Land of One Hundred Thousand Welcomes – “céad míle fáilte: je ne regrette rien”

 

There is a lot of debate in the media at the moment regarding the drive to attract Irish ex pats back home. Shouldn’t that be easy…?  Isn’t the economy booming, aren’t the streets paved with jobs? Houses are going up everywhere, new office blocks, we’ve even got the cross city LUAS in Dublin!

As a native of Lancashire, I first came to Ireland in 1987, having spent time before that working in Germany and as a Ski Instructor in Austria.   I still find travel exciting, but my younger experiences tended to carry more risk and include more exotic locations.   Even since my time moving to Ireland, I have seen a dramatic change in the demographic of the population, with countless nationalities living and working together in the city of Dublin. In my company, and over my career, I have never considered it strange to ring a guy in Latvia, Poland or Portugal to offer him a software development job in Dublin. Everyone loves Ireland, they all have a story about some Irish guy they met in Riga, Krakow or Lisbon, and the fantastic Irish bars in Munich.

So why Ireland rather than the beaches in Kenya, Barbados or Mauritius; the Beer gardens of Germany; the Austrian or Swiss mountains; Boston, or French vineyards… So any regrets? What is so special about Ireland to have won me over and to provide a home for our family…

Ireland has a very strong culture and what can only be described as “joie de vivre”. There is a strong family based society which has in some ways developed from a more liberal approach to our relationship with the Church and the integration of a multi-cultural society. It’s important to ignore the climate and embrace everything else that country has to offer. Cinema, film, theatre, literature, music, dance are all a massive part of everyone’s Irish heritage. The culture of storytelling and performance is much stronger than in England – I had to learn to sing and do a party piece as part of my initiation many years ago.

Yes, there is a drink culture, but that can be carefully managed into embracing the Irish love of sport and the outdoors. There are countless beautiful heritage sites, castles, beaches, mountain walks, cycle tracks, horse riding, surfing and watersports opportunities on offer. And then there is the main stream sport. Rugby, Soccer, and GAA clubs form the backbones of all Irish communities and provide a passionate sense of belonging for all, from a very young age.

As an English supporter, I always get a hard time during the Six Nations rugby, and that is just from my own family!  Of course if I’m feeling homesick, just a short flight away is the English Premier League, Twickenham, Millennium Stadium, Murrayfield, Cheltenham and Wembley stadium.

For people considering a move to Ireland as part of their career path, I can offer a whole-hearted endorsement.  Ireland is leading the way in many technology areas, such as Financial Technology, Pharmaceutical R&D and Digital Transformation.  My own company, Aspira, were listed as one of the Fastest 500 High Tech growth companies in Europe last year by the Financial Times, and are always keen to reach out to talented individuals who are passionate about their careers.  Get in touch and we’ll offer you a hundred thousand welcomes!  www.aspira.ie

Author: Russell Moore, HR & Resourcing Manager, Aspira.

Do unlikely alliances breed success?

 

The festive season is well and truly over and we find ourselves in the depths of January, which we all know is the season of regret, self-loathing, resolutions and discounted Christmas wares. Or as I like to call it, “The season of Ginuary”.

Last weekend, in an effort to pursue all of the above, I found myself browsing the shelves of an upmarket gift shop – you know the type; architectural display of overpriced designer wellingtons alongside “vintage” tinplate toys, alpaca-wool scarves and monogrammed hipflasks. Notions!

While there, I happened across “The Crap Secret Santa Gift Book”. The book describes itself as “A budget-friendly Secret Santa present …featuring advice on how to survive the office Christmas party, silly games to play in meetings and, on one page, a picture of a really evil swan. Perfect for that bloke in marketing whose name you’ve forgotten”.

Sold!

 At this stage, I’d like you to just go ahead and assume that I’m the type of super-organised individual who has the foresight to buy a Secret Santa Gift a full eleven months in advance of possibly needing it. The reality is that by next December, I will most likely have completely forgotten the very existence of this book. In fact, it’s likely that the next time I lay a hand on it will be in the midst of regret, self-loathing, resolutions and decluttering – aka Ginuary 2019. But hey! Let’s save that for another blog.

