23 February 2017

BUSINESS - Walmart Continues Bid to Become Ecommerce Heavyweight

Walmart has once again upped its game in the world of ecommerce.

Last year the retail giant took a major step to compete in the ecommerce market with the acquisition of Jet.com.

InfoStream predicted at the time the two companies had the potential to make a dent in sector-leading Amazon’s market share.

Their intention to do just that was illustrated by Walmart’s recent adoption of a free two-day shipping program.

To further bolster their ecommerce, Jet.com purchased ShoeBuy for approximately $70 million in January of this year.

Shoebuy is a leading online footwear, clothing and accessories retailer that carries over 800 brands and will continue to operate as a stand alone site.

That acquisition was followed by the purchase of outdoor retailer Moosejaw by Walmart just last week for $51 million.

While Moosejaw is a small retailer, they have experienced significant growth in contrast to other outdoor gear stores.

In case anyone had been in doubt, Walmart is showing they are serious about becoming a major ecommerce player.

Their strategy seems to be working for the company.

Walmart recently announced online sales gained 29% in the fourth quarter which ended January 31.

“We’re happy about how fast we’re moving, but still have a lot of work to do,” Marc Lore, President and CEO Walmart ecommerce US, said on a call with reporters.

Lore was up-front about the company’s interest in more acquisitions similar to Moosejaw.

It won’t be surprising to hear about additional ecommerce related purchases by Walmart in the near future.

22 February 2017

HEALTH - New Merck Veterinary Manual is Mobile and Agile

Since 1899 Merck has been publishing medical manuals, with the first Merck Veterinary Manual (MVM) released in 1955.

The 11th Edition was recently made available to the veterinary community.

In addition to expanding content, over time Merck has broadened its availability by adding an online version, creating a mobile app, and engaging on social media.

There are a number of advantages to the electronic versions.

It enhances the tradition of portability, allows for more timely updates and reviews of the content, there is room for a much larger number of figures and images, and can include multimedia content such as audio and video files.

The latest edition adds more interactive features such as regular news items that involve the veterinary profession, along with occasional commentaries.

There are new sections for case studies and quizzes based on MVM content to allow users to test themselves on a range of material.

Clinical calculators are included that enable users to enter patient data and determine specific dosages and related treatment requirements.

Veterinary students will be adding their perspectives on veterinary topics through regular blog posts.

For pet owners, there is material that addresses pet health topics in everyday language that will be easier to understand than the technical language of the sections intended for professionals.

Keeping up with the profession's and society's need to be in the know as it happens, the MVM online will now be updated on a continual basis.

So instead of waiting several years for new information to be published, it will appear as soon as it is available.

Merck has plans to release a new app for mobile devices and provide regular updates for that version as well.

21 February 2017

BUSINESS - Mind the IT Gap

There is a gap between what businesses expect from their IT departments and CIOs, and what these departments and executives can provide.

And a wise business owner or investor will pay attention to that gap, or risk falling into it.

Deloitte recently released a global CIO survey highlighting major areas of disconnect between expectations and capabilities.

They found that CIOs can have significant positive influence on the long-term success of the company when they develop capabilities in their IT departments.

This positive influence was true regardless of the personality of the individual CIO, as long as that executive could adapt and respond to the specific needs of their team and organization.

This fits with what The Bayard Partnership has noted as the most common stumbling block for CIOs – the inability to influence either upper management or their own teams.

Deloitte’s research suggests that CIOs tend to be less relationship-oriented than other CxOs, and paired with Bayard’s finding, this indicates that CIOs need to focus on building their relationships with both management and their own teams.

However, a key recurrent finding in Deloitte’s research was that the core expectations of the businesses did not match investment and resource allocation within the business, and that’s an issue that no amount of relationship-building can solve.

For example, cybersecurity is a core expectation according to 61% of CIOs, but only 10% said that it was a top priority of the business.

This is a major issue, because without adequate cybersecurity systems, businesses and organizations are at significant risk.

Similar disconnects between expectation and capabilities exist for categories such as improving business practices, reducing costs, increasing efficiency, maintaining systems, and driving business innovation.

When the capabilities are not currently in place, the infrastructure is not being built, and the talent is not being pursued or properly cultivated, can businesses reasonably expect IT departments and CIOs to deliver? Clearly not.

Talent, like cybersecurity, is a significant issue.

For agile tech talent, demand is four times the supply, and big-data talent is similarly in high demand.

Many businesses are failing to entice or maintain their tech talent.

In some cases, such as Uber’s issues keeping industry-leading women engineers on their teams, talent is actually being driven away.

These gaps are not new.

After all, investment in long-game improvements to core business capabilities always hurt the bottom line before they help it, and a fast-moving marketplace doesn’t feel hospitable to those “short-term pain for long-term gain” choices.

