Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Evaluating the Effectiveness of Offshore Safety and Environmental Management Systems


TRB Special Report 309: Evaluating the Effectiveness of Offshore Safety and Environmental Management Systems recommends that the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) take a holistic approach to evaluating the effectiveness offshore oil and gas industry operators' Safety and Environmental Management Systems (SEMS) programs. According to the report, this approach should, at a minimum, include inspections, audits by the operator and BSEE, key performance indicators, and a whistleblower program.

SEMS is a safety management system(SMS) aimed at shifting from a completely prescriptive regulatory approach to one that is proactive, risk based, and goal oriented in an attempt to improve safety and reduce the likelihood that events similar to the April 2010 Macondo incident will reoccur.

According to the committee that produced the report, it is not possible for a regulator to create a culture of safety in an organization by inspection or audit; that culture needs to come from within the organization. To be successful, the tenets of SEMS must be fully acknowledged and accepted by workers, motivated from the top, and supported throughout the organization and must drive workers' actions.

The report also notes that BSEE can encourage and aid industry in development of a culture of safety by the way it measures and enforces SEMS. The Committee believes BSEE should seize this opportunity to make a step change in safety culture by adopting a goal based holistic approach to evaluating the effectiveness of SEMS programs.

In recommending a holistic approach to evaluating the effectiveness of SEMS programs, the report explores in detail SEMS' role in helping to develop a culture of safety, highlights the pros and cons of various methods of assessing the effectiveness of a SEMS program, and investigates existing approaches for assessing the SMS programs of various U.S. and international regulatory agencies whose safety mandates are similar to that of BSEE.

The culture of safety cannot be built or sustained through publishing statements from the chief executive officer and human resources department, posting notices in company internal and external communications, punishing individuals for incidents of noncompliance (INCs), rewarding individuals
for a lack of INCs, or reading perfunctory safety minutes prior to meetings.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

BPM Paves Smoother Path for Banks to Customers

August 8, 2012 – PNC's John DeMarchis believes he's found a way to remove static from his bank's interactions with customers. The Pittsburgh-based bank is using new flexible and automated work processes to create a world in which customers contact the institution and immediately receive the proper message in the right channel, free of the kind of out-of-date, stagnant content that's inhibited cross-selling and true one-to-one marketing at financial institutions for years.

"It's extremely exciting," says DeMarchis, senior vice president of customer management for PNC. "We view it as having huge possibilities in terms of how we interact with our customers. The performance of mail and telemarketing is deteriorating and those channels are actually irritating consumers. This [new initiative] enables us to deliver interactions the way customers want to see a message, when they want to see it. It's a big part of the future way that we're going to be interacting with customers."

Banks have long spoken about the need to properly match cross sales and marketing to inbound customer service queries without annoying the customer with unwanted products, or even worse, pitching products the customer already has. By using business process management software in conjunction with data management, business intelligence and web services, PNC is automating the mix of manual, paper and data entry-heavy processes that were previously used to retrieve customer and transaction information, analyze it, make a decision on the next move, and deliver that "next move" as a cross-selling addendum to a service query.

The bank's goal is to enable a real-time experience for each consumer at each inbound point of contact. It's a new kind of business process management project (BPM) in which not only labor and slower electronic steps are being automated or streamlined to remove manual processes, but a new layer of Web-enabled agility is also being added to the retrieval and delivery of data and tailored content. PNC is not alone - banks all over the world are embracing these new BPM tools and techniques to tackle a variety of challenges, both for customer facing initiatives and back office tasks.

"The more exciting things around business process management right now are the ability to couple customer analytics with things like customer profitability or customer lifetime value measurements, delivering outcomes that are a function of real-time analytics," says Bob Meara, a senior analyst at Celent. "Not long ago, real time analytics was a pipedream."

At PNC, process automation is being used to handle inbound queries and the bank is developing similar capabilities for outbound interaction. DeMarchis says the value is in comprehensive customer service - the new process coordinates all actions from a customer and uses data analysis and business rules to determine "the next best action."

PNC is accessing customer data on a real-time or near-real-time basis and is integrating it into three channels: online, ATM and call center. A decisioning engine examines inbound customer activity, and based on data analytics, automatically makes a decision on a course of action or a message to that customer.

Instead of handing all of the steps in this process manually, which would likely not allow for real time action and info, the different work steps in the customer service process have been automated for speed and accuracy. "We call them customer treatments. It could be a cross sale, a purchase of a new product, or a service, such as 'we've been informed by a merchant that your credit card has been compromised, and we're shutting it down and issuing a new one,'" says DeMarchis.

Pegasystems developed the decision management engine, which the bank has licensed to be the heart of the strategy. The bank is integrating channel platforms to automate the steps between the data analysis and the message delivery. PNC has built a web services layer around the Pegasystems product to integrate with the channel systems.

The Pegasystems solution receives and analyzes customer data and the reason for that customer's contact, and makes a decision on the next action for that customer based on the transaction and personal data. That decision is delivered through the web services layer to the point systems that manage the creative and design for the content delivered to the different channels: on the website, PNC uses HTML and Java-based landing pages; ATM content is integrated into Diebold's campaign technology, and in the call center the bank uses Recommendation Advisor, a Pegasystems customer service product.

