The Hare And The Tortoise: A Case For Slow Project Management

For many years now, I have read this book at the behest of my young son (who is a huge fan of the tortoise) and despite numerous attempts on my behalf to change the story /ending on the fly, to add an element of the unexpected, the demand is always there to ensure that tortoise always wins, which of course he/she does every night.

Recently I started to wonder what does this fable offer project management and watching Trump attempting to launch a huge amount of his promised policy decisions in a quick initial burst of activity, the thought came to my mind of the need maybe to adopt an approach that I might term “Slow Project Management” and that maybe by slowing down as a project manager you might actually complete the project faster!

As mentioned in a recent post, the start of a project is the most critical (particularly in terms of requirements and the business analysis role). Taking some time out and slowing down is also just as important to the Project Manager, especially at the start of a project.

One simple way to do this is to treat the project kick-off process with as much care as possible and don’t be afraid to re-run or have a number of phased project kick-off meetings if you are not entirely satisfied with the outcome of the meeting and what you want to get out of it in terms of setting the project up for a good start.

Another effective method that we often use in Aspira as project managers, is running our “Pre-Mortem” workshop in the initiation phase of a project where we imagine the project as a failure and then working backwards to understand how it might have failed and documenting into a RAID or a similar tool that output of that process. This is run separately to kick-off meetings and again, although it does take some extra time, we find the process does help to identify potential future problems and allow mitigations to be planned and hence improve project success.

Taking such time outs along with increased reflection will perhaps protect against the over confidence of the “Hare” project manager and in the long run get you the destination faster.

Good Night, Sleep Tight!

For more information on Services Aspira Provide go to our website at www.aspira.ie. Alternatively, if you have any queries contact Aspira directly by emailing us on info@aspira.ie.

 

Created by:      Jerry Giltenane

Company:         Aspira

Position:          Professional Services Director

Opportunity Knocks

If you could have a qualification with the power to open doors for you into multiple industries as diverse as IT to Engineering to Big Pharma and more, in any country across the world where you wish to work, would you let that opportunity pass you by? Neither would we.

Not everyone is cut out to be a Project Manager. It takes a certain level of determination, grit and sheer force of will to oversee and guide a long and complex set of interdependent tasks to completion inside an allocated budget. This is what makes it so fulfilling as a career. Great Project Managers are detail-oriented, have excellent organisational and perceptive, pragmatic planning skills.

For driven individuals wanting to embark on Project Management as a career, the time is definitely now. Project Management job opportunities are plentiful and the supply never seems to meet the demand. That’s why it’s such a bankable and dependable career choice.

However, it is absolutely essential to have a professional – and industry recognisable – credential to your name to be a successful Project Manager. What differentiates Aspira from all the rest is simply this: our training is more than a credential – it is effective, insightful and will give you actual techniques and templates to work with in your project management career. That’s why Aspira’s Project Management training is an indispensable device in the toolbox of any successful Project Manager.

Our industry experts have crafted a diverse set of Project Management course options which cater specifically to the differing needs of those in search of powerful incisive training. Whether you are looking for an introduction to Project Management essentials or become a recognised Project Management Professional (PMPTM) certified by the PMITM, or are looking to train your staff to be the best Agile Scrummasters on the market, Aspira has precisely what you need in our range of project management training options.

All of our courses use the latest edition (5th Edition – March 2013) PMBOK Guide® as the core reference. By the end of our courses our trainees leave with a detailed understanding of Project Management terms, concepts and methodologies. Trainees are presented with real world project challenges providing opportunities to exercise their knowledge and skill before completing the course. Aspira Project Management training results in competent and confident Project Managers armed with all the skills and abilities required to effectively and methodically manage any project.

To talk to us today about the Project Management course that best suits your needs contact us today.

The Rise of Contingent Workforce

Companies are slowly but surely moving to the contingent workforce model – a provisional group of workers who work for an organization on a non-permanent basis. It is necessary for companies in today’s highly competitive environment to ensure that operating costs are as low as possible in order to maintain profitability. The contingent worker model offers great benefits as staff can dip in and out of the company as needed; whether it is an IT consultant, a business analyst, a project manager, a scheduling expert or other IT resource that is only needed on a temporary basis, bringing in a contingent worker to fill a gap reduces redundancy in the resource model. No company wants to pay to retain good staff if there is no work for them at that time. In this way you know you have the right resources available at the right time and leaving the company when their tasks have been completed.

