Energy Management Tips

Energy management is of interest to various stakeholders; be it heads of facilities, heads of procurement, heads of environment and sustainability, financial officers, renewable energy managers and heads of energy. Some of the energy management tips that can be used to achieve considerable energy savings are:

1) Purchasing energy supplies at the lowest possible price

2) Managing energy use at peak efficiency

3) Utilising the most appropriate technology

1. Purchasing energy supplies at the lowest possible price
Purchasing energy supplies at the lowest possible price could be the starting point to great savings of energy costs. This can be achieved through switching your energy supplier. It is always advisable for companies to always take time to compare the energy tariffs to ensure they are on the best tariff and make great savings.

2. Managing energy use at peak efficiency

(a) Free help

There are some online tools that offer energy-efficiency improvements. These could come in handy in helping someone find out where to make energy-efficiency improvements.

(b) Energy monitors

An energy monitor is a gadget that estimate in real time how much energy you’re using. This can help one see where to cut back on energy consumption.

(c) Turning down thermostats

Turning down radiators especially in rooms that are rarely used/empty rooms or programming the heating to turn off when no one is there can go a long way in saving energy and energy costs.

(d) Use energy saving bulbs

Use of energy-saving light bulbs can cut down on energy usage drastically. Replacing all the light bulbs with energy-saving ones could make significant savings on energy usage and replacement costs since energy saving bulbs also have a longer life.

(e) Switching off unnecessary lights

It is also important to switch off lights that are not in use and to use the best bulb for the size of room.

(f) Sealing all heat escape routes

It is recommended that all gaps should be sealed in order to stop heat from escaping. Some of the heat escape routes are: windows, doors, chimneys and fireplaces, floorboards and skirting and loft hatches. The ways through which this can be achieved are:

? Windows- use of draught-proofing strips around the frame, brush strips work better for sash windows

? Doors – use of draught-proofing strips for gaps around the edges and brush or hinged-flap draught excluders on the bottom of doors

? Chimney and fireplace – inflatable cushions can be used to block the chimney or fit a cap over the chimney pot on fireplaces that are not used often

? Floorboards and skirting – Using a flexible silicon-based filler to fill the gaps

? Loft hatches – the use of draught-proofing strips can help to prevent hot air escaping
It is also important to consider smaller holes of air such as keyholes and letterboxes.

3. Utilising the most appropriate technology
Utilisation of technology as an energy management tool can be by way of choosing more energy efficient gadgets and by way of running technological gadgets in an energy efficient manner.

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How To Get Started with your IT Compliance Efforts for SOX

There’s no question about it. For many of you top executives in the corporate world, all roads leading to a brighter future have to go through SOX compliance. And because the business processes that contribute to financial reporting (the crux of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act) are now highly reliant on IT systems, it is important to focus a good part of your attention there.

It is a long and arduous path to IT compliance, so if you don’t want your company to fall by the wayside due to inefficient utilisation of resources, it is important to set out with a plan on hand. What we have here are some vital information that will guide you in putting together a sound plan for SOX compliance of your company?s IT systems.

Why focus on IT systems for SOX compliance?

We’ll get to that. But first, let’s take up the specific portions of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act that affect information technology. These portions can be found in Section 302 and Section 404 of the act.

In simplified form, Section 302 grants the SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) authority to come up with rules requiring you, CEOs and CFOs, to certify in each annual or quarterly financial report the following:

  • that you have reviewed the report;
  • that based on your knowledge, the report does not contain anything or leave out anything that would render it misleading;
  • that based on your knowledge, all financial information in the report fairly represent the financial conditions of the company;
  • that you are responsible for establishing internal controls over financial reporting; and
  • that you have assessed the effectiveness of the internal controls.

Similarly, Section 404, stated in simplified form, allows the SEC to come up with rules requiring you, CEOs and CFOs, to add an internal control report to each annual financial report stating that you are responsible for establishing internal controls over financial reporting.

You are also required to assess the effectiveness of those controls and to have a public accounting firm to attest to your assessment based upon standards adopted by the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB).

