October 2012 has seen significant decisions made for clean energy, particularly solar power generation, in the US, southwest, and California. I get pretty excited at news like this – clean energy has a bright future here.
Los Angeles Approves LADWP Clean Energy Plan
According to an article in the Huffington Post, the city of Los Angeles has made an impressive move to invest in clean power sources — particularly solar power generation — replacing dependence on coal-fired plants. This is a smart move for many reasons, the most obvious one being reducing pollution from burning fossil fuels. It’s also smart for long-term savings. Even considering the initial investment, they will save a significant portion of the (currently) $500 million spent on coal each year. And as the cost of coal rises, that savings will be even greater.
One of the things I like best about this priority is that they are clearly not depending exclusively on developing new power plants, but on providing incentives for homeowners and businesses to install solar photovoltaic (PV) panels to generate power for their own buildings which can then feed excess power back into the L.A. grid. It’s a brilliant way to reduce demand on power plants, and allows people to save significantly on their electric power bills while distributing solar power generation across a very wide area and spectrum of sources. And everyone benefits from cleaner air.
More exciting benefits with this approach include the increase of employment opportunities in construction, remodeling, electrical, solar, wind, and geothermal installation services. It can also boost local manufacturing jobs, since there are several manufacturers of solar photovoltaics, panels, wind turbines, and components in the L.A. region.
Solar Power Generation Projects in the Southwest
But that’s not all. There are a huge number of solar power projects across the country. Here’s a summary from the Solar Energy Industries Association:
- “There are over 480 major solar projects currently in the database, representing over 31 GW (gigawatts) of capacity.
- The list shows that there is over 2.2 GW of major solar projects currently operating.
- There remains an enormous amount of capacity in the pipeline, with over 29 GW of PV (photovoltaic) and CSP (concentrated solar power) projects either under construction or under develop”
Check out the Solar Energy Industries Association’s Interactive Map of current solar power generation projects. Significant for the southwest is not only the number but the scale of solar power plants, both PV and concentrators.
As Yahoo Finance reports in their article “Plan to streamline solar development in West OK’d” dated October 12, 2012: “Federal officials on Friday approved a plan that sets aside 445 square miles of public land for the development of large-scale solar power plants, cementing a new government approach to renewable energy development in the West after years of delays and false starts”.
Included in this plan is land designated as 17 new “solar energy zones” covering 285,000 acres in the six southwestern states. 153,627 acres – more that half the total area – is in Southern California alone. Furthermore, an additional area totaling almost 30,000 square miles was marked by the US Dept. of the Interior as “variance zones” – land on which developers may propose solar projects.
No matter how you slice it, nationwide that’s a huge number of projects representing an increase of more than 14 times the current solar power generating capacity in gigawatts. Even if only half of them are built, that represents a 7x growth. In the six southwest states of California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, and Colorado and New Mexico represent most of the land in this landmark decision, the majority in California alone.
The days of slow incremental solar power development appear to be ending. This bodes well for dreams of energy independence, job growth, and cleaner air and water.
With so many political footballs getting kicked around this year, I’d like to help put one of those footballs across the goal line for everyone. A recent online survey makes it very clear that US voters want solar energy and it doesn’t seem to make much difference what party they belong to.
The Results of the Survey
The report on the survey shows that 92% – nine out of ten – of registered voters replied that it was “very” or “somewhat” important that the United States develop and use solar power. What really got my attention was that most respondents felt this way regardless of party affiliation:
- 84% of Republicans
- 95% of independents
- 98% of Democrats
The results were similar when people were asked how they view solar energy, with 85% responding favorably. Another 78% indicated that the federal government should provide incentives. People felt that harnessing solar energy for power generation would “definitely” or “probably” be good for the US in several ways:
- 97%: Good for environment
- 88%: Help reduce dependence on foreign oil
- 87%: Help reduce cost of electricity
- 86%: Good for American jobs and the economy
The survey of 1,206 adults was conducted by conducted by the independent polling firm Hart Research Associates. It was released Tuesday, October 2, 2012. The report on the survey is available for viewing on Slideshare.com.