Aspira is a solutions driven company and a leading supplier of experienced, skilled and intelligent IT and Project Management resources. We take a 360° view of all your needs and requirements to ensure that we offer the right candidates to you. Company culture, business process and the nuances of technical and business skills combined in the right individual are what make a successful contract resource. Our rigorous standards for selecting candidates will ensure a great match every time.

Aspira can provide our clients with the highest calibre:

• Programme and Project Managers
• PMO Specialists
• Business and Systems Analysts
• Project Risk Analysts
• Solution and Technical Architects (Software, Middleware and Infrastructure)
• Infrastructure & Networking Specialists
• Database Specialists
• Middleware and Application Developers covering multiple technologies
• ….and many other profiles.

Aspira does more than simply offer individual resources. Our aim is to offer maximum value to our clients by building long standing and mutually beneficial relationships. In this way we can assist our clients in the most effective way by offering our wealth of experience and counsel when selecting candidates that are not only more than able to do the job but who can offer added value in many diverse areas of the project lifecycle. We want our candidates to be able to effectively communicate with all of the different audiences and stakeholders in your business and, while they are specialists in their field, we hope they add extra value on top with additional skills and experience which you can avail of.

Our comprehensive approach ensures that we help you define who you need (if necessary), what technical skills the required individuals must have as well as what soft skills are fundamental to guaranteeing their overall success. We work with our clients to keep track of the performance of our contract resources ensuring you get the best for your investment.

Click here and talk to us today to discuss your resource needs and let us empower you to find the perfect match for your project.

IT Estate by Design

The reality of business means that companies often either begin with less-than-optimal solution and system architectures as they face financial pressures, inherit end-of-life or entirely customised systems through business acquisitions and mergers, or, as often happens, the goals and business model changes as the company grows and the architecture that once enabled is now constraining.

Greenfield sites (such as start-ups and young enterprises) can save considerable time, effort and cost over the long run by investing in Aspira’s Systems Architecture Design Service and implementing the right architecture from the ground up. Brownfield sites (such as businesses with an architectural estate already built) can also benefit by availing of Aspira’s Systems Architecture Design Service when the time comes to implement new or upgrade existing systems, or to plan a parallel architecture and data migration.

“Delivering advanced architectural excellence requires a team of highly experienced and knowledgeable professionals.”

Tangible benefits include a reduction in hardware redundancy, the retirement of appropriate hardware, identification of opportunities to move to cloud or virtual hosting as well as selection of the best fit COTS applications or PAAS (Platform as a service) solutions – all leading to a tighter and more streamlined IT stack.

When it comes to application architecture, the business architecture and the data architecture of an enterprise must be factored in before the application architecture can be successfully completed. Aspira works with clients to develop a target application architecture that realises the business architecture and the architecture vision.

During Aspira’s System Architecture Design Service, we can:
• Develop baseline business, data and application architecture descriptions
• Perform gap analysis
• Define Roadmap components
• Review Application Interoperability
• Apply your or create new Application Principles
• Create or apply your System Governance Model
• Confirm readiness and risk for business transformation
• Formulate Implementation and Migration Strategy
• Identify the Transition Architecture (if required)
• Guide you on Service Level Agreements
• Update your Architecture Vision/Roadmap

Aspira understands that companies today need system architecture that has a low cost of ownership, a fast return on investment, is flexible, modular and with a focus on configuration and not customization (to keep costs down). Not only this but the systems themselves must do more than meet current needs – it must be scaled for growth, performance, changing business requirements and meet company KPIs.

Delivering advanced architectural excellence requires a team of highly experienced and knowledgeable professionals. Aspira’s team of architects have experience across a diverse range of industry sectors including healthcare, human resources, insurance and telecoms. Your entire stack can be optimally designed and delivered using Microsoft and other technologies, depending on your needs.

Whether you have your development teams in-house or outsourced, whether your stack is in your own data centre or you are using SAAS or simply are starting out from scratch, click here and talk to us today about how we can transform or create your IT estate.]