Now, I haven’t had time to actually read my new book yet, but among other things, it promises advice on how to survive the office Christmas party, which I assume will be a series of quirky instructional guides, such as:

  • Preventing imaginative use of the photocopier – Just say no!
  • Tips to console the weeping lady in the toilets – Crying tears of pure chardonnay, but too upset to explain why she’s crying
  • How to safely wake the sleeping man – Has his tie around his head, one trouser leg rolled up to the knee
  • Dealing with “Mistletoe Mike” – Mild mannered by day, Greek God of kissing by night
  • The Senior Manager and the Intern?? – How to pretend THAT never happened *it didn’t, I’m using artistic license

And it’s this last one that got me thinking. What is it about unexpected alliances and unforeseen collaborations that makes them so often successful? In some cases, their success is purely accidental, in others it’s down to the unpredictable or disproportionate nature of the pairing. But then there’s another category; the ones that are so blindingly obvious that you find yourself asking “Why didn’t someone think of that before?”

 

A prime example of this last category is Microsoft’s latest online solution for project portfolio management. The easiest way to describe it is to say that it’s like MS Project and SharePoint got together and had a baby. They called their new arrival Microsoft Project Online.

Delivered through Office 365, Project Online enables powerful project management capabilities for planning, prioritising and managing projects and project portfolios. It can be accessed from almost any device, anywhere, and has licence options (or plans) available to suit viewers, team members, project resources, administrators, project managers, resource managers and portfolio managers.

It’s got all the usual bells and whistles we’ve come to expect from MS Project, but also features intuitive collaboration along with easy time and task management and integrated tracking of issues and risk mitigation.

 

It’s easy to think of examples of strange bedfellows; Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito in Twins, Riggs and Murtaugh in Lethal Weapon, Holmes and Watson, Yin and Yang, big fish/small fish/cardboard box. But what makes the odd couple of MS Project and SharePoint the epitome of success?

The simple answer is that it’s the Swiss Army Knife of Project Portfolio Management offering something for all target users.

For power users and decision makers it offers robust portfolio management and along with powerful consolidation and reporting capabilities and simplified strategic alignment.

Project managers and administrators have a familiar desktop client with enterprise resource management capabilities and seamless integration with collaboration tools.

Project teams access an intuitive interface which they quickly recognise and adopt.

To Conclude:

 “If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail”.

Don’t fear Microsoft Project Online…give it a go. Like me, you might be pleasantly surprised.

Then try crisps with chocolate…yum!

Author:  Karen O’Sullivan, Project Manager, Aspira.

 

What Drives the Different Approaches to Project Planning?

The Project Management Institute Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide ) and the Agile industry organisation define two very different ways of managing projects.  This blog will focus on comparing their suggested project planning approaches.  We focus on this comparison because there’s a misconception that the PMI approach is outdated and cumbersome, or conversely, that Agile guidelines dispense with planning, in a dangerous way.  We will explore how their project planning guidelines compare, and what drives them to define planning, if at all?

PMBOK® Guide  is compiled and managed by the Project Management Institute (PMI) industry association.  The 5th edition of the PMBOK® Guide encompasses a total of 47 defined processes that are matrixed into 5 Process Groups and 10 Knowledge Areas.  Planning is the largest of the defined 5 Process Groups, and alone, Planning contains 24 distinct planning processes.  See the PMBOK® Guide 47 defined processes in Figure 1 below.

Figure 1 – Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide ) Process Matrix
Agile, on the other hand, dictates “Working software over comprehensive documentation”, so are these Project Planning approaches tailored for their environments, or is there a trend behind there adoption rates?

So, we look to answer these two questions,
1. What project environment is well supported by the breadth and approach that PMBOK® Guide Project Planning defines?
2. When is the PMBOK® Guide framework not as suitable as other Planning approaches?

PMBOK® Guide  Approach

The PMBOK® Guide Planning Process Group activities stretch from the broad statement of project scope, to detailed estimates and schedules for the tasks required to deliver that scope.  The outcome of Planning Process Group is a baselined schedule containing every project task.