Politicians Need to Listen and Act
This survey demonstrates that making use of solar energy as a power source, and making the technology more available to businesses and residents is not a political issue. It is what most of the voting population wants. Our politicians need to stop kicking this back and forth as if it were an issue, and listen to what we, the people, are telling all of them: US voters want solar energy.
This is rather old news to the communications technology business, but I doubt very many people outside that field know about it: “GreenTouch Initiative”. Organized by Bell Labs, a division of Alcatel-Lucent, their goal is to reduce communication network energy usage 1000-fold.
Most of the energy usage reduction we learn about in media is pointed at automotive fuel efficiency and light bulb wattage, keeping them (more or less) in the front of our minds. Few of us, however, hear or think about the less obvious ways in which we use energy at work and at home, like landline and cellular-based telecommunications. Every time we pull up a web site, run an app that accesses information somewhere else, or make a phone call whether land line or cellular we are accessing the communication network, and using electricity, even when we are using battery-powered devices. Reducing this energy usage even a little can save a lot on electricity use.
The GreenTouch Initiative goal of 1,000-fold reduction is going to make a lot more than just a dent in energy usage. Simply put, it is “…roughly equivalent to being able to power the world’s communications networks, including the Internet, for three years using the same amount of energy that it currently takes to run them for a single day.” - GreenTouch Initiative press release, January 2010. (read the release)
This is a truly important initiative. Although landline usage is dropping (the Economist) and high-speed broadband cable growth has slowed (European Communications, DailyIPTV), mobile communications continues to grow dramatically with the speedy rise of smartphones and tablet computers worldwide (MIT). Energy efficiency must also grow dramatically in order to offset the additional consumption due to that growth, while still reducing overall energy consumption. It is the consortium’s finding, according to research conducted by Bell Labs, that communications network energy efficiency can be improved 10,000 times.
According to the Green Touch Initiative itself: “Even a 2% contribution to global emissions and energy consumption is significant – the network component of this represents some 250-300 million tons of carbon emissions. This is equivalent to 50 million automobiles or 20% of the cars in the United States.” Their goal is to accomplish this in three to five years, and their launch was in January 2010. Visit the GreenTouch web site to learn more about the progress of this initiative www.greentouch.org, and check out their projects.
If you are aware of other similar initiatives to reduce energy waste – or even reduction of waste in the design, manufacture, and distribution of goods – share it here in Comments.
Excellent design is valuable. People simply respond favorably to it. When companies and individuals excel in design quality their chances of success are significantly higher, and their level of success can reach extreme heights. At the most basic level, excellent design combines beauty with functionality. Anything that is created for more than being experienced as art must be functional in order to be truly excellent. Add to that solid build quality and you have what has for many years been widely considered the foundation of excellent design.
Some Examples of Excellent Design
Apple is of course one of the most widely recognized manufacturers of high quality products. They combine beauty and functionality in both hardware and software with a reliable, solid build quality that results in products which last a long time and which people can enjoy throughout the product’s useful life.
C-Suite Quarterly magazine, a locally-produced online and print publication is an excellent example of high quality design in a periodical. Pleasing to view, and very readable with excellent choice and use of fonts. This is a young publication but if their quality of design and content is any indication I expect this publication will be very successful.
I can’t make a statement about excellent design without mentioning Frank Gehry‘s controversial architecture. Created more like sculpture than architecture, his buildings are artwork in which you participate when you visit. Experience Music Project in Seattle is an excellent example of a high-function space in a sculptured architectural package. The Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park in Chicago merges this sculptural approach in a park setting with a remarkable continuity of visitor experience. You might debate about the functional aspect of many of Gehry’s designs, but my personal experience with the ones I have visited is a an enjoyable merger of extraordinary structure design that is highly approachable, personal, and functional.
More is Required for True Excellence
However, I believe the definition of design excellence must change. There is one aspect of design excellence has been missing but is beginning to emerge, and I believe we need to capture it as a foundational element of excellent design: Sustainability. As industrial designers, graphic designers, architects, engineers and others move toward embracing materials, techniques and processes that are more sustainable and reduce impact on the Earth, they are adding that vital fourth leg of the foundation of design excellence.
