcome it as many other industries and professions do. How many accounting packages are out their that could and in many cases do “replace” accountants in certain aspects, yet the demand for accountants is still high.

Why are we so insecure about our industry!

I am aware that recruiters and the recruiting industry has taken a battering over a long period but one thing we can not doubt is that we are necessary, in fact essential! We too are always in demand – even if some folk like to tell us otherwise.

I have had clients try their own portal / on-line database, only to realise how difficult the recruitment function actually is, mainly their own portals only bring about more work and less recruitment success, as they get piles of responses, many whom they can never use, but they still need to manage.
They generally come back for assistance, even if it is with their own portal as an additional tool.

Recruiters should be getting in first, start using the excellent technology available, become recruitment technology experts and then use this knowledge to your advantage, sell your knowledge of recruitment technology tools to your clients, make it an added benefit to your clients.

If clients want to use technology in recruiting we should encourage it and be involved in the process of decision making and choices as to which technology is most suitable. Introduce them to technologies using your expertise. This may seem like a bad business approach to those who feel they are in danger of losing their jobs to technology, but if you explain and demonstrate to your clients how a combination of the right technology along with a knowledgeable recruiting professional will produce the most desired results, then you maintain control, you lead the process, you are able to make yourself an indispensable part of the recruitment process.

This is better then trying to persuade them not to use recruitment technology or just waiting for your business with them to possibly shrink as they find appropriate technology themselves or find a recruiting professional who is willing to guide them in this process.

Developments in recruitment technology are inevitable and in fact very necessary to ensure our industry, as well as the market in general, thrives. We can not have archaic recruitment processes trying to keep up with modern market human resource demands.

So, lets encourage more development by researching and using the tools and technology available to us, only by using the technology do we make it viable for the developers of these tools to continue enhancing and fine tuning to suit our requirements and needs. After all we are the recruiting experts and should therefore be the main contributor to how these systems operate.

Environmental Technology

During this century, technology has its top place since people always try to seek for better technology support for their lives. Technology has been used to make the life of people become simpler and easier. Time, money and efforts have been devoted to invent new and higher level of technology. This technology enables people to do lots of outstanding achievement such as flying to the moon and discovering new star on the sky. However, there are two different opinions about technology. One side says that technology is the best tool to create simpler and easier lives while another side says that technology is harmful for the environment. In fact, those two different opinions are just to be true. Technology can be helpful but harmful at the other side.

As an answer of these two different opinions, there is a huge need of green technology or environmental technology. Green technology here means technology which is able to conserve natural environment and resources. Green technology makes people’s lives simpler and easier without providing harmful effect to the people and their surrounding environment. Green technology helps to reduce the effect of prior technology that has made the environment damaged or destructed. This technology repairs the damaged part of nature. Green technology also helps people to maintain and preserve the environment such as purifying water needed in rural areas. Moreover, green technology is also meaningful to absorb the chemical toxic in the air which results in better air for people.

Knowing the facts that green technology is very helpful for people’s life, individuals and companies have sought many ways to use this technology wisely. The problem about energy which is limited has always become the problem of every person in every year. Therefore, people now think that green technology [http://www.letmegreen.com/category/green-office] will help people reducing the consumption of energy itself so that they can be economical on energy consumption. Most companies seek for this kind of technology in order to minimize the budget spent for technology and also to provide better working environment for the workers. This will help the company a lot to be sustainable in this global financial crisis. That is why the companies and individuals try to find best application that can reduce the energy consumption. The use of green technology is believed as the best and only way to overcome energy crisis lately. It is also provides simpler application. Now, it is your own choice whether you want to take the complex and difficult technology or green technology which is proven to be less energy consumption.

Leveraging Technology for Organisational Excellence

Technology & HR-Leverage one for the other: “Technology and HR are enablers of business. Integration of the two would mean not only harmonious co-existence but also leveraging one for the other. Leveraging of technology for HR would mean digitizing the mundane HR activities and automating the back office and transactional activities related to recruitment, performance management, career planning, and succession planning, training and knowledge management. Leveraging HR for technology implies managing change associated with technology by way of communication, training, hiring, retraining, stakeholder analysis and conscious keeping. Thus they can play complementary roles.”

Technology and HR both have one thing common i.e., both these are enablers of business.

In recent times, technology has become synonymous with information technology, as hardly any other technological development of the past would have impacted all spectrum of business as information technology has impacted. Irrespective of the kind of business you are in i.e., services or goods, commodity or branded, trading or manufacturing, contemporary or traditional deployment of information technology in one form or the other is a foregone conclusion. To manage and deploy technology in an effective way, all business Organizations would need knowledge workers. Managing of these knowledge workers is the responsibility of HR function. Hence the integration of technology and HR is an absolute must.