PMBOK® Guide  5th Edition supports overlapping Process Groups, so that it is common for the implementation of a project to start prior to the completion and base lining of a project schedule, but PMBOK® Guide advises that the project baseline is completed substantially before the core implementation has begun.

Because PMBOK® Guide stipulates that project planning should precede the implementation phase (albeit with minor overlapping allowed) the underlying assumption is that features are largely fixed and that change requests should be infrequent, because the “value” appraisal for the project output is well understood.  The PMBOK® Guide planned project may be complex, with regards to numbers of tasks, but the stakeholders and the project customers have a shared appreciation of the value the project is delivering on.  If customers of PMBOK® Guide projects didn’t have well understood project outcome valuations, customers would be unlikely to commit to large complex projects thousands of fixed requirements and features.   Once a PMBOK® Guide project plan is produced, the project plan facilitates many of the project internal challenges such as project stakeholder management and project resource management.  It is typically easier to convey the benefits of a large project when the details for the project cost, project schedule, and project outcomes, can be comprehensively conveyed.  Examples where PMBOK® Guide Planning suits complex projects would be skyscrapers, luxury cruise liners, or housing estates with thousands of homes, and all of these require thousands of requirements and tasks that can be articulated across the whole project scope, in minute detail.

Software Projects

Software projects, in particular, have complexity because there are almost unlimited ways to architect and design a given solution.  In many complex software projects, it is not uncommon for the solution developer to be unaware of the detailed designs that will eventually be deployed, due to the volume of custom design required to produce a solution.
In addition to the design challenges that developers have for a given solution, it is also very common for the complexity to mask customer usability issues.  Complexity makes it difficult for a customer to envision the quality of an intended project, and it is frequently only after the customer has been given the opportunity to test an application in an authentic environment, can they offer valuable and relevant feedback.  It is very cumbersome and commercially challenging for developers to create facsimiles of solutions in authentic environments, without actually going to the trouble of building the actual solution!  When software projects are delivered in short iterative releases, customer value can be quickly assessed and rectified, if necessary.

This concept of short customer feedback iterations is one of the key drivers of “Customer Development” .  Customer Development suggests that software vendors should plan incremental deliveries to customers, and use feedback from the deployments to tailor subsequent deliveries, with short turn-around time periods.  This approach ensures that the subsequent solutions are built on top of software that has been tailored for customer value.

The Agile software development process is specifically geared to supporting incremental customer deliveries.  Scrum, which is one of the most popular Agile frameworks (there are over 40 different Agile frameworks!), defines an iteration as a “Sprint”.  Common Sprint iteration cycles are two to three weeks.  Scrum also defines an explicit process for planning each Sprint, and planning the higher-level scope for a chain of Sprints.  From experience, the success of each Sprint is proportional to the planning effort put into each Sprint plan, so although the Agile principle of “Working software over comprehensive documentation” puts emphasis on getting working software, the principle doesn’t imply that planning can be omitted.

Summary

We have seen that very large projects, requiring thousands of detailed tasks, are ably planned from beginning-to-end because there exists alignment between Stakeholders and customers on the outcome value.  The alignment lessens the need to reconfirm value, through the likes of an iteration feedback loop.  Planning projects in full detail and scope, from beginning-to-end, facilitates many internal project challenges, such as project stakeholder management and project resource management.

We’ve also seen there are projects that require more frequent alignment checks to ensure the vendor development is meeting customer value expectations. We have seen that complex software projects are examples of projects like these. The frequent checks are facilitated by iteration feedback, ensuring that customer value is maintained.  Iteration feedback also lessens the likelihood that end-of-project customer reviews will highlight value issues with early project features.  The cyclic feedback catches issues early, which leads to reduced project maintenance costs.  Modern Customer Development movement is built on the belief that short iteration feedback delivers substantial commercial benefits for both customers and developers.  This philosophy is gaining popularity amongst software product development teams because of the focus on delivering projects through flexible, quick-turnaround feedback cycles that continually reprioritise customer value.