Secret of Scheduling Success

Take advantage of Aspira’s sharp scheduling consultants and get your project firmly established with the very best chance of success.  Our skilled and savvy team will assimilate your project data and investigate your ‘unknowns’ to draw together a realistic and achievable schedule.

Whether your project is large and complex or small and straightforward, our significant expertise in scheduling will ensure you protect your project against delays.

We take the hassle out of scheduling by taking control of its organisation. We conduct insightful workshops and interviews with key project stakeholders, project team members  and subject matter experts. We then feed this data along with critical information such as resource estimates, key dependencies and risks and project milestones to document a detailed project schedule.

Our Scheduling Package delivers:

• A complete and thorough Work Breakdown Structure which itemizes deliverable-oriented components of the project scope which are manageable and achievable in the timeframe allotted.
• A Critical Path which will highlight those key work components whose schedule absolutely must be met in order for the plan to stay on schedule, giving you clear milestones to meet and powerful insight to work with.
• A Key Milestone list, which empowers you to identify the most important deliverables to keep the project on track.
• Resource Estimates which will trim out over-staffing costs but ensure there is peak productivity with sufficient resources
• A RAID matrix: Risks, Assumptions, Issues and Dependencies which may all affect the completed plan.
• A Detailed Schedule which incorporates all the project data and allows you to track the target progress easily.

 

Aspira’s Scheduling has resulted in our clients being able to:
• Breakdown complex scope into manageable work components
• Create efficiency across the project ensuring resources are utilised to their max potential
• Protect projects against delay be ensuring key milestones are met.
• Allow Project Managers to see where parallel work items can be inserted into the schedule.
• Plan for resources to have all the assets and inputs they need to start their work components on time.
• Identify possible threats and risks to the project
• View impacts of any necessary change in project timeline or scope.
• Experiment with ‘what if’ scenarios to identify possible workarounds if project issues arise

Lean in and become a ScrumMaster

Most software development teams are either agile or leaning towards agile. Scrum has revolutionised IT and has trended significantly in recent years and qualified ScrumMasters are the new software development accessory.

In today’s highly competitive environment there are increasing demands for rapid release of software iterations with a focus on quality at affordable costs. By embracing the Scrum Agile methodology and mastering the skills of the ScrumMaster you will see both the passion of scrum teams and their increased productivity unleashed within your organisation.

The ScrumMaster is relentlessly focused on leading the development team to success and ensuring their path to delivery of their goals is clear.

Aspira’s world class training will take you to the heart of what being not just a good, but a great ScrumMaster really means. So lean in to our two day ScrumMaster training course and you will learn to:

• Understand the principles of Agile and how to implement the Scrum Agile Method

• Learn how to estimate and create a realistic plan so that project commitments will be      delivered

• Increase your team’s productivity, and balance their workload

• Build up your capability to deliver early prototypes and projects

• Learn how to manage change when implementing Scrum in your organization

Aspira are approved education providers by the Project Management Institute, the International Institute of Business Analysis and Scrum Alliance. This means our Training has been audited by the PMI® and the IIBA® and meets their strict quality requirements. Click here to talk about your Professional Scrum Master (PSM) certification.

Professional ScrumMaster courses – Earlybird price is €750 and includes exam fee

• Cork on 13th & 14th September 2016
• Dublin on 25th & 26th October 2016

Building a Solid Foundation for your New SharePoint Farm

Building a Solid Foundation for your New SharePoint Farm
SharePoint can be a powerful tool for any business. With on premises, Office 365 and hybrid options available, now is a great time to look into implementing this in your organisation. However, if you don’t start off on the right foot you can wind up in the all too common position of spending time and money on a system that your employees fail to see the value in. Here are 5 points to help avoid this:

Take the Time to Plan
The root cause of any failed or underwhelming SharePoint implementation generally stems from one place; a failure to take the necessary time to plan. This mistake is usually a result of budget limitations and time constraints. The focus is too often on getting SharePoint implemented as quickly and cheaply as possible. However, this approach will usually result in poor user adoption. This point is crucial as it greatly reduces the complexity of the following steps.