Having understood technology and HR in the present context we must understand integration in this context. Integration would not only mean harmonious co-existing but would also mean one enhancing and complementing the other i.e., technology is used to enhance effectiveness of HR and HR functions helps in adopting and managing change which technology deployment brings in.

Leveraging technology for HR

HR management as a function is responsible for deliverables like business strategy execution, administrative efficiency, employee contribution and capacity for change. All these are accomplished through what HR people do i.e., staffing, development, compensation, benefits, communicate organization design, high performing teams and so on. In majority of these areas technology is being deployed.

e-Recruitment

Recruitment is one area where all the companies worth their name leverage IT. There are two different models of e-recruitment, which are in vogue. One is recruitment through company’s own sites and the other is hosting your requirement on the other sites e.g., monster .com, jobsdb.com, jobsahead.com, naukri.com, and jobstreet.com and so on so forth. The first models is more popular with the larger companies who have a brand pull for potential employees e.g., G.E., IBM, Oracle, Microsoft, HCL, ICICI, Reliance, Mindtree consulting etc. Other companies prefer to go to the job sites. Some are adopting both.

E-recruitment has gone a long way since its start. Now these sites have gone global. Sites like jobsahead.com and monster.com have established global network, which encompasses separate sites for jobs in Australia, Denmark, Belgium, and Canada etc. Job seekers are able to search job by region or country and employers target potential employees in specific countries. For example, 3 Com recently posted a company profile on the Ireland site that highlights the contributions of 3 com’s Irish design team in its global projects.

In the early days e-recruitment was plagued with flooding the employers with low-quality bio-data’s. Again technology has come as a savior. Now pre-employment testing like the one introduced by Capital One, a US based financial company, help in filtering the applicants. These tools test online e.g., applicants for call centers. ‘Profile International’ a Texas based provider of employment assessments, has developed tools that allow instant translation of assessment tests between languages. Further developments like video- conference specialized sites, online executives recruitments and combining online and offline methods are leading to more and more companies adopting e-recruitment at least as a secondary recruitment method. Arena Knights Bridge, a US based IT company conducts video based interview of its prospective employees and only short listed employees are met in person. Even Cisco was to launch the same.

Employee Self Service

Employee self-service is perhaps one utility of IT, which has relieved HR of most of mundane tasks and helped it to improve employee satisfaction. Employee self services is a plethora of small activities, which were earlier carried out by employee through administration wing of HR. These are travel bookings, travel rules information, travel bills, leave rules, leave administration, perk administration, etc. Earlier all these rules and information were in the custody of HR. Every user employee was expected to reach out to HR and get it done. Now with deployment of ESS in most of the companies, employee can request for travel related booking online, fill his/her T.E. bills, apply for leave, log time sheet and see his perks value disbursed and due etc. E.g., in Ballarpur Industries Ltd. leave administration is completely digitized in its corporate office. It is working towards digitizing travel related activities, perks and even compensation management and performance management administration. ‘Digitize or outsource all the mundane and routine focus only on core and value add’ – Vineet Chhabra V.P. -PDC BILT.

Communication

Communication which is most talked about management tool has always been a gray area in HR management. In large companies with vast geographical spread communicating with all employees had really posed formidable challenge to HR professionals. Technology has again come for rescue. Starting with telephones, faxes, e-mails and maturing into video conferencing, net cast, web cast etc. communication is one area of HR, which has been greatly benefited by technology. Mouse & click companies like Oracle, IBM has an intranet which caters to most of the information needs of its employees. Brick & Morter companies like BILT also have made a foray into deploying intranet for internal communication, which has corporate notice board, media coverage, and knowledge corners.

Knowledge Management

Another area of HR, which is leveraging technology, is employee development. Programmed learning (PL) i.e. learning at its own pace is one of the most effective ways of adult learning. Use of technology for this purpose can’t be over emphasized. Aptech Online University and ‘The Manage mentor’ are some of the Indian sites, which are in this business knowledge management, which is an integral part of any learning organization, which cannot become a reality without technology. Companies can harness the knowledge of its employees by cataloging and hosting it on the intranet. Talk to ‘Big-5′ or not ‘so big’ consulting companies you will find that main stay of their business is the knowledge repository. Technology has enabled them to retrieve it swiftly. In the competitive environment where speed is the name of game technology driven Knowledge Management constantly provides a strategic advantage.

If you look at HR module of ERP solutions like people soft, SAP, Oracle and Ramco they provide you with a comprehensive package which helps in man-power planning, recruitment, performance management, training and development, career planning, succession planning, separation and grievance handling. A transaction happening in all these areas are digitized and form a closed loop ensuring employee database is always updated. E.g. a joining letter of a new employee is system generated. It will be printed only when all mandatory fields of information are entered. Similarly a transfer order or a separation letter is issued from the system only if that transaction has been carried out in the system.

