How Well Does Your Engineering-Driven Company Protect Intellectual Property?

There is a lot of talk these days about cybercrime. News of large-scale IT security breaches are not unusual. Blame is often assigned to the sinister motivations of rogue governments, terrorists, or anarchists. But those closest to the problem say the root cause behind most data breaches is lax internal security, not the skills of cunning hackers.

A recent survey by the Ponemon Institute claims 71% of employees have access to data they should not see, and more than half say this access is frequent or very frequent. Other findings from the survey point to lax internal security as a serious problem in organizations of all sizes:

  • 4 out of 5 IT practitioners (80%) say their organizations don’t enforce a strict least-privilege (or need-to-know) data model;
  • 73% of end users believe the growth of emails, presentations, multimedia files, and other types of company data has very significantly or significantly affected their ability to find and access data;
  • 76% of end users believe there are times when it is acceptable to transfer work documents to their personal devices, while only 13% of IT practitioners agree;
  • 67% of IT practitioners say their organization experienced the loss or theft of company data over the past two years, while only 44% of end users believe this has happened;
  • 43% of end users say it takes weeks, months or longer to be granted access to data they request access to in order to do their jobs, and only 22% report that access is typically granted within minutes or hours.

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Rescuing Tribal Knowledge from the Generational Shift

When a person retires after 20, 30, or more years of service in one company, an enormous amount of practical, hands-on experience and knowledge—what experts call tribal knowledge—walks out the door and never comes back. In a manufacturing environment, a production line worker may know things about machines that have never been written in a manual. If that person leaves without passing on this knowledge, it could cost thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars. If a utility worker retires, the issues magnify because of the unique public service role and the 24/7 nature of utility services.

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics says that in 2016 members of the Millennial generation will account for 36% of the US workforce, and in nine more years will account for 75% of the global workforce. The back side of this rise of Millennials is the retirement of Baby Boomers and Generation X employees. This tidal wave of generational shift—from experienced workers with long tenure and vast tribal knowledge to inexperienced workers with much less practical knowledge and decreased interest in tenure—will be costly unless companies act quickly and strategically.

Loss of tribal knowledge impacts both operational and informational roles. In engineering environments, much of this tribal knowledge can be found in drawings and other informational documents which have accumulated over the years. But it is not enough to capture institutional knowledge in documents; there must also be clear understanding of where the information can be found. It does no good to record pipeline locations and part numbers if, when someone leaves, others don’t know where that data is stored.

A full-featured engineering document management (EDM) system will not only capture and preserve institutional knowledge; it will also automate the ability to serve up the information to the right people whenever needed. A good EDM system will also allow equal access regardless of the original technology used to record the information. Pre-digital era files can be scanned; documents created with office software and CAD or other engineering tools can all become part of one unified system.

A comprehensive EDM product like Synergis Adept eliminates the quirks of personal habits or workgroup culture and the limitations of dealing with practical knowledge when it comes to the storage, retrieval, and use of engineering data:

  • You no longer rely on human memory to recall the history of a document or where it is stored;
  • The software knows document properties and keywords; users can locate files based on keyword or phrase within any type of document;
  • Automated workflow eliminates the need for staff to continually transfer knowledge engineering business practices for any given product or project;
  • Information is centralized, not distributed on every staff member’s hard drive; users who have the necessary permissions can access information any time.

A new in-depth white paper from Synergis Software describes how four utilities in the US have automated their work with Synergis Adept, reaping significant benefits in saving time, reducing waste, and capturing that all-important tribal knowledge.

Randall S. Newton is the principal analyst and managing director at Consilia Vektor, a consulting firm serving the engineering software industry. He has been directly involved in engineering software in a number of roles since 1985. 

CIO Magazine Names Synergis Software a Top Technology Provider for Utilities

Renewable energy sources are shifting the economic and geographic dimensions of production, distribution, and consumption. Traditional energy sources are more abundant than ever. Water and wastewater utilities cope with the contradictory demands of conservation and increased demand. If there ever was a time for technology to be of service to the public and private Utilities of the world, it is now.

CIO Magazine recently assembled a team of prominent CEOs, CIOs, CMOs, VCs, and analysts, along with the CIO Magazine editorial board, to evaluate Utility technology solution providers. They came up with a list of the “most promising utility technology solution providers.” Synergis Software made the list for Adept, the workgroup and enterprise solution for managing complex engineering information. Read More

The Goldilocks Approach to Data Management

The classic folk story (fairy tale) of Goldilocks and the Three Bears is often told as a morality tale about not being snoopy. After all, Goldilocks had no business making herself at home in the Bears residence, eating their porridge and breaking a chair. But I think there is another moral to learn from this story: Make sure you go with the correct fit.

In the wide world of data management software for engineering, there are Papa Bear, Momma Bear, and Baby Bear solutions. There are also companies that fit into the Papa, Momma, and Baby size patterns. When an engineering company realizes it is lost, wandering through a forest of data inefficiency, it becomes important to pick the right-sized solution to get its data management sorted out. In this age of fierce competition between technologies, it is important to sort through the issues carefully. Read More