The best news is that this is already happening. A few examples of companies doing this now include:
Patagonia, a company that has successfully combined sustainability with functionality, beauty, and build quality of clothing and gear for outdoor recreation.Sustainability has been a foundational part of this company since their beginning, 40 years ago.
New Belgium Brewing, the makers of Fat Tire Ale, have had sustainability as a basic tenet of their company from the beginning and produce a product widely accepted as excellent. (Fat Tire Ale in a post about design? Absolutely. I consider something created for taste no less “designed” than a tablet computer, vest, or periodical).
Apple is increasingly modifying its products and practices to improve sustainabilty and is striving to be very transparent about it.
Let’s join these and many other companies in expanding the foundation of excellent design to include sustainability.* All trademarks remain property of their respective holders, and are used only to directly describe the companies or products. Their use in no way indicates any relationship between Thomas Watson Consulting and the holders of said trademarks.
You may have begun seeing this new acronym being used in marketing blogs, articles and websites in the last year or so: “RPM”, or “revenue performance management”. Simply put, it is a way of maximizing your company’s revenue. Currently there are about as many variations of the definition as there are pundits.
In May, Marketo published their definition of RPM in an infographic. It states: “RPM is a strategy to optimize interactions with buyers across the revenue cycle and accelerate predictable revenue growth.” The infographic expounds on that further in fanciful but fairly accurate terms, illustrating the frustrations with the hard-to-quantify results of traditional marketing vs the highly quantifiable sales results. It rightly points out that when RPM principles are applied, marketing results become far more quantifiable, and bring better quality leads to sales. This not only reduces inter-departmental finger-pointing, but increases sales efficiency and sales results.This is a good description of RPM, but in my view skips over an important aspect: strategy and planning.
Their newest infographic provides a new spin on the definition of RPM: “…a revolutionary way of setting up your business to achieve maximum revenue. It involves your marketing and sales team calling a truce and coming together to create new processes with the same goal in mind: generating revenue.” Rather than providing a new definition, this statement expands on the first, focusing on the relationship of marketing and sales as a key factor in achieving the goal of successful RPM implementation: generating revenue.
The graphic goes on to point out that this is only the beginning. In implementing processes and techniques to generate revenue, companies can execute changes to varying levels. The best part about this graphic, is it uses the results of their recent benchmark survey of 411 companies. The survey was focused on learning “how top performers were maximizing revenue coming directly from their marketing initiatives. The survey examined revenue performance maturity and performance metrics for each company across three categories: growing number and quality of leads and opportunities, improving sales effectiveness, and optimizing sales and marketing ROI (return on investment).”
The graphic clearly illustrates the results companies experience as they implement the strategies, processes and technologies to varying degrees. The more complete their implementation, the closer they came to achieving their revenue generation goals. With complete RPM implementation companies exceeded their goals.
These graphics together go a long way to helping viewers understand not only the definition of RPM, but the benefits of implementation. The graphics make it clear that teamwork between Marketing and Sales is essential, process improvements are needed, measurements must be introduced, and special technology is required. It rightly points out in the initial definition of RPM that it is a strategy. Two of the most important aspects of achieving RPM goals, however, is only hinted at, but not directly addressed: The Buyer’s Journey, and Content. With a clear understanding of the changes in the Buyer’s Journey today vs. past buyer behavior, combined with robust and valuable content providing what that audience needs and helps them along their journey, you can be highly effective in the crucial inbound and outbound marketing activities that are designed to generate demand. Integrated with the right processes, this will generate more demand, higher quality leads, and bring you to optimum revenue generation results.
I recently saw a post in LinkedIn about CMS asking what is the best system. It seems there is some confusion about what “CMS”, so I thought I’d post my thoughts on the subject in my blog. There are two CMS acronyms:
Contact Management System, also known as Customer Relationship Management (CRM). A Wikipedia entry says it very well: “a widely implemented strategy for managing a company’s interactions with customers, clients and sales prospects.”
