Archive for December, 2009
I’m more than very happy to have another story in this month’s When Saturday Comes, which is one of the best, if not the best, football periodicals around.
The article is a look at Kill the Referee, a fly-on-the-wall documentary about the refs and reffing at the Euro 2008 football tournament. I saw the doc at the Seville European Film Festival last month, and spoke with its Belgian director Yves Hinant about the work:
“I am not a sports journalist and do not care about football,” Hinant told me. “I make films about real life. For me UEFA was like a huge company and football is like any other work. The referees are ordinary employees who have to follow the rules while under a lot of pressure.”
So the film does not features many goals or pieces of skill, instead focusing on the refs decisions, pressures, controversies, personal rivalries etc. It’s pretty interesting and is a nice antidote to the recent brouhaha about controversial refereeing decisions. I’d tell you even more about Kill the Referee, but really you should buy a copy of the mag to find out.
It’s available from most good newsagents in Ireland and the UK, or indeed online at the wsc.co.uk website shop. Enjoy.
A feature I’d been working on for a couple of weeks appeared in yesterday’s Sunday Business Post recruitment section, which looked at how companies can best attract and motivate staff under 30 – known as either ‘millenials’ or ‘Generation Y’.
It came out of recent research by PwC entitled Managing Tomorrow’s People, and included a chat with Mark Carter, a partner with PwC Ireland human resources services:
‘‘Generational categorisations can be risky at times, but the surveys suggest that the millenial generation people are somewhat different. They have high expectations of what employers will do for them, as opposed to what they can do for their employer. That doesn’t mean they do not want to work hard, but they want to work in a different way,” said Carter.
I also spoke with Sandra McDevitt, head of people operations for Google in Ireland and Fiona Mullen, head of HR at Microsoft Ireland, for the piece.
‘‘It can sound a bit wacky, but we look to recruit people who are ‘Googley’,” said McDevitt. “The big thing for us is – can these people work collaboratively in a very fast-paced, rapidly changing workplace environment and who have the smarts to solve problems creatively?”
‘‘Unpaid leave of absence can be very important for our younger employees, so that they can go and gain some other experiences, such as travelling abroad,” said Mullen. “We also offer three-day volunteering opportunities to all of our employees, which are very highly valued by our graduate population.”
More thinking outside the box in the full piece through here on the SBP site.
I had a couple of pieces in yesterday’s Sunday Business Post ‘Winter Motoring’ supplement. The first was a look at how manufacturers have reacted to the new €1,500 ‘scrappage scheme’ introduced by the Irish government in the recent budget. Here’s a hint:
“Manufacturers are putting together offers that are worth significantly more than the €1,500,” said Alan Nolan, director general of the Society of the Irish Motor Industry (Simi). ‘‘The manufacturers are out there competing for what will be an exciting market in January. So there is no doubt consumers will benefit in a competitive market.”
The full copy, which also includes details of exactly how the scheme will work, and the super-severe challenges faced by the Irish motor industry at the moment, is through here on the SBP site.
The other piece was a look at the latest in in-car sat-nav technology, based around a new deal between Microsoft and Navteq, and offering advice to people considering buying a GPS system as a Christmas present this holiday season:
“(P)eople should look out for features which help make the journey easier – for example, 3D graphics or visuals, which can help a driver navigate complex junctions on motorways,” said Cliff Fox, executive vice president, Navteq Maps. ‘‘Connectivity available through some portable devices provides online access to real time data such as traffic information, fuel prices at nearby petrol stations or even movie listings or car park availability.”
The rest of the piece is through here on the thepost.ie website.
With (a lot of) global attention focused this week for the UN Copenhagen climate change summit, I thought it a good time to stick up here a feature I had in the Sunday Business Post’s Environomics supplement (it’s not quite Environmental, not quite Economics) last month.
It’s an interview with Dr. Ken Macken, programme manager climate change at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). I’d link to the story on the SBP’s website, only they don’t put many of their supplements online.
Anyway, here’s the full text as published, explaining why its time to cop on and what businesses can do to help:
Progress at next month’s United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen is central to avoiding the potentially catastrophic global implications of man-made climate change, according to Dr. Ken Macken, programme manager climate change at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
“The EU has identified a two degree annual global climate change limit to prevent runaway and potentially catastrophic global climate change,” Macken said. “To achieve that limit significant reductions well beyond the current level of committed reductions will be necessary. That is why putting in place an international agreement at the Copenhagen meeting to take over when the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012 is so important.”
However, Macken said he was not confident of major agreements being sealed at the conference.
“There are difficulties in trying to agree a fully fledged international treaty,” he said. “The US is trying to quickly come on board, and the developing countries such as China seem to accept the need for some limitations on their parts. The EU is continuing to press forward. The pieces are coming together, but what may only be within reach in December is an international commitment to such a treaty.”
Macken said that there is no longer any serious debate among scientists about whether human behaviour was contributing to climate change.
“The earth’s climate does have natural variations, however humankind has been emitting certain gases that are known to change the thermal capacity of the planet and its atmosphere,” he said. “There is now an element happening that is not natural, it is man-made, which is causing an overall warming of the globe.”