For career planning, success planning, skill and competencies matrix methods are used by most of these systems. They search an employee with the required skills first in the in-house database of employees. Once put in practice in letter & spirit, this system not only enhances business results by matching the right candidate for right job but also improves retention of employees.

Processing payroll, churning out time office reports, providing HR-MIS are some other routine activities of HR which have been off-loaded to technology.

Leveraging HR for Technology

All HR professionals, preaching or practicing, learning or experimenting, teaching or studying have experienced leveraging technology for HR. But most of us come across a situation where we need to leverage HR for technology. Let us understand what do we mean by this.

Whenever technology is deployed afresh or upgraded it involves a change. The change may be at the activity level e.g., applying for leave through the intranet or at the mental model level e.g., digitizing the process succession planning which have been HR professionals forte. The people have always registered adopting change. This is one area where HR professionals are to deliver i.e., become change agents and lead the process of technology and change adoption. The resistance to change is directly proportional to speed of change. Now speed of change has increased and hence resistance.

Just to take an example, most of ERP implementation in the world have not been able to deliver all the expectations. Some of these have failed to deliver at all. While analyzing the cause of failure it has been observed that 96% of failures are because of people related issues and only 4% are because of technology.

It is the people who make the difference; hence HR should exploit its expertise to facilitate the adoption of technology. I would like to put together some of the thoughts on what HR should do for this.

At the time of recruitment, stop hiring for skills rather hire for attitude and a learning mind. Skills of today are no longer valid tomorrow. Managing ever changing change is the only criteria for success.

Functional or technical skills can be acquired during the job. Hence recruitment in the technology era needs to undergo a paradigm shift i.e., from a skill/competency based it needs to be attitude and learning mind/ ability based interview. That would translate into hiring for skills for future. In IBM every employee has to fill in his/her individual development plan where the employee commits its learning one/two new skills every year thus remaining competitive every time.

If we look at the chemistry of resistance to change it is either a skill issue or a will issue. To address the will issue we need to work at a comprehensive solution starting from recruitment (as discussed earlier), reward, compensation and leading to organization culture which promotes change. A living example is 3M, a US based company, where innovation is way of life, where 10% of revenue must come from new products every year. For them change becomes way of life.

To address the will issue further organization need to prepare a communication strategy which creates a ‘pull’ for the technology. For example, in Ranbaxy, when they went for SAP implementation they anticipated resistance. To address this they started a house journal, which was aimed at educating the employees on the benefits, which will result from adoption of ERP, SAP. This created a need rather a potential need or a latent need was brought out. Adoption of ERP did not become much of a problem.

At times adoption of technologies is perceived as a threat by the employees e.g., automation leading to reduction in workers, office automation leading to retrenchment of clerks etc. HR needs to be associated with the technical adoption right from the beginning till the end. At the selection of technical stage if HR is associated, it can map the skills required and create a pull during implementation and adoption. Post adoption it can release the excess non-re-allocatable employees.

To understand this process more clearly we can take example of ERP implementation. ERP is taken as an example as this is one technology adoption which effects employees across the org. irrespective of function and position. Any other automation may have affected only a segment of organisation. ERP implementation in any organization goes through the following stages.

1. Selection of package

2. Business analysis

3. Solution design

4. Configuration and customization

5. Conference room piloting (CRP)

6. Go-live and production

At each stage HR has to play a role, which will help in mitigating resistance to change.

During selection process, the change agent can understand the business benefit ERP would bring. This would help him to draw a comprehensive communication plant aimed at creating a ‘pull’ for the change. The communication plan may use its various weapons from the armory. The obvious examples are Newsletters, Newsflash. In-house journal, addressing by the top management, web cast, open house sessions, meetings formal and informal.

During the business analysis phase implementation team is supposed to analyse the existing business processes. At times this leads to surfacing of some data which is not very desirable by the process owners, leading to resistance at this stage, HR has to be again proactive and carry out a detailed stake-holder analysis. Such an analysis should give a lead to potential areas of problem and potential champions of change.

Solution design involves defining ‘To-be processes’ i.e., the way business would be carried out in future. At this stage HR has to play the role of catalyst to turn the heat on. The idea is to ensure to make maximum out of an opportunity of package enabled business transformation. HR can play a role by arranging to educate and train the right people on best business practices, just before this phase.