And yet, as Computer Weekly states in their series on CIO development and digital innovation, “If companies are unwilling to use technology to disrupt their business, someone else will do it for them. Businesses must be truly up to date with the changes being driven by technology, and be wary of the opportunities and threats.”

Disruption is already here, and CIOs (and their organizations!) are going to have to take the plunge and make the investments that allow capabilities to catch up to expectations.

Without closing the gap in critical IT areas businesses will not be able to deploy an effective digital strategy, and without that strategy, they risk falling in.

About Tiffany Sostar
Tiffany is a published academic, an editor with the Editors Association of Canada, an independent scholar and researcher, and a self-care and narrative coach. She is particularly interested in the intersection of technology and identity - how our tools shape our selves and change our stories, and in how the nature of work is changing as we incorporate more technology into our daily lives.

20 February 2017

WELFARE - Wave of Opposition to USDA Removal of Animal Welfare Records from Website

(Meredith Lee, HSUS)
The abrupt abolishment of public records from a federal database puts animals in peril and allows would-be abusers to hide their heinous actions, advocates warn.

The move by the US. Department of Agriculture (USDA,) sees inspection reports purged from its online database – meaning information on the treatment of everything from animals in research labs to circuses, dog breeding operations and zoos is no longer readily available to the public.

The sudden and jarring news is “a shameful attempt to keep the public from knowing when and which laws and regulations have been violated,” Kathy Guillermo, senior vice president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is quoted as saying in the Washington Post.

“Many federally registered and licenced facilities have long histories of violations that have caused terrible suffering.”

Guillermo also pointed out the database is funded by public tax dollars “and the public should not be kept in the dark because the feds would rather shield abusers than hold them accountable.”

She isn’t alone - numerous outspoken animal-welfare advocates fear removing crucial information such as records of enforcement actions against violators of the Animal Welfare Act and Horse Protection Act, will leave animals unprotected in future.

In the past, the information has been used by everyone from journalists to animal advocates to expose animal abuse and be a watchdog for adherence to government regulations regarding everything from treatment of animals at circuses and in laboratories.

Relying on it has exposed everything from abuse of elephants to dehydration deaths of lab monkeys and horrendous experiments on helpless animals.

Seven states mandate pet stores have a clear USDA record from dog breeders to ensure they are coming from reputable operations.

USDA officials claim the decision was prompted by court rulings and privacy laws and on the heels of “a comprehensive review” over the last year.

Individuals can access information via the Freedom of Information Act Request – a bureaucratic process which can take months or even years for approval.

On the flip side, however, the move is being applauded by some who accused government of being “overly aggressive and influenced by animal protection groups,” the Washington Post reports.

Those supportive of the USDA decision to ditch the public records include businesses like exotic pet breeders who saw the easy access to information and repressive “government oversight” of their operations as unacceptable.

Recently, Mindy Patterson, president of the Cavalry Group penned a scathing column claiming the USDA had “succumbed to the pressure of animal rights extremists” and that public records were relied on by groups like PETA and the Humane Society to malign businesses, at times even sharing information such as addresses and photographs.

While USDA officials defend their position by citing the need to protect privacy concerns – many critics point out information previously online often had identifying information such as names and addresses redacted.

Records made available for decades are now no longer accessible which has opponents saying the move pitches animal abuse into the dark – protecting those who would do harm while essentially leaving animals easy prey.

The documents previously available shed light on cruelty in “substandard roadside zoos, shameful animal circuses, puppy breeding factories and more,” Born Free USA’s Adam Roberts states in National Geographic.

“Often, the animals in these facilities may have visible wounds or cramped conditions or no access to water ... the government’s decision to make it harder to access this information further protects animal exploiters in the shroud of secrecy on which their nefarious activities thrive.”

The Humane Society of the United States has launched legal action against the USDA maintaining the position that the removal of the records violates a 2009 settlement between the two parties.

Other animal rights groups have also filed a joint lawsuit saying the purging of the records impedes their ability to identify violations under the Animal Welfare Act.

These are allegations at this point with the USDA yet to respond to any legal actions taken.

In 2005, the Humane Society successfully sued the USDA over public access to reports of animal use in university and other labs – a case settled years later in exchange for the USDA’s agreement to post certain information online regarding animal research.

The removal of information from the website is a clear violation of the terms of that settlement, the Humane Society says.

About Nadia Moharib
Nadia is an animal lover who has adopted everything from birds to hamsters, salamanders, rabbits, fish and felines. She has written about all-things-pets for years and was a long-time editor of a pet magazine in a daily newspaper which featured a Q & A column, Ask Whit, penned by her pooch (ghost written, of course.) The serial dog owner lives in Calgary, Alberta and most days can be found at a dog park picking up after her rescue pooch, Scoots.