While there is no mention of IT systems, IT systems now play a significant role in financial reporting. Practically all of the data you need for your financial reports are stored, retrieved and processed on IT systems, so you really have to include them in your SOX compliance initiatives and establish controls on them.

Now that that’s settled, your next question could very well be: How do you know what controls to install and whether those controls are already sufficient to achieve compliance?

Finding a suitable guide for IT compliance

The two bodies responsible for setting rules and standards dealing with SOX, SEC and PCAOB, point to a well-established control framework for guidance – COSO. This framework was drafted by the Committee of Sponsoring Organisations of the Treadway Commission (COSO) and is the most widely accepted control framework in the business world.

However, while COSO is a tested and proven framework, it is more suitable for general controls. What we recommend is a widely-used control framework that aligns well with COSO but also caters to the more technical features and issues that come with IT systems.

Taking into consideration those qualifiers, we recommend COBIT. COBIT features a well thought out collection of IT-related control objectives grouped into four domains: Plan and Organise (PO), Acquire and Implement (AI), Deliver and Support (DS), and Monitor and Evaluate (ME). The document also includes maturity models, performance goals and metrics, and activity goals.

A few examples of COBIt’s detailed control objectives are:

DS4.2 – IT Continuity Plans
DS4.9 – Offsite Backup Storage
DS5.4 – User Account Management
DS5.8 – Cryptographic Key Management
DS5.10 – Network Security
DS5.11 – Exchange of Sensitive Data

By those titles alone, you can see that the framework is specifically designed for IT. But the document is quite extensive and, chances are, you won’t need all of the items detailed there. Furthermore, don’t expect COBIT to specify a control solution controls for every control objective. For example, throughout the control objective DS4 (Ensure Continuous Service), you won’t find any mention of virtualisation, which is common in any modern business continuity solution.

Basically, COBIT will tell you what you need to attain in order to achieve effective governance, management and control, but you’ll have to pick the solution best suited to reach that level of attainment.

Articles highly relevant to the one you just read:

Month End Accounting The Way It Should Be Today
Spreadsheet Woes ? Burden in SOX Compliance and Other Regulations
Spreadsheet Woes ? Limited Features For Easy Adoption of a Control Framework
How Internal Auditors Can Win The War Against Spreadsheet Fraud

What is Business Intelligence?

How well do you know your customers? That is, can you actually pinpoint which among them are you most profitable with and which are making you spend more? Are you content with the accuracy of your forecasts and market predictions? Do you feel you’re spending more on legal costs and regulatory compliance than you should?

Your IT department may be handling these concerns pretty well but perhaps you’d like to know how you can further improve things.

What we’ve got is an IT solution wrapped in a fancy name called ‘Business Intelligence’ or BI. If you think that’s too strong a term, we invite you to read more below, then you be the judge.

Dashboards – Determine the health of your business at a glance

Most drivers rarely make use of their car’s dashboard. After all, you can still reach your destination by just using the steering wheel, pedals, gear stick and so on. But that’s not exactly the most efficient way to drive, right?

If you want to save on fuel, you’ll want to glance on the RPM and speedometer from time to time. You might also want to utilise the trip meter to determine which route is the shortest to a given destination. Other dashboard components like the fuel gauge, tire pressure gauge, engine temperature indicator, and volt meter can likewise provide information about your car’s health.

The same concept applies to business management. If you want to run your business intelligently, you can make use of BI dashboards. These are tools in a typical business intelligence package that will allow you to determine the health of your business via a set of smartly configured gauges and other intuitive graphical representations.

So that, literally, at a mere glance, you’ll already know whether various units in your company are working efficiently. A dashboard will also give you instant feedback of the strategies you’ve recently implemented; to let you know if things are working as planned.

If you want more information than a dashboard can provide, our BI packages also include highly customised reports.

Reports that help you decide faster

Dashboards are great for getting valuable information at a glance but they won’t tell you everything. For more details, you’ll need to view highly customised reports. Our reports are tailor made for each user. We see to it that, by default, each person gets the information he needs the most.

