A permit to work system will help to ensure that all work performed on site is a. Planned and approved b. Performed safely, and c. That all necessary personnel are informed. As an example, imagine you run a food factory and one of your production lines needs some welding work - this seems straightforward but let's look at some of the things that may affect the safety/effectiveness of the task. Where will the work be done - is there anything or anyone nearby which could be impacted? - for example a tank containing inflammable liquids, combustible materials, a pedestrian walkway?
Fair cop - It's not really a 'proper' network. It's taken me a long time to assemble a group of friends who are business contacts, business contacts who are friends, friends who are just friends - you get the idea, there's even a few competitors in there, but that's ok. In personality tests I come out as a 'connector' - amongst other things, 'connectors' get a kick out of introducing people, linking people together , and although I was sceptical about personality tests for a long time I do see some identifiable traits in the way I do things. I'd
My first job as a software developer was copying hundreds of charts in an airless lightless room using a dastardly machine called a dyeline copier - I wasn't totally sure how it worked but ammonia and various other chemicals were a big component and it wasn't a pleasant environment. I quickly moved from there to photocopying proposals for the sales team and at some point I sat down and wrote some code. I'm not advocating exposure to potentially carcinogenic fumes as an alternative to programming computers, but looking back through the lens of hindsight I think it was a useful
I used to talk about the 3 C's - ' Character, Competence and Chemistry' when we hired people. It trips off the tongue and there's nothing fundamentally wrong with wanting these traits in a new hire. But to be honest I was kidding myself .. it's almost all about character. I don't really know how someone is going to fit into our team when I hire them but one thing I do know is that if they seem to be open to change, flexible and committed then they are going to have a good chance, and any gaps in their
Tactics are what I am doing this morning, Strategy is the afternoon... I'm really not knocking plans. Broadly speaking I think you should have an idea of where you are heading and how you are going to get there just for your own reference. And of course if you're planning a 10 year mission to land a probe on Mars you need to plan with massive detail - plans are good, they have their place. And I can see why Banks and funding bodies are keen on business plans - they don't know much about your business and a plan
We used to have a simple model, build a product, sell it, build another .. rinse and repeat. When we 'accidentally' got into the education market with a pretty neat performance tracking system for schools in the 90's we realised we had an opportunity to create something that could potentially generate recurring revenue. We were lucky and eventually right in our assumption - we spent an awful lot more than we had planned (or had in the bank!) but we discovered that wrapping up the offering into a single annual payment which included all support, hosting, data management and updates
A while ago I was listening to an interview with Phil Libin, former Evernote CEO - quite an inspiring guy and one thing that resonated with me was that he doesn't really spend much time thinking about his competitors. We're not Evernote but I decided a long time ago that our sales team wouldn't talk about our competitors negatively - or at all really. Removing the negative focus enables us to stay positively focused on our own products. I have never been impressed by sales people who criticize their competitors. For one thing, a lot of our competitors are very
'Turnover is vanity, profit is sanity' - You've probably heard this snippet of business wisdom and as a bit of common sense there's nothing too awful about it, but it's missing the point. For most (all?) businesses the most important element is cash. Neither turnover or profit are an accurate reflection of cash status. You could be running a very profitable business but if your clients take longer to pay you than your suppliers demand you pay them then you have a potential problem. You might have a $200K order for widgets but until you get paid for that order
Ever since I got my first penknife from my Dad at a single digit age I wanted a Swiss Army knife - I overshot in my late pre-teens by buying a massive contraption with about 30 blades and a spoon - however I soon settled on a basic Swiss Army model with a couple of blades and a flat bladed screwdriver as well as one of those mysterious 'stones from horses hooves' things. It's a decent knife - it's prime function is cutting but if you really haven't got a screwdriver it'll do a reasonable job for you - if
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This month we moved all our hosted web applications to Amazon Web Services (AWS) - we'd been hosting in a 'conventional' data centre since the turn of the century and to be honest we got great service from the team there, very few outages and the performance of our kit was more than enough to cope with the demand; so why did we move? We're MUCH busier - and while our hardware was more than adequate, it has a shelf life and we wanted a way of better matching our provision with increasing demand. AWS gives us the ability to
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Let's start with my limitations - I don't really know what it's like to have a proper job - I've been running this business since 1988 and I love it . I come in at weekends, work late, answer emails in my PJ's, think about work in the shower, take days off, leave early, go for long walks at lunchtime, get up at stupid o clock for networking meetings, send out quotes over Christmas..... So I think I understand the balance thing - you take all the stuff you do at work and all the stuff you do outside work