During the configuration and customization HR has to keep on beating the drum, the customization of a standard package is a big no-no. Similarly, during the conference room plotting (CRP) it should help in identifying the right persons to be involved in CRP. A thorough testing at this stage would result in lesser pain at the time of going live. This is also time to focus on training of end users, the employees who are going to use the system once implemented. Training- retraining -training to ensure all the prospective users are comfortable with usage of software before the system goes live.

During the go-live stage HR has to work over time to keep the motivation levels high. This is the time when management starts losing patience as one glitch after the other keeps appearing and virtually bringing the business to halt. At this stage, HR has to play ‘conscious keeper’ for the top management once into product relocating the surplus is a challenge for which it has to be prepared before it.

This examples makes it clear that involvement of HR during the entire life cycle of technology is valuable. ERP is not an isolated case. It is true for any other technology adoption only finer details may vary. Hence HR must play a proactive role rather than being just a silent spectator or mere executers of the wishes of business or chief technology officer in case of technological changes.

Building Technology Strategy for Small Businesses

With the advent of internet revolution, technology is no more a supporting function, rather it has become a driver for business growth in any sector and of any size. Small businesses in non-technology sectors, find it a daunting task to articulate a Technology Strategy, rather, most of them don’t even have it. Not only are these companies cash strapped, they have minimal or no internal capabilities and limited access to expert guidance on technology. Not having an effective Technology Strategy can drain a company’s resources, push them behind the competition or they may even cease to exist. This article provides basic advice for small business owners on where to get started. Below are some factors to take into account while creating an effective Technology Strategy.

Legal and Government Compliance

Planning for technology that keeps the business in legal and government compliance comes before anything else. Last thing a business wants is getting distracting from core trade and going bankrupt contesting litigations. For example, a restaurant business should have technology planned for Sales Tax, PCI Compliance, and Employee Time sheets etc.

Core Business and Customer Experience

Technology that facilitates core business and customer experience comes next. These are what directly generate revenue and these are the services what customers pay for. This is the area, a business must appropriately plan for and allocate funds for. For example, for a restaurant business to be successful, it must have good technology in place to take customers’ orders, execution in the kitchen and service. If the customers do not get what they ordered or get too late, then it is going to affect the restaurant’s business. While providing free WiFi internet may help in improving customer experience.

Marketing and Digital Reputation

For a business to attract customers, not only it must announce its existence to the customers but continuously make buzz to stay ahead of the competition. Effective marketing is a very critical factor in any business’ success. In today’s internet savvy world, most of the customers research about any service or product on internet before they buy it. That makes having and maintaining good digital reputation on the internet very important for any business. This is what a business must plan for next and allocate appropriate funds. For example, a restaurant business might want to have a website informing customers about restaurant and the menu. For marketing and digital reputation it should create and actively maintain presence on social platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Yelp etc. Using internet marketing over traditional marketing channels can be more effective as they enable reaching larger audiences at substantially lower cost.

Operational Efficiency and Effectiveness

Next thing to consider is planning for technology related to improving operational efficiency and effectiveness. Technology investments in operational efficiency can help reduce costs, cut-down waste and substantially improve the bottom line. Wherever the savings realized through improved efficiency exceed cost of technology, it is worth an investment. For example, for a restaurant business having technology for inventory and material planning can substantially reduce inventory carrying cost and food spoilage, thereby directly adding to the profitability.

Insource, Outsource, or the Cloud

Once you have figured out what you want, it’s time to plan for how to acquire these capabilities. Most non-technology small business have minimal or no internal capability and hiring staff for non-core business may burn holes in the pockets. So, unless the business has existing employees that have technology skills, insourcing may not be a good strategy. Most of the best technology, both platforms and software are generally available on cloud today and must be considered as first preference. From small business’ perspective, Cloud is not only cost-effective but also allows business to stay focused on its core strengths. Only if something is not available on cloud, outsourcing may be considered.

Data Strategy and Security

After having planned for what is need and how to acquire, it is also important to research and plan for data storage, retention and security strategy. It is important to have data storage in compliance with government laws for physical location, retention period, encryption standards, usage and other factors. Agreements with cloud service providers must be reviewed before making decision to buy their services. Cloud platforms usually come with best of breed security infrastructure. Having in-house data can add to security and safety costs.

Finally, review regularly

Finally, always plan for regular review of the Technology Strategy to keep it aligned with business goals and other aspects discussed above. Remember that laws, technology, customer expectations, competitors and market are always changing and so must your strategy to stay in alignment.

Amit Ginotra is an experienced Information Technology professional with expertise in Technology Strategy and Transformation. He is also currently enrolled in the Master of Entrepreneurship Degree Program at Western Carolina University. Webmasters and other article publishers are hereby granted article reproduction permission as long as this article in its entirety, author’s information, and any links remain intact. Copyright 2014 by Amit Ginotra.