If you belong to the sales department, you normally won’t need a presentation of the data that is appropriate for people in accounting. That way, you don’t spend time filtering. Instead, you and your people can move on to making well-informed decisions.

Our BI systems make use of your vast collection of data to provide reports that will organise your regulatory requirements and call your attention to approaching deadlines. The same system will provide the right information for your people on the field. If your team members are equipped with smart phones and Pocket PCs, they can retrieve whatever it is they need to know to close deals, make sales, and serve clients faster than the competition.

Generating logical information from disparate sources of data scattered over an enterprise-wide organisation is no easy task. But we’ll make it look simple. That’s because we’ve got the expertise to bring it all together into a robust data warehouse and to extract them in the form of reports and dashboards through OLAP.

OLAP and Data Warehousing – Powering the generation of actionable information

Want to know how to generate reports with the highest degree of accuracy and reliability? In theory, what you need is a single repository or a data warehouse. That is, order receipts, sales invoices, as well as customer & supplier data is integrated with regulatory details, personnel data, and others. These are all specially organised for future reporting and analysis.

However, data, no matter how all-embracing, is useless until it is processed into actionable information. Through OLAP or Online Analytical Processing, you can seamlessly collect all relevant data from your vast repository to answer queries like “What is our company’s profitability for the 2nd quarter in all identified key cities for our top-of-the-line products?”.

The strength of OLAP lies in its inherent ability to perform data analysis and very complex calculations, thus enabling it to return complex queries much faster than other database technologies. It is therefore suitable for very large data sources, i.e., data warehouses.

Dashboards and reports will only give your organisation the edge if the information retrieved is reliable, fast, and accurate – exactly the kind OLAP is so good at.

Mobile BI – Step back and see the big picture anytime, anywhere

Spreadsheets are great for displaying detailed information. However, in today’s highly competitive market, retrieving information that matters the most in the shortest possible time is vital in maintaining a sizeable lead over the competition. To step back and see the big picture, you’ll need insightful tools like dashboards and automatically generated reports.

Reports can be beamed to mobile devices such as smart phones and Pocket PCs. They can also be viewed on eBook readers as well. You can also do the same tasks with spreadsheets. But imagine how you’d need to scroll over a large spreadsheet on any of these mobile devices just to know which customer in your current location has performed well over the last month.

If you really want to make quick, well-informed decisions, BI dashboards for mobile devices is the way to go. You can make use of various business objects such as drill-able charts, performance metrics, and metric trend graphs to make crucial decisions even when on you’re in the field.

Is Your Project Agile, a Scrum or a Kanban?

Few projects pan out the way we expect when starting out. This is normal in any creative planning phase. We half suspect the ones that follow a straight line are the exceptions to the rule. Urban legend has it; Edison made a thousand prototypes before his first bulb lit up, and then went on to comment, ?genius is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration?. Later, he added that many of life’s failures are people who did not realise just how close they were to success when they gave up.

So be it to this day, and so be it with project planning too. There is no one size fits all approach when it comes to it. Agile, Scrum and Kanban each have their supporters and places where they do well. Project planning often works best when we use a sequential combination of them, appropriate to what is currently happening on the ground.

Of the three, Agile is by far the most comprehensive. It provides a structure that begins with project vision / conceptualisation, and goes as far as celebration when the job is over, and retrospective discussion afterwards. However, the emphasis on daily planning meetings may dent freethinking, and even smother it.

Scrum on the other hand says ?forget all that bureaucracy?. There is a job to do and today is the day we are going to do it. Although the core Agile teamwork is still there it ignores macro project planning, and could not be bothered with staying in touch with customers. If using Scrum, it is best to give those jobs to someone else.

The joker in the pack is Kanban, It believes that rules are there to substitute for thought, and that true progress only comes from responsible freedom. It belongs in mature organisations that have passed through Scrum and Agile phases and have embarked on a voyage towards perfection.

That said, there can be no substitute for human leadership, especially when defined as the social influence that binds the efforts of others towards a single task.

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