Content Management System, according to another Wikipedia entry, is “a system providing a collection of procedures used to manage work flow in a collaborative environment.” This is a very broad definition because content management can take many forms depending upon the user’s need. For example, it can mean a document management tool; a file management tool; a tool for storing and making content components such as text, images, video, etc. available for specific uses; or a tool to control validity and compliance, and more. These systems span scale from local to enterprise-wide, but the key is managed storage, access and collaborative use of content data.
When most people say “CMS”, however, mean a Web Content Management System, which is a very specific but widely used CMS. As defined by this Wikipedia entry, it is “software system that provides website authoring, collaboration, and administration tools designed to allow users with little knowledge of web programming languages or markup languages to create and manage website content with relative ease. ”
So with that in mind, which systems are better? I’ll only address CRM and Web CMS here:
If you are talking about CRM, I recommend two systems: SugarCRM or Salesforce.com. They are both powerful systems that help you manage your contacts in a relational context and nurture qualified contacts into closed sales. SugarCRM’s advantage lies in the fact it is an open source solution with users contributing to its features around the world, and you don’t get charged for every little thing you add along the way. Plus, there are many plugins available that increase the function and value of your application. If you want your leads to become more qualified before going over to sales, than you should develop a demand generation strategy, and implement that using a marketing automation solution coupled to your CRM. Then you can connect your marketing automation to your CRM, for best marketing-to-sales-to-close results. But you must define your strategy and develop your content first or you will waste your time and money.
If you are talking about a web CMS, then I recommend WordPress.org – the self-hosted version you install on your own server or hosting service. It has become a very powerful web site development tool with thousands of themes and plugins, and is easily customized – including that ability to create your own custom theme. Because it is blog-based, It makes raising your search rankings much easier by allowing you to easily and frequently post new content and adjust your SEO. Because it easily connects with other blogs in the blogosphere to the degree you allow, you can get links with other blogs and websites, which can significantly boost your rankings.
“Quick and Easy” – most of us like this idea, especially for things we either don’t like to do, or don’t really know how to do. After all, it means we should be able to get our task or project done, and move on to things that we really enjoy, or that we excel at doing. Or maybe you are one who likes the notion of “DIY” or “Do-it-yourself” and look for resources that let you do things your own way. If you are looking to begin establishing your own presence on the Internet, there are many excellent resources available that help you get started quickly, easily, free or on a “DIY” basis, such as social media like Facebook, Google and its many internet and computer tools, numerous blogging sites, and more. You can get started and get connected, find more information, and establish a website on the Internet in more ways than ever.
I remember wayyyy back in 1996 (I think that’s like 100 years in in Internet time) when I was working for Hewlett-Packard and we we were preparing to move to another state, I had tried to begin my house search via the internet. The Internet was new to most of us then, but at HP we had already been using it and building content on it for some time. Our customers were already using it were demanding content, and we were delivering. So I had high expectations of what I would find in my own searches. As I’m sure you’ve guessed, there was little available at that time. All we could do was connect with real estate offices, look at a few listings – most without pictures – and exchange email messages with hungry sales people. I had to give up on accomplishing anything meaningful via the Internet, and resorted to the old-fashioned way: traveling to our future home town to conduct a two week house-hunting trip. Meh.
Now it’s just, um, a little bit different, isn’t it? All I have to do now is type “homes in [fill in your favorite town]” in the search bar of my browser, and I get at least 9 ads on the first resulting page, and more than 10 pages of “organic” search results. And I can sign up for countless email newsletters delivering me available listings for any area I choose at whatever frequency I want. Wow. I’m overwhelmed – there is so much information and there are so many resources out there today. Did you know that by December, 2010, there were 255 MILLION websites out there, with 21.4 million of them having been established in 2010 alone? That’s nearly 9% of the total added in just one year.