Don’t Deploy and Walk Away
With how easy a basic SharePoint install is now, there can be a temptation to take the out of the box setup and leave it at that. This is never a good idea. The business needs will change over time and require SharePoint to change with it. Even with a small, well planned solution, SharePoint will still require care and attention when given to the end user to ensure they can get the best of the features provided.

Start Small
SharePoint can be an extremely useful tool in many different ways. It can be used to help collaboration between team members, provide workflows for common tasks and processes, manage and control content and provide powerful Business Intelligence and Project Management tools. All of this can be customised to suit exactly what a business needs. However, all of these advantages can quickly cause headaches when not properly managed. Your focus in the beginning should be a solution that is small, simple and allows team members to see the benefit or the system. Don’t try to throw everything and the kitchen sink at them right away, expand after team members have a basic understanding and feel comfortable with it.

Training
Poor training for a new system results in poor user adoption for that system. That is a fact. If the first experience a user has is one of confusion and there’s no clear reference to reduce this confusion, they will resent the system. They may be able to use the system, but not to its full potential. There are three main points to prevent this:
1. Organise small training sessions of no more than 15 people per session. Keep the sessions under two hours.
2. Create short videos for the main features of the site and share these with users.
3. Provide a digital manual and share this with the users.
This may seem like overkill but it allows users a choice of how they learn about the system, letting them choose the one they prefer and ultimately being more willing to accept the system.

SharePoint Team Leads
Having an enthusiastic member in each team to act as a power user in your SharePoint solution is a useful way to ensure your transition to SharePoint runs smoothly. Giving these users one to one training and having them act almost as administrators for the system will prevent frequent repeated questions to the IT department as well provide a certain amount of visibility into the system. With these users included in the process people will be more understanding if you run into issues implementing the system. Without this your users can quickly change from supportive to disinterested in the solution.
SharePoint is the ultimate example of getting back what you put in. Rushed setups will leave users with a negative image that you will struggle to recover from. But, through clear planning, a willingness to listen to your users and communicate with them effectively you can provide a very effective tool for your organisation.

For more information on SharePoint solutions and other services Aspira provide, you can contact a member on the team on: info@aspira.ie

Cork City & Aspira in Europe – Message from the Belgian Front

Aspira, the enterprise IT Company were unveiled early in 2016 as a principle sponsor of Cork City FC. This year has seen Cork City embark on a record-equaling run of victories in Europe, culminating in tonight’s historic 3rd round Europa Qualifier against KRC Genk with the first leg played at the Belgian team’s Luminus Arena tonight (televised live 7pm on eir Sport 1).

Aspira’s support for Cork City FC means they’ll do whatever they can to give the team an edge. This week they flew their Director of Operations, Mary Dwyer, over to Belgium to offer support to the management and team. As Project Management experts, they know that detailed planning, determined execution and collaborative teamwork is the key to success. Aspira are proud to be associated with a team that has done so much already this year to champion those values.

Before flying to Belgium, Mary was in Turner’s Cross to congratulate Alan Bennett on setting a club record of 24 European appearances. Alan, a former Irish International has plenty of experience of the big occasion and knows that Irish teams can compete with – and beat – some of the high profile international names. Aspira support that view, 110%.

Mary reports back that the team is in good form, with no late injuries, and are focused and determined to keep the tie alive for the second leg next week. Meanwhile, back in Ireland, Aspira CEO Pat Lucey, is waiting patiently in the Turner’s Cross dressing room for the home game, still hoping for a call up after all these years…

Security advantages and disadvantages of Private and Public Clouds

Cloud computing is a disruptive technology. It can be instantly deployed, scaled, metered and made easily available. According to estimates, by 2018, the global cloud equipment market will reach $79.1 billion. Already a massive market, in 2015 end users spent more than $180 billion on cloud services.

So what exactly is Cloud Computing?

It’s where a third party service provider can deliver your software and hardware requirements through the internet and you in turn then pay for the services depending on usage of the products. Today, a staggering 93% of organisations are running applications on cloud and 82% of them have saved money by moving to the cloud
In using the cloud, organisations can avail of the ‘online service’ or store and also use it to access data. The space where the data and applications are stored is known as ‘Cloud’. Before the availability of cloud, organisations would have owned servers, datacenters and other infrastructure elements required to operate the platform. Now many use the cloud.