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It will be a dark day for IT when we run out of TLA's (three letter acronymns) so I felt it was essential to give a few of them another airing. I've been involved in many ' Proof of concept' projects over the years, and to be honest I never really saw them as sinister enemies of progress,  however for a while now the idea of 'proving a concept' has seemed increasingly inappropriate. When you embark on a project you normally already have a concept, the term' proof of concept' is just a bit wooly - you come to the
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I've been to all kinds of networking events - posh expensive ones in posh expensive hotels, quirky ones in pubs, regular ones, irregular ones, expensive, cheap .. and it has only taken me just over 30 years to admit to myself that I haven't really got much benefit from them. I always approach each event with some optimism about what I might learn or who I might meet, but I invariably come away feeling disappointed. I know it's down to me to make the connections, follow up etc. and if I was a total newbie I would accept some criticism
Doog feeding from a bowl - dogfooding
by Rowland Gault Pisys are a 30-odd-year-old Scottish software company. We don’t just develop software - we also develop hardware for our trainiing simulators. We have recently had our ISO 27001 certification renewed for another three years. To us, it's a matter of pride. I'm Rowland, a software developer at Pisys. I also work on our ISO audits with my colleague and software tester Kiki. What is ISO 27001? ISO 27001 is an international standard defining the requirements for an Information Security Management System (ISMS). It covers everything from building security, and disaster recovery, to how we handle customer data,
Don't bite my head off for saying this but I reckon Santa has it pretty easy. I mean, he gets the whole year to sort out his toy stock - I've got to get these eggs out while they're fresh and that means a whole lot of cooking !  - thank goodness I have the Pisys Permit to Work system to help me keep track of all the hot work that needs doing - that chocolate really scalds even through fur, and it's all done in the burrow of course so confined spaces are really an issue. Delivery's another thing
We have a very flat company structure - it wasn't our intention but it has turned out to be a good thing for us. It's not perfect but it works - here are the pro's and cons Flat is good - Developers get to speak directly to customers Flat can be difficult - Sometimes developers get distracted by customers Flat is good - Communication is quick and easy because you can get directly to the person you need to talk to Flat can be difficult - Sometimes communication gets a bit blurred because too many people get involved in the
Santa delivering presents into a chimney - Pisys Permit to Work required
Aberdeen. Santa Claus has visited the Pisys Techhub for a catch-up with his favourite techies, and to get his iPad ready for another busy Christmas Eve. He tells us: "With a short delivery window and demanding customers, I really need to be sure my HSE planning is up to scratch: Working at Height (Chimneys) Confined Space Entry (Chimneys again!) Hot Work (you guessed it) Isolations (burglar alarms, excessive Xmas decorations) Says Santa: "A few years ago, I decided to go electronic, because I'd had enough of paper permits getting blown off the sledge.  Now  I can see all permits from Google maps. They
A computer engineer setting up two monitors
Aberdeen. One of our MEM Simulator Suites is getting ready for its long journey to Port Harcourt, Nigeria. The Customer is Tolmann Allied Services, a leading International Risk Management Safety and Emergency company and OPITO approved Training Provider, mainly for the offshore industry. We are proud to be able to help Tolmann protect the lives of their trainees, as well as their country's infrastructure and environment. The Pisys MEM Training Simulator provides a realistic environment for students to learn how to react in Major Emergency situations. MEM simulators are used in more than 20 training schools around the world, typically for the
I can clearly remember the 'birth' of Pisys. I'd been working for a small offshore survey company, as part of the software development team and we had been riding out the latest downturn in the energy sector which had caused a drop in oil price to circa $14 in 1986. In keeping with the response to every drop in oil price a lot of things suddenly became too expensive to maintain and we found ourselves under threat. Our boss was pretty good at coming up with reasons to keep us busy and therefore obviously indispensible so we engaged in an
(Peter Benton our product manager describes his experiences of starting with Pisys) Some things are etched on your mind forever. Like taking your child to their first day of school. The overly-breezy conversations on the journey, all the hysterics and tears as you wave them goodbye at the gate, only to hear them say, “Get a grip, Dad: I’ll be home this afternoon”. Starting at Pisys was the same, except I didn’t talk much on the way. But I needn’t have worried. No trauma, no drama. Of course, it takes time to get to know people, but even in those
'Cyber essentials' is a great name for an IT security standard, it has enough Dr Who/Trekkie overtones to persuade the non-techies amongst us that it is really important, which it is up to a point. It's  a government backed scheme for ensuring that businesses meet some basic IT security standards, for example having strong passwords, keeping anti virus up to date, preventing malware  etc. - all essential stuff, but it's only really the tip of the iceberg in terms of real IT security. The international standard ' ISO27001:2013'  covers all aspects of an organisation's information security. It goes beyond the