According to the EPA’s recently published report – a Summary of the State of Knowledge on Climate Change Impacts for Ireland compiled by Margaret Desmond, Phillip O’Brien and Frank McGovern - the mean annual temperature in Ireland increased by just 0.7 degrees between 1890 and 2004, however the highest ten-yearly rates of increase have occurred since 1980. Six of the 10 warmest years have occurred since 1990.
The EPA research states that the Irish climate will continue to warm with possible increases of 3º to 4ºC towards the end of this century, with a reduction in the number of frost days, wetter winters in the west, drier summers (by 5 to 25 per cent) in the south-east, increasing annual rainfalls on the north and west coasts, and decreases or small increases in the south and east. There will be slightly fewer storms but more intense, less snow throughout the country, a longer growing season with an earlier spring, decreased rain and surface water quality and increased risk of river and coastal flooding.
While this may not sound all bad for Ireland, the results on a global level may be devastating, Macken said.
“Climate change does not just manifest itself as warmer weather,” he said. “Once you start warming the planet rainfall patterns change, droughts appear in areas where they were not pronounced before, deserts change their locations, pests and diseases change, sea levels rise so low-lying areas suffer devastating changes. All as a result of mankind’s interference with the climate system.”
Increased greenhouse gas emissions are to blame for the current and expected climate changes, Macken said.
“The main greenhouse gas globally is carbon dioxide, which comes essentially from burning fossil fuels,” he said. “This includes transport running on petrol or diesel, central heating systems, power stations, industrial equipment and so on. Methane from waste degradation in landfill is also a major greenhouse gas. Ruminants, or animals that chew the cud, release methane from both ends.”
Macken said that there were many practical steps that Irish businesses could take to cut the amounts of greenhouse gases they were responsible for.
“In everybody’s lifestyle you have choices,” he said. “We are not saying go back to the dark ages, but you can run your business in a smart way. Whenever there is an opportunity to change equipment you can choose more energy efficient models. Instead of traveling to every meeting, in Ireland or abroad, some can be done remotely, by video conferencing for example. Energy efficient lighting is available, as are energy efficient computer servers. Most heating systems can be maintained and managed to be more efficient. All of these changes add up to savings of greenhouse gases.”
Companies can help reduce the impact of climate change by reducing the amount of waste they generate, Macken said.
“Waste is bad from a number of viewpoints,” he said. “First of all generating large amounts of waste can be bad for your own business. Secondly it costs money to dispose of. Then when the waste degrades it may give rise to greenhouse gases. So waste reduction and general efficient use of resources all around provides benefits on multiple levels.”
Agri-business and related sectors also have their part to play in reducing emissions, although this was sometimes easier said than done, Macken said.
“The issue of food production and how it is dealt with internationally is a key area that is not fully resolved yet,” he said. “The EPA is funding some research into this, and liaisons are taking place between Ireland and other agricultural economies such as New Zealand.”
Macken said that, in the medium term, the range of options available to Irish businesses in these areas should increase.
“Down the line there will be renewables for electricity generation, with increasing amounts of solar, wind and biofuels coming onto the system,” he said. “There is also early bio-diesel being made available for road transport. Climate change is a very big problem, there is no single silver bullet solution. We need to make improvements right along the line.”
Capping emissions at their current level was not going to fix the problem, Macken said.
“The amount of greenhouse gases already up there will produce quite measurable effects for some time to come,” he said. “People are talking about reducing what is already there by 80 per cent to bring the system under control again. It is a huge problem, receiving huge international political and media attention. The EU has already put in place its own 20 per cent reduction target by 2020 already, but whatever we do is not going to succeed unless it is accompanied by international action on everyone’s part.”
Ireland was not close to meeting its current obligations under the Kyoto agreement, Macken said.
“Our Kyoto limit averages out at about 62.8 million tonnes a year for the five year period 2008 to 2012,” he said. “Our most recent figures published a year ago showed us putting out about 69.2 million tonnes a year. The measures already in place should help to close that gap and the economic downturn will help to reduce emissions, but obviously for the wrong reasons.”
Certain government initiatives were pushing us in the right direction, Macken said.
“It is no secret at this stage that the next budget will include a carbon tax,” he said. “Building insulation standards, and VRT and road tax rates encouraging vehicles with lower emissions are also useful. As the economy picks up, hopefully we will use the opportunity to result in an overall reduction rather than going back up to the higher levels.”
To outsource IT or not to outsource IT, particularly in today’s extra challenging business climate, was the question covered in 3,000 word depth in a feature I had in the Sunday Business Post’s Computers in Business magazine on Dec 6th. It’s online now at the sbpost.ie website.
Here’s a taster:
Outsourcing can also bring a greater breadth and depth of skillsets, the latest cutting-edge technologies, experience and round-the clock support and management of systems. While this may seem like a win-win situation, the outsourcing of some, or all, of a company’s IT systems is generally not straightforward.
Many firms’ IT systems are complex and bespoke, and require expert tinkering and management. The threading of IT throughout a company’s internal processes and functions can make it challenging to find particular specific pieces of infrastructure or applications to outsource. Partners may have their own best interests in mind when making decisions. So there may be sound strategic, privacy or business reasons for keeping your own staff in control of vital IT systems.
The full article is through here on the paper’s website.