My 30 years of product and project development has shown me that there are many ways to plan complex projects, but regardless of the project management framework chosen, all project require professional planning.

 

Author: Jim Blair, Aspira, Senior Consultant/Trainer.

 

The Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK) is a registered trademark of the Project Management Institute, Inc.

 

The Project Management Professional (PMP) is a registered mark of the Project Management Institute, Inc.

Ireland Chapter of Project Management Institute appoints new President

 

 

01 December 2017: The Ireland Chapter of Project Management Institute (PMI) has appointed Pat Lucey as President at the association’s Annual General Meeting last night (Thursday).

 

The Cork-based businessman succeeds out-going Ireland Chapter of PMI President, Niall Murphy, in the two-year voluntary role.

 

Pat has been on the Board of the Chapter since 2011, with responsibility for membership and sponsorship. CEO of consulting and enterprise IT services company, Aspira, Pat has more than 20 years’ experience in managing large-scale enterprise projects. He has also provided project management consultancy internationally to Fortune 500 companies and public bodies.

 

Speaking about his new role, Pat said: “I am honoured to be elected President of the Ireland Chapter of PMI. Thank you to Niall for his commitment and dedication to the Chapter over recent years. He has built a strong foundation that has seen our membership grow by 26% in the past 12 months. I now hope to build upon his legacy.

 

“We are also lucky to have a group of committed volunteers, without whom the Chapter would simply not exist. I look forward to working with them, and our new Board, to further strengthen project management within Ireland.

 

“There is no doubt that the role of project management will inevitably become more valuable in the coming years, ensuring the effective management and delivery of new projects coming into Ireland as a result of Brexit. The Chapter knows the importance of supporting these professionals in the times ahead. We are always focused on development opportunities and industry insight.”

 

New Principal Officers also appointed at the AGM include Jackie Glynn as Vice President and Clive Carroll as Membership Officer.

 

There are currently over 50,000 employed in project management across Ireland, in sectors such as IT, public sector, construction, pharmaceuticals, professional services, financial services and manufacturing.

 

For more information on the Ireland Chapter of Project Management Institute see www.pmi-ireland.org.

What is GDPR?

 

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into force on the 25th May 2018. It is now vital that businesses review how they handle and manage personal data that they collect.

What is GDPR?

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) outlines the rights and responsibilities that a business has when collecting, using and protecting personal data. For any business that collects personal data it puts focus on the need for transparency, security and accountability by data controllers. The regulation also gives more power to an EU citizen by:

  • Providing a “right to be forgotten”.
  • Allowing easier access to any data of theirs a business may have.
  • Requiring explicit permission whenever the business processes their data.
  • Requiring a business to inform them of any data breach within 24 hours.

The recommendation is to take a “Privacy by Design” and “Privacy by Default” approach to data to reduce potential problems with this regulation in the future.

Privacy by Design

This term is used to describe an approach to designing a system that takes privacy into account at every point of the process. It is not about protecting the data as much as it is about designing the system in such a way that the data doesn’t need protection.

Privacy by Default

This term is used to describe the idea of using the strictest privacy settings by default for a user. This will be more noticeable in areas such as social media and marketing email lists, where a business is storing or publishing additional data that is not needed to sign up to the service.

How Does this Impact your Business?

Preparing your Business

The first step is to review their data for any Personal Identifiable Information (PII) they may be storing.

Personal Identifiable Information

This term refers to data that could be used to identify, locate or contact an EU citizen. This can range from date and place of birth to financial or medical information.

It is vital that a business takes inventory of any PII within their business. This review should take into account questions such as:

  • How did you obtain the data?
  • Was the user notified that this data would be stored?
  • Is there any clearly defined reason for this data to still be stored?
  • How long do you plan to store the data?
  • Is there a retention policy on this data to ensure it removed when the retention period expires?
  • Who has access to the data?
  • Do third parties outside your business have access to this data?

Reviewing these questions with a GDPR consultant will give you an overview of the issues to be resolved.

Planning for the Future

Your business may need to have tighter controls on some data in order to avoid potential data protection issues going forward. These may include:

  • Appointing a data protection officer
  • Setting out clear processes for accessing personal data
  • Strict policies for deleting, sharing and transferring data
  • A process in place to handle data breaches

It is vital that these processes and policies are clearly defined from the outset.

