By | December 29, 2017

The word “meet” and its homonym “meat” come to mind when reflecting on inspire 2017.

After all, the 300-plus people who joined us in Austin, Texas, for inspire from as far away as Australia came to learn from their peers and experts in Operational Excellence, and, of course, to meet up with colleagues, make new acquaintances and network with industry thought leaders.

So the “meet” of this homonymous scenario is pretty intuitive, but why pepper in “meat” into this conversation?

Neal Rosen inspire

Let’s hear from Neal Rosen, Sphera’s vice president of solution engineering, who MCed the event.

“Texans are definitely serious about their food, and another type of food that Texans are just passionate about is steak!” Rosen pontificated. “Yes, there are so many big, fancy steakhouses down here, and oftentimes, for business dinners and social events, I find myself sitting at a table with a big group in one of these fancy steakhouses. The problem is, and I’m a little uncomfortable admitting this with a lot of Texans around, I don’t like steak … yeah, I’m just not a steak guy.”

The hilarity ensued as Rosen explained how uncomfortable it is for him to order chicken dinners at a steak restaurant. The looks, oh the looks he gets from restaurant staff, which we think likely pales in comparison to the looks he got when he unveiled his cowboy outfit on the stage, which included his “everyday” big ol’ belt.

Of course, at the big Bring Home Texas networking dinner on Monday night, there were big juicy steaks to indulge on, but, luckily for Neal and the other steak-averse attendees, there were also amazing salmon filets and, of course, chicken, too. It was all served buffet-style, so we can assure Neal that there were no dirty looks from wait staff because of his dinner selection!

Sphera Logo on inspire lawn

Software Improvements: The Meat and Potatoes of inspire 2017

Beyond the traditional edible fare, there was another meaty choice cut coming out of inspire: namely SpheraCloud. During Sphera CEO Paul Marushka’s keynote presentation, he announced that SpheraCloud, a game-changing software as a service based platform, will be available in January 2018 for three key areas of risk mitigation—Incident Management, Risk Assessment and Platform Tools—with future rollouts for additional Operational Risk software as well as Environmental Performance and Product Stewardship solutions on the horizon for later in 2018 and beyond.

And as Paul explained: “SpheraCloud represents a quantum leap for Integrated Risk Management technology designed to help professionals manage risk and compliance with the benefits of cloud-based software.”

It’s a whole lot to chew on, of course, but it’s a mouthwatering addition to Sphera’s already robust solutions.

More Core on Our Plate

As we all know, not every company has an immediate need to venture into the clouds, that’s why, as Sphera’s chief product officer, Mike Zamis, explained during his product road map presentation at inspire, there are some tantalizing updates on the docket for our core products. For those folks who like their products well-done—and who wouldn’t?—Sphera is bringing innovation to the core as part of our multiyear product road map.

There are plans for major enhancements in all three of our core areas—Environmental Performance software, Product Stewardship software and Operational Risk software—for some of our most popular software solutions.

For sure, it’s an exciting time for our on-premise customers as well as those who are headed toward the clouds.

Keep in mind that some companies want the best of both worlds—the filet and the Porterhouse if you will. Don’t worry, Sphera’s got you covered. SpheraCloud Connector, also coming in 2018, was designed to bridge the gap between our traditional on-premise products and the new cloud-based offerings. This way customers will be able to preserve their organizational investment but also get the great benefits of the cloud, such as quicker software updates, mobility and, of course, safe SaaS storage.

To demonstrate how SpheraCloud works, three of Sphera’s top thespians, Andy Hosman, Andrea Wu and Marc Dillon, hard hat in tow, headed to the proscenium to act out how SpheraCloud will help field workers document incidents and communicate with supervisors. Talk about some meaty roles; even Meatloaf would be jealous!

Other Highlights

inspire bag

There were so many juicy tidbits that came out of inspire, including a thought-provoking keynote from Christine Todd Whitman addressing “The Shifting Environmental Policy & Climate: Staying Ahead While Going Green.” Whitman, the former governor of New Jersey and current president of Whitman Strategy Group, also participated in an insightful Q&A led by E2 ManageTech’s Vijay Gudivaka that also featured Environmental Health & Safety expert Dr. Robert Young, an assistant professor at the University of Texas at Austin.

Verdantix CEO David Metcalfe also presented at the event. During his Tuesday morning session, he shared some fascinating research from Verdantix about what EH&S leaders think is most important in enterprise software (configurability of the application and easy to integrate with other IT systems led the way). After his keynote, Metcalfe participated in a panel discussion with BP’s Ankur Kadakia and ERM’s Shawn Doherty that focused on making smart EHS tech investments for your organization.

Panel discussions also included one led by Environmental Leader publisher Tim Hermes discussing trends in the industry as well as one hosted by LNS’s Peter Bussey discussing the value of EH&S.

Sprinkled in throughout the first two full days of the conference were award presentations. We handed out eight Embracing Excellence awards in all in categories ranging from Benchmarking to Compliance Assurance to Incident Management. During the conference, The Ink Factory was on hand to draw a massive mural that highlighted the winning projects. This was no small potatoes accomplishment for the artist to complete in about a day and a half!

Sphera was also excited to host a partner pavilion where attendees were able to speak directly with all nine of our partners—CH2M, ERM, OSIsoft, E2 ManageTech, Huco Consulting, Frostbyte, AECOM, Tetra Tech and Trinity Consultants. We understand these meetings were sizzling hot.

How About Meet and Greets?

While it was clear that inspire attendees came to learn and network, it was also obvious they headed to Austin to have fun as well.

And inspire did not disappoint!

From golfing and horseback riding to photo-ops with beer burros and long-horned steer named, ahem, RibEye and T-Bone to armadillo races, Sphera’s inspire user conference was jam-packed with exciting events.

More to Come

If you missed inspire in Austin, we hope you were able to check out our inspire EMEA user conference in Brussels, Belgium, which took place in early November. We have also started planning the next inspire event, which we will announce in the coming months.

So stay tuned until we meet again …