There are two distinct types of cloud:

Private Cloud
Private cloud is a cloud which is owned by a specific organisation. The biggest advantage of using a private cloud is data security. According to recent surveys, approximately 66% of organisations are using public clouds.
Some of the security advantages of using private cloud are as follows:
• Data is protected behind firewalls.
• The datacenter can be completely isolated from the rest of the world.
• You can customize the access to data for individual employees.
• You don’t live on whims and fancies of your cloud vendor.

• Employees have physical access to sensitive data.
• Vulnerability to attack is less but not nil. In the case of a security attack, you are all alone to defend yourselves.
• Nature can spoil almost anything without notice.
• There are multiple external factors such as possible power failure, extreme weather conditions etc. that can impact your access to this data

Public Cloud
This is the kind of a service that can be offered to anyone. Google Drive and Amazon Web Services are examples of public cloud that are delivered via the internet. The computing processor and storage offered are owned by service providers or the third party cloud infrastructure providers. According to recent surveys, 88% of organisations use public clouds.
Security advantages of Public Cloud
• Your data is protected by an enterprise class firewall and multiple levels of physical security.
• There is no risk from disgruntled employees as long as passwords are changed regularly.
• The Security Expertise of your vendor may be beneficial while protecting your data from attacks.
• Security from Hardware failures.

Security Disadvantages of Public Cloud

• Your data travels all over the internet and is vulnerable to multiple types of attacks.
• You are at the mercy of just a user id and password – that’s all that is required to access your data from anywhere in the world.
• Your site may be physically accessed by other tenants.
• You are totally dependent on the whims of the cloud vendor.

Conclusion

Having evaluated your business needs and your desired level of security, you will decide on the right type of cloud computing for your organisation. However, you need not necessarily have to choose only one option. Perhaps you can take advantage of the best of both worlds. Hybrid cloud combines private cloud with public cloud and takes advantage of what each has to offer.

 

For more information regarding Aspira’s cloud solutions contact us on: info@aspira.ie

Open Source Vs in-house software

Today, Open Source Software (OSS) plays a dominant role in the IT world. It provides better security, higher quality of code and usually lower costs than proprietary commercial software. According to a survey by CNET*, 98% of Enterprises are using some element of Open Source Software. Gartner further estimates that in 2015, 85% of all proprietary commercial software packages included open source technology. Another recent survey of over 300 organisations by Accenture reveals that more than 50% of the respondents is committed to open source technology while around 28% of the organisations are experimenting with OSS. It is evident that organisations are finding more reasons for using open source technology than just saving the cost of licensing.

The Pros of Open Source Software

Quality of Code – Thousands of talented developers work relentlessly to refine and develop new features in open source software. This results in efficient and high quality code. In fact, a survey conducted in 2014 estimated that 80% of open source software users chose to use it due to better quality. As an example, Linux is widely chosen for it’s technological superiority and security.

Security – Unlike in the past, open source technology is scrutinised very closely by thousands of developers worldwide. Compared to proprietary software security breaches are rare.

Freedom, Flexibility & Innovation – You no longer will be dependent on your vendors’ lock-in, vision, timelines, prices, dictates etc. With OSS, you are flexible to innovate new products and applications out of your chosen software. You will have thousands of developers from across the world easily accessible to help you develop your product.

The Cons of Open Source Software

Open source software may look better than similar proprietary software, however, let’s not jump to the conclusion that OSS is always the best fit for your business. Like everything else there is two sides to the coin.

User Interface – The open source system may be technologically superior, however, not everyone will be happy to use it if it doesn’t provide user friendly interface. If end users are not comfortable with the software, their efficiency will go down and productivity will be hampered. This situation may result in a huge loss for the oOpen sourcerganisation.

Hardware compatibility – It is crucial to evaluate the compatibility of the OSS with your existing hardware. In certain cases, hardware requires specialized drivers from the same equipment manufacturer to work efficiently. Although there are open source drivers available for free, they may not work well with your specific hardware.

When you need instant and custom support – Open source software users take advantage of community support. When you face a challenge or come upon an issue there are always OSS community members ready to offer advice and share assistance. Even though this response is comforting, fast and supportive you still need to actually do everything on your own. In case of proprietary software, the vendor can provide customized support based on your requirements.