In the 80's there was a comedy show called 'Not the nine o clock news' which was fantastically politically incorrect - one of its most outrageous sketches involved an assessor visiting a pie factory to check up on the latest of a long stream of apprentices who had been sent there and never heard from again As you might have guessed the manager (Griff Rhys Jones) couldn't really tell her very much about the apprentices other than he was using them mainly for 'filling in' ! We'd like to welcome Matthew our latest marketing intern, and reassure him that we
I just returned from a very non-business trip to Hawaii.  We'd been following the news about the volcanic eruption in the South and every day brought more doom and gloom - it looked like the whole island was covered by red hot lava, the air filled with choking ash.. Despite our fears, flights appeared to be running as normal, and when we arrived we were relieved to find a tropical paradise, just like we expected. The truth is, the volcano is causing havoc, but only in a relatively small area. We took a boat trip from Hilo the capital to
Ok - thats a little harsh - I might find your idea interesting, amusing, even inspiring. But... to turn that idea into a business takes time, effort and resource - and guess what, I'm using a lot of that developing the dozens of ideas I had on my own without adding yours to the mix. It's not your fault - after all the 'ideas man' has always been the bright one in the team, Brains from the Double Deckers (70's childrens tv reference), Spock (ok he was really good at other stuff as well) - ideas are like currency, they're
It was a marketing role and my big mistake was to reveal my passion for 'excellent written and spoken English' - if only I wasn't such a stickler for spelling and grammar I would probably have had someone in post by now - it's only marketing after all, what do a few typos matter here and there. Most of the candidates seemed in all other respects to be well qualified, but the ones I'm describing lacked the insight to understand that: 1. If you see a specific requirement in a job description you should address it in your application, and
I was sitting in a meeting with my business partner this week and we were pondering the good old days when we were both able to spend concentrated periods of time focussed on a single task. I had an attention span once - I used to be a coder, I got a great deal of satisfaction from spending 12 hours a day glued to my tiny (monochrome) monitor and going to bed knowing I had at least produced something that had some visible impact. Now here's my problem. I'm definitely not a coder now and I have a pathetic attention span - I
Since 1996, the Wayback Machine has been archiving cached pages of websites, unfortunately for Pisys this means that we can't pretend that we never tried to launch an online food delivery service about 15 years before online food ordering was a 'thing' - in the interests of full disclosure here's the evidence: - this dates back to 2001 Since you're probably not seeing webwaiter adverts everywhere you look you can probably guess it didn't work. Much as I'd love to explain in detail why relying on fax machines in take-aways as an ordering mechanism wasn't a great idea, I have to
I always harboured a desire to work in a music shop. Music shop guys were cool - especially the ones who could make a £50 guitar sound like the most beautiful thing in the world. As I got older I started wondering if I could make a living from music which was one of my key passions - it was a romantic dream which seemed infinitely more attractive than slogging through a computer science degree. Saturday mornings used to be a happy combination of a saunter into Waterstones bookshop followed by a quick spin round the legendary Bruce Millers music
Dongles and parallel printer ports - not words you often hear together these days. Back in the 90's dongles were quite different to the tiny easily lost flecks of plastic we're used to using with bluetooth devices etc. They were great big chunky boxes which attached to the printer port ( remember when PC's had those). My pal Dave couldn't say the word without collapsing in hysterical laughter so to this day he goes by the handle  'Dongle Dave', software people were very cruel in those days.. . Anyway Dongles generally contained security code which was used to allow the operation of expensive software -
1988 was an interesting year - here are a few of the highlights Feb 3rd – Nurses throughout the UK strike for higher pay and more cash for the National Health Service 4th – Nearly 7,000 ferry workers go on strike in Britain, paralysing the nation’s seaports 5th – The first BBC Red Nose Day raises £15 million for charity 26 - A foolish boy starts a software company called 'Aardvark Software Consultants, later to be renamed 'Pisys' - proximity to red nose day a total coincidence Admittedly the name was chosen in a pub - lesson #1 - don't
Taking on a bespoke development project can be an adventure I've done a pretty unscientific and slightly small survey of my peers in the software business. These are  folk who have been running software companies for a while now, and we all share similar experiences when it comes to bespoke ( or custom/tailored) software. It's generally not a pretty picture but it all starts off so simple, usually a problem which can be described on a single sheet of paper. How hard could it possibly be to translate this into an IT system? You've guessed - very, very hard. It's
When I started my IT career in the 80's there were a few different programming languages to choose from. There was no or code academy - just books and our two friends trial and error.I cut my professional teeth on a curious environment called 'Rocky Mountain Basic' by HP which was actually a pretty decent tool and well suited to the relatively short delivery times expected on board offshore survey boats in a force 10 gale. Over the following years I earned a living with Pascal and C before I peaked and became a recovering techie, but this isn't