Pegasystems describes its platform as a "brain" that automatically informs decisions during a financial process, such as steps during a mortgage loan process, or matching service queries to personalized marketing or sales. The software aggregates and inputs transaction and user data into its analytics engine, then configures the decision-making process uniformly for different kinds of decisions. This way the people underwriting a loan or handling customer service calls, for example, can use the same business rules to ensure continuity in workflow automation across the enterprise. An automatic data technique or form that's been automated for a loan application can also be used for customer service or security. This continuity is also designed to make it easier to update and use more data, and pull information from broader sources, such as internal databases with a long history of customer transactions, or intelligence from unstructured sources such as social network analysis.

"By having this one 'brain,' you can get consistent decisions across channels. So if you have an offer or a risk mitigation in one channel, it's the same at all of the other channels, because all of the channels are connected to the same decision engine," says Rob Walker, vice president for decision management and analytics for Pegasystems, which competes with large tech firms such as IBM and SAP to provide BPM tech, as well as BPM-focused firms such as Colosa and BP Logix.

Previously, PNC would attempt to boost sales for inbound service queries by preloading a predefined list of customers, such as a group of 100,000 customers that were eligible for a home equity line of credit offer, into its CRM system. "That list would be waiting at the contact center for customers to call in and get a recommendation from an employee for that product."

Worth reading on the 8 Trends in BPM for banking business.

Traveling fees in Phuket

Just had a chance to travel to Phuket during the weekend as I've been invited as guest speaker at the Faculty of Hotel and Tourism. Upon arrival, I noticed this display while waiting for my bags, it shows the transportation fee from Phuket airport to various destinations around the island. My first reaction was, "this is insane!, very expensive.", well comparing it to the cost of living per day in Thailand where you can easily live by with 100-200Baht. Luckily, my trip into the city was arranged by my colleague, so a few bucks was saved there but still my curiosity remains.

During my trip back to the airport, I had a very informative conversation with the chauffeur, according to his story, Phuket has grown to be a town of mafias and gangsters in terms of transportation and logistics. Things like area coverage or rights to drive or operate are managed by a handful of gangsters, including the airport itself. A tuk-tuk driver can easily make over 3,000 baht a day despite he starts late in the afternoon. The system operates in a way that the tuk-tuk owner get 50/50 revenue sharing!

The government's effort regarding this issue was blocked by protesters previously when the governor asked a group of researchers to study the feasibility of building mass railway transport between the airport and the city, they even survey the routes and budget required, no news of this was found in national media.

IMO, If Phuket wants to expand its tourism by getting more tourist, transportation and logistic would definitely been the catalyst, many examples could be seen in famous tourist cities like Hong Kong, Singapore which also has a island geography type like Phuket.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Requirements, Restrictions and Benefits of Studying in Australia.

Undertaking further studies is one of the most important, difficult and sometimes distressing decisions one will ever have to make, and this decision becomes even more important, difficult and somewhat distressing if you are planning on studying abroad.  Therefore it is vital that anyone considering studying overseas knows exactly what they have to do to gain entry into that country.

Australia, like most other countries around the world has many requirements that must be met. These requirements are very broad and range from the applicants health and character, to their command of the English language. As failing to meet these requirements means that a person will not be granted entry into Australia it is important that both students and families of students know exactly what is required of them.

One of the first requirements that must be meet by the student applicant is a visa application charge of AUD $535. This charge is a non-refundable charge that covers the administrative costs associated with processing the application.

Another requirement that student applicants must meet before being accepted into the country, is proving that they have a satisfactory command of the English language. To prove that student applicants meet this requirement, the applicant is required to undertake a English language test conducted by many English language test providers including, the Pearson Test of English (PTE) and the Test of English as a Foreign Language internet Based-Test (TOEFL iBT).

Once a student gains entry into Australia, it does not mean they have finished meeting all the requirements set out by the Australian government. Once in Australia, students will have many other requirements and restrictions which they must meet and obeyed by, to ensure that they are allowed to remain in Australia.

Fortunately for international students contemplating on undertaking further studies within Australia, there is a useful eBook which is designed specifically for international students to help them achieve these requirements as well as to answer any questions you may have about studying in Australia.

Although, it may seem difficult to gain entry into Australia, once you have met all the requirements, the benefits of studying in Australia outweigh the effort exhausted in gaining entry into the country.

Australia is home to 5 of the top 10 cities in the world including Melbourne, Sydney and Perth and in turn, these cities are home to some of the best universities in the world. Not only does Australia offer some of the best cities and universities in the world, it also offers some of the best courses in the world that are not only recognised in Australia, but are recognised globally.

Unlike other countries who offer courses that are recognised only in that country, Australian courses ranging from medicine to accounting are taught at an international level and are therefore recognised all over the world.

There are many other reasons to studying in Australia, none of which relate to education at all! Australia is such a unique country, and boasts many beautiful and bizarre creatures and landmarks that are only found in Australia.

With beautiful beaches, lushes rainforests and spectacular scenery as well as the best cities in the world, with the best universities in the world offering the best courses in the world, Australia is a fantastic country to live and study in!

For further information on visa requirements and restrictions or for any other information regarding studying in Australia, visit the Studies in Australia.

For those planning to study in Australia.