Managing GDPR Going Forward

Monitoring and reporting will be integral to dealing with these changes within your business. For companies currently using SharePoint and reporting tools such as Power BI or SQL Server Reporting Services, these can be leveraged to provide your business with:

  • Effective tracking and reporting of data breaches
  • Approval workflows to manage data access requests
  • Team sites to store documentation on data policies

Microsoft have provided an Activity Hub as a starting point for this here. Consulting with a SharePoint architect who is well versed in GDPR can provide additional changes to better fit your companies needs.

GDPR is a big change for any business dealing with personal data. It is vital that you take a proactive approach to dealing with it. Investing time and effort now into the processes and policies you implement will ensure they are robust and maintainable going forward.

Author: Ian Jones, Software Developer, Aspira

 

What can an internship at Aspira teach you?

 

Tadhg Downey had heard great things about Aspira before starting his internship, but never could have imagined just how nurturing an environment it would prove to be.

What are you studying in college?

I’m studying Computer Science in University College Cork. It’s a four year course, with work placement taking place in third year.

What drew you to Aspira when you were seeking an internship?

I had heard of Aspira through the UCC careers service, and after researching about them online I thought it would be a fantastic place to work. They have a history of hiring UCC students for graduate and intern positions, and I saw that they had some really interesting clients, so it was a no brainer really!

What expectations did you have before you began your internship?

I had heard from past Interns that at Aspira, you’re given a lot of responsibilities right from the beginning of your placement. A lot is expected from you, in terms of being an active employee and engaging with your co-workers. Aspira has a friendly and social environment that I was really excited to be a part of. I was also excited to put my skills to the test and see how well equipped I was to work in the industry.

What duties and responsibilities were you given initially?

I was given immense responsibility right off the bat, which I thought was fantastic. I was given charge of a project which involved finishing the development of a Web Application by myself. At first, it seemed like an incredibly daunting task, but my Manager Mary and all of my co-workers were always there in support if I ever had a question. The project involved eliciting requirements from the Client, and working with a programming language I had never used before. However, I never felt like I was in over my head with such a supportive group behind me!

 Did the scope of your work change as the internship progressed?

As my internship went on, I had the opportunity to work on several other development projects, along with other areas of Aspira also. I got to work in teams with many different employees, attending meetings and tackling problems in a fast paced environment. I also got to work off site, working directly with clients in a business analysis role for a time!

Can you describe a typical day in your role?

Typically, the day would begin by emptying the dishwasher if it was your turn and putting on a pot of coffee! After greeting everyone in the office, I would settle down to work on whatever project I was currently tasked with. During the first few weeks while working on the Web Application, I would have daily meetings with my Manager, discussing what I had completed, what I was currently working on, and whatever issues I was encountering or foresaw. I would also be in contact with the Client, tailoring the application to their needs and working on any issues or bugs that had arisen.

What key things have you learned during this internship?

Good communication skills from speaking with clients and managers, along with enhancing my development skills, and realising that there is something new to be learned every day.

Has this internship made you feel as though you’re on the right career path?

Certainly! I found the work incredibly fulfilling. Finishing a project always brought immense pride and camaraderie. At times during my studies, I had doubts if I was pursuing the right career, but after working at Aspira I’m positive I chose the right path.

Do you feel more prepared for working life following your internship? 

Absolutely. From knowing what will be expected of me, to knowing simple skills like teamwork and communication, and even having a proper work-life balance. I feel like I now have my head screwed on and I’m going into Industry prepared next year.

Why should someone take up an internship at this company?

Aspira is a fantastic place to intern at because you’ll learn an immense amount, all the while being in a friendly and social environment. They give you plenty of responsibilities, and match it with great support. I’m very grateful to have had the opportunity to spend 6 months there and to have learned so much.

Author: Tadhg Downey, UCC.