Conclusion

All in all Open Source software may on the surface seem like the better option for your business over commercial proprietary software. However, as an organisation you must have the resources in place to manage the open source efforts matching it to your specific business requirements. Not every organisation has the time or ability to do this. Consider your project needs and business parameters clearly before making a final decision on which option is best for your organisation.

For more information on Aspira’s in-house and open source software check out our website or contact us on info@aspira.ie

Requirement Gathering – Overcoming Obstacles Along The Way

One of the crucial first stages of any project is the seeking out and to collect all-important business requirements. Establishing an entire set of needs at the beginning allows for superior planning, shorter delivery cycles, authentic estimates of project costs, along with
increased client satisfaction and the better adoption of the end product or service.

One of the main duties that a business analyst will perform is to successfully bridge the gap between the technical and business requirements. They are expected to fully comprehend the requirements of the company within the given context, then adjust these needs with the objectives and goals of the organisation. It is also essential that these results be communicated to either a development team, stakeholders or perhaps both.

In order to accomplish this successfully, the project requirements must be clearly and concisely written, in a way that is entirely comprehensible to both groups of people. It is expected that the business analyst, project manager or whoever is responsible for the analysis will have to deal with conflicting views and opinions from the stakeholders; there will frequently be challenges along the way to working out the exact plan and obtain a crystal clear picture of exact requirements.

1. Not defining the success criteria clearly
It is entirely natural for stakeholders to be aware that there are issues which need to be addressed, but not to fully comprehend what they require as a solution. One key element to help them to reach this point and address the issue is to break the project down into bitesize pieces. There are numerous collaboration modelling tools, which allow this – providing the clients with a high-level overview of the vision.
What is key, is to try to fully ascertain what they like, you can ask them to give you examples of products they prefer, and to elaborate on why they like them. Making the requirements fully quantifiable and conclusive.

 

2. Stakeholders may have a conflicting interest or priority
When introducing a new process, system or product, it is essential that it adheres to the requirements of multiple groups of stakeholders, these could be senior management, investors or even end users of the product. It is possible, and almost probable that these groups of people will have conflicting priorities or views on this. We have found one of the best ways to tackle this challenge, is to always have an assigned authority within the business. This is somebody who can take charge of the negotiations, and also who has the final say in making the decision. Without this person, it is often exceptionally challenging to resolve this type of conflict.
This part of gathering requirement is crucial, it ensures that any proposed terms are not out of scope, nor do they promote any individual agenda – as opposed to the overall company vision at the heart of the project.
3. Stakeholders who are over forceful or do not speak up
If you are dealing with this issue, rest assured – it is likely that it is nothing at all to do with your project. These issues are frequently experienced to be political issues within a business. People might even be afraid to get pinned down by expressing their views or solutions. Sometimes, the project may be of particular importance, and as such this will be driving everyone to want to be involved and have a say. Participation from stakeholders, along with active communication is a recipe for success when we look at the requirement gathering processes. Having these key people provide you with honest, open information will first mean you having to establish rapport and trust. Being well prepared for these meetings, listening whilst you are in them and learning from them will imply professionalism, interest and will also enable you to understand their challenges, which will enable to you focus on solving their issues.

4. Stakeholders may have a change of heart
From time to time, this can happen. It could be that the initial project requirements have not been entirely understood, or communicated, or perhaps, over the course of the project – they have evolved. Realistically, the only way you can approach this objective or challenge is to remain flexible and try to embrace the change. Any amendments will need to be correctly prioritised and there will most likely be new budgetary and timings which would need to be relayed and confirmed with the client before any modifications can take place.

5. Stakeholders insisting on a specific solution
This challenge will often surface when the stakeholders are limited with their technical knowledge in specific areas, if they had a particular technology in a past project work well for them, or perhaps, they are just unable to articulate in a concise manner what requirement they are needing to address. An ideal way to deal with this is to aim to divert their focus back to the definition of what the system should do. One way to do this would be to ask a question such as “if you were to have that system in place, which one of our problems would that specifically solve?”. Essentially it will be the technical team who work out how the system will do what it needs to, not the stakeholder.

For more information on Aspira’s Business Analysis services check out our website or contact us on info@aspira.ie