So, perhaps you are thinking of establishing your own website, too. if you want to get started you’ll find tons of “free” and “quick and easy” options. You’ll also find by trial and error that some are not really all that “quick-and-easy” nor are others truly free. Many are free initially, but in order to get something really useful you have to buy additional services, apps, tools, features, etc. It makes sense though. After all, we all have to make a living to pay our bills and enjoy life. But it means the age old adage “buyer beware” is something you have to keep clearly in mind when shopping for services and tools via the internet. For example, you may find a resource that offers websites promising “get started with just 5 clicks”, or “in just 5 minutes”, and so on. It may even be offered for “FREE!”. Just realize that there is almost always more to establishing a functioning website that gets you the traffic you want than a quick and easy setup. Here are some things to watch out for:
- Get started with your web site in 5 minutes, 3 easy steps, etc.: While it may be true that you can get started in that short amount of time or those few steps, that’s all you’ll get: started. Whatever you use to get started, you still have to learn how to use the tool to create a working site. I know a lot of people who have tried to establish a new web site this way, only to leave it started, but unfinished because it takes too much time to learn, or there are insufficient help resources available to get past the inevitable learning stumbling blocks.
- Free or really cheap initial price: There are many resources that get you started with this promise, but once you get in and get your new site initiated, you’ll find that you need to buy this app, or that service, or upgrade to the “standard”, “premium” or “pro” version in order to accomplish that next, important step. If you add up all the extras and hidden costs, many of those free or cheap options will end up costing you more than if you had begun working with a professional or normally-priced service in the first place. Then you are either stuck with a resource that will cost you more, or you find yourself writing off all the time you had just spent getting started, to just have to do it all over again with someone else.
- Services that will backfire on you: Then there are the services that tell you that you need their help, but end up causing more problems that they solve. One of these are “link building services” or “backlink services”. They offer to set you up with dozens, hundreds or even more links to your site for various prices. I’m sure many deliver on those promises. If you search on this topic you’ll find dozens, maybe hundreds of services. But all the Internet marketing experts I know say “don’t buy links or backlink services” because it can cause the search engines to blacklist your site as a spam site. That takes a lot of work and time to recover from, and it will decimate your search results – in fact, they’ll stop coming from any search engine that blacklists you. As a website developer, I see these link-builders hitting my web sites all the time, and I implement a special service to block them. They are spam. So don’t buy into it.
- Flash web sites: these sound good and look great when you are finished, but they won’t work on any of Apple’s mobile iOS platform devices such as iPhones and iPads – the most popular smart mobile devices in the world. If visitors make it to your site using those devices, they simply won’t see anything. They will instead be greeted with a message from Adobe telling them they need to download Flash software to view your site, which they can’t do. That’s more that 104 million device owners and Internet browsers you can’t reach.
- Getting locked in: If you take advantage of a “quick and easy” or do-it-yourself website service, you may get locked into it by that perfect domain name that you got through them, but can’t keep if you decide to use some other service instead. Actually, if they are a truly legitimate service, they will tell you somewhere that the domain is actually yours, not theirs, and there is a way for you to keep it. But they will bury that information to keep you there, and may charge a premium to “let” you keep it. I know someone who just had that very experience, and he lost his domain name in the process. Domain ownership is actually pretty cheap and pretty easy to do, but it can be confusing to figure out initially. If you have someone to help you and coach you through it, or is willing to set it up for you in such a way that your ownership is clear and manageable, that’s a valuable resource, and worth the fee they charge to do it.
- It may be easy to get started, but you still need site content: This is one thing you can’t get around. If you don’t have a good site plan you’ll waste a lot of time and you won’t have a good site. If you don’t spend the time developing and entering useful content, you won’t get traffic. Taking the time up front to create a simple site plan including a content list and a site/link layout (or “wireframe”) means your site building process will result in a better site, and you’ll get it done more quickly. Creating useful content that provides help for your web site visitors will go a long way to getting – and keeping – the traffic you want. If you want to get excellent search results you will also have to spend many more hours tuning your site to get those results. And you will probably have to spend extra money for apps, tools, services or even experts to get it accomplished. Creating a good, effective and high traffic site takes work.
- Time: you can’t get around this one either. To build a site that gets traffic and keeps it requires time and patience. Time to build it, time for the search engines to list it, time for people to discover it, and time for people to fall in love with you and your site enough to share it with others.
These are just a few things to be aware of, and I hope that helps you in your effort to begin establishing your own presence on the Internet. The main thing to remember is: be patient. Stick to it. You’ll get there.