Handling Changing Project Priorities

No matter how well you keep a project on track, there will be curve balls that change your priorities. There can be many reasons for changes. Things like changing legislation, client requirements or timelines. Shifting priorities around to meet new demands requires clever planning.

Resources, changing risks and project scope are common challenges for project managers. These can all cause changes to project priorities. There are three types of changes that can cause a shift in project priorities:

  1. Fundamental changes required to meet the project outcomes.
  2. Additions to the project scope approved through an organisational change process. These can be for reasons such as:
    1. responding to changes in the marketplace
    2. new technology or product that can significantly enhance a project’s outcome
    3. new information and knowledge that then requires changes to the project scope.
  3. Changes not part of the original project scope but now requested by the client. These are not vital to achieving the project outcomes.

Here are some ways to handle changing project priorities.

Prioritising changes

To prioritise changes there needs to be a predetermined ranking system. This will help you make objective decisions and minimise rework in the long run.

Leave egos at the door

In a team, there is no place for egos. Do not let them get in the way of delivering a successful project. There is no need for the team to take changing project priorities personally. Leave egos at the door. Projects get cancelled or put on hold for many reasons. It is all a part of being a team player working or an agile organisation. Be glad you had the opportunity. Look at it as experience for the next opportunity that crosses your path.

Use good project management software

When you use good project management software, everyone has a transparent view of how a project is tracking. If you have not changed over to a good system, you may need to consult the experts for advice. Project management software support many projects at a time. Use it as a tool to help plan the way forward when project priorities change.

Stay focused

Do not let changing priorities stress you out. Things may change but you can work out how to still deliver the project on time and on budget. Review the project scope and guidelines in your project management software. This will tell you exactly what you have to do to achieve success. Rely on organisational processes and procedures for change control and risk management. These will help guide you to success.

Communicate changes to senior management

Project changes usually stem from changes to the project scope. This will have a direct impact on the budget and timelines. It is important to let management know the severity of changing priorities and how to mitigate the risks. You may need more human resources, for example, but that will impact the budget. Senior management need to understand the real effects of changing priorities on the project.

Tracking project progress

Use project management software for tracking project progress. This is vital for meeting timelines and helps to handle project changes. You can track milestones, progress to date, important dates, suppliers, team members, contractors and anything else you need for each project. When priorities change, management software gives a clear picture of where you are at and what you need to do moving forward.

All projects will have changing priorities. It is about staying cool and having the right tools to help you handle changing project priorities with success.

‘Coasts full of jobs, seas full of fish’ – Navigating the challenges of Stakeholder Management


 

The single thing that makes a project complex is when it involves stakeholders with conflicting requirements.   Project Managers can struggle to understand everyone’s requirements and then navigate a course through those requirements to deliver satisfied stakeholders.

For Aspira’s September (Thursday 21st)  Lunch & Learn offering, we are delighted to welcome Dr. Susan Steele, Chair and CEO of the Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA).   “The marine is a shared resource.” says Dr. Steele, “The SFPA act as guardians to make sure that it is protected and fairly shared. Our vision is ‘coasts full of jobs and seas full of fish’.

A passionate communicator and multi-tasker beyond compare, learn how Dr. Steele approaches the challenge of dealing with different stakeholder requirements, finding a way to make those requirements align, with the goal of achieving a win/win for the stakeholders and for the project.

Susan holds an MBA, MED as well as a PhD. She has seven children. She is an avid sea swimmer, swimming every day in the sea. She is also a runner having completed over 70 marathons, ultramarathons up to 200km in length and ironmen distance triathlons. Susan holds a private pilot’s license. To register, please complete the form below.

Lunch & Learn Registration

 

What is SharePoint?

 

 

SharePoint is a web-based, collaborative platform that enables Businesses to improve their Business processes, increase productivity and improve teamwork between their staff. It integrates with Microsoft Office applications to provide a document management and storage system; SharePoint is highly configurable and its use varies from one business to another. Businesses generally use SharePoint to create websites. These are then used as a secure place to store, organize, share, and access information from any device, from a desktop PC, to smart phones and tablets.

SharePoint is available as a hosted service provided by Microsoft or on Premise, where the server technologies required to support SharePoint are hosted on the client’s infrastructure and maintained by the client, or a hybrid of on premise and hosted.

There are currently 3 editions of SharePoint; Foundation which is free and provides simple collaboration using team sites, blogs and apps, Standard adds to this with Intranets, portals, extranets, search, and My Site social networking and Enterprise which adds business intelligence and office integration services. To see the full list of differences between the editions, please follow this link SharePoint editions. With the release of SharePoint 2016 Foundation is no longer available. In addition to these offerings of SharePoint we also now have SharePoint Online, which is a cloud hosted service as part of Office 365, however it can be purchased as SharePoint hosted only without the Office 365 offerings should you wish. This version of SharePoint is hosted and maintained by Microsoft.

 

  • Sites in SharePoint are where you store your data. SharePoint provides several Site templates out of the box that can be used instantly, two such templates are Team sites and Publishing sites. Both have different uses and different capabilities. Team sites can be used by your teams and departments, this site template provides the ability to upload documents to a library with or without version control, monitoring of documents with check in/out, metadata and tagging facilities. Content can be targeted to specific business users with audiences. In addition, you have pre-built workflows that can be utilised straight away. Publishing Sites allow you to control when and how content is deployed to the site using content management processes. Publishing sites are used to create public websites, intranets and communication portals.

 

  • SharePoint communities enable the sharing of knowledge using Wiki’s and Wiki pages bringing people together to share and learn. Information can be shared across your enterprise. SharePoint also allows you to tag content, you can understand the content and it’s use from its tags. Users can subscribe to tags to get to the right information faster.

 

  • With SharePoint, your content is all stored in one place. Typically, organisations store data in folders in file shares, with the result, documents get lost, users then end up recreating the same document. You can manage documents, web content and records on a single platform with SharePoint. SharePoint allows document versions to be managed, apply retention policies to documents to archive or expire your document or run audit reports. Metadata can be added to a document library to better describe the content and to find it using SharePoint search. With SharePoint’s office integration, your existing working environment remains the same.

 

  • SharePoint search provides one platform to access all your information in SharePoint in addition SharePoint can also search file shares across your enterprise and Exchange mailboxes using E-Discovery and then export the results for an audit or legal case. SharePoint enhances the presentation of the results which is a combination of refinement, people and relevance. On the results page of a search you will have metadata and tags to refine your results on the left side, with the most relevant results in the middle of the page and people suggestions on the right. Tags can also be used in search queries to locate documents or people.

 

  • Visualization of data in SharePoint is accomplished using reports, charts, worksheets, dashboards, scorecard’s and KPIs. Performance Point services, Reporting Services and Power Pivot enables reporting, analysis and creation of Charts, dashboards, scorecards, KPI’s. Visio services enables rendering of diagrams and charts in the browser. Excel Services enables you to manage Excel Workbooks as interactive reports.

 

  • SharePoint compsites enable you to create business solutions by connecting and configuring the basic building blocks of functionality, this includes combining data, documents and business process in a productive useful way. SharePoint compsites enable your Power Users to build complex business processes without the need for code. SharePoint compsites can be a simple as a document approval workflow, to a BCS (Business Connectivity Services) profile page displaying external data in SharePoint with create, read, update, delete operations.

 

Aspira currently offer SharePoint Consulting, Customization, Business System Solutions and Support. Our team of experts have accomplished numerous of SharePoint projects across multiple sectors such as Banking and Finance, Construction, Healthcare and Medical devices. If you are interested in any aspects of our SharePoint offering. Feel free to contact us for a free consultation on your SharePoint project.

Author:  Paul Cuthbert, SharePoint Developer, Aspira.

Top 10 traits I most admire in a Manager

 

I have worked for a variety of managers to date and have met many more along the way!  As a result, I have experienced many traits I admire and some traits I dislike.  These are the Top ten traits that I most like in a people manager.

  1. Give credit in public – acknowledge your staff’s contribution and don’t pretend you do all the work!
  2. Promote people with potential – you should look out for the high performers and help them become the leaders of the future.
  3. Be honest about people’s performance – give constructive feedback – both negative and positive and don’t make false promises about salary increases that will never happen.
  4. Create a co-operative and collaborative environment where peers help each other rather – avoid “warring tribes” syndrome.
  5. Don’t ask your people to do something that you’re unwilling to do yourself.
  6. Be respectful towards individuals.  People respond positively when treated with dignity and respect.
  7. Take the time to build team spirit.  Hold team meetings and build in time for team members to meet each other face-to-face.  This will dramatically improve their working relationship.
  8. Be supportive when your people make mistakes.  It’s easy to be nice when everything is going well, but great managers give support to their team members when things are going wrong.
  9. Trust your team to do their job – give clear direction and review progress, but don’t disempower your staff by micromanaging their hourly activities.
  10. Build relationships – work is about more than getting the task done, it’s also about building relationships with colleagues and stakeholders.  Great managers make an effort to connect on a personal level with their team members, helping to understand what makes them tick. And if they like Bruce Springsteen then that is a great start!

How many of these traits do you already exhibit?  At Aspira we do our best to demonstrate these traits, as I believe it is a key factor in any successful company.

I find this quote really good to guide my thinking and behaviours “People do not leave a company, they leave a manager”

Author: Mary Dwyer, Operations Manager, Aspira.

Aspira – Building Bridges in Dublin Docklands

 

 

Aspira’s new Dublin office is open a little over a year now & has seen significant changes in that short period. Here at the heart of Silicon Docks building developments mushroom overnight, new neighbours are arriving & exciting infrastructural plans are afoot. The return of the cranes to the Liffey skyline, and the general increased buzz around the Quays has really confirmed our decision to locate our Dublin HQ in what was a much quieter area only 2 years ago.

While the resulting noise and construction traffic can sometimes be a challenge, our staff are understanding – after all, engendering change and progress is often what Aspira provides to our consultancy clients.

On our doorstep is the flagship development, Capital Dock http://capitaldock.ie/ which will bring over 2,000 new jobs to the area but that is only part of a bigger story.

The IDA & Enterprise Ireland continue to drive inward investment & opportunities while Dublin Chamber is playing its part with the ‘Great Dublin Survey’ http://www.greatdublinsurvey.ie/  which is looking as far forward as 2050 and Dublin Docklands Forum also has ambitious plans for a vibrant community well into the future http://docklandsbusinessforum.ie/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Proposal-for-the-Grand-Canal-Basin-and-Plot-8.pdf

Now ranked in the top 10 European cities for their startup eco-system, Dublin Docklands provides the perfect springboard for reaching a European Market and with Brexit uncertainty continuing without resolution, candidates are now choosing to make the jump from the UK to a Dublin base. This has been of great benefit to our HR & Resourcing Team, as we continually strive to source and place new consultants on our own projects or on clients sites. Many of our clients are located within 2 miles of our Office, Matheson, EirGrid, RTB, Central Bank, AIB, Dublin City Council and the Department of Public Expenditure to name a few. It’s a great advantage to have our consultants close to the Office to ensure a great sense of belonging to the Consulting & Resourcing Divisions.

The new plans to build additional footbridges to connect the North & South Quays, and also Ringsend open up new possibilities for easier access to our clients, or the host of new social venues that are springing up all over Docklands. The advantage of our location, close to Hannover Quay will be further enhanced by a quick stroll over the new bridge to the Point Village in the future. We hope that the new bridges prove to be a symbolic reference to Aspira building up our local client base and continue the growth of all of our service lines into 2018.

Author:  Philip McGillycuddy, BDM, ASPIRA

 

Project Resourcing and Staff Utilisation: A view from the bench, and the benefits of our virtual bench to our clients.

Using my regular football analogies in this blog, it occurred to me how the dynamics of staff utilisation in medium to large consultancies can have many similarities with the challenges of managing junior soccer teams. We featured our sponsorships of Cork City and Castleknock Celtic previously and my experience of managing under age teams has often helped me in my professional capacity as HR & Resourcing Manager at Aspira. I am under no illusions that Cork face much wider considerations and challenges but bear with me.

”Don’t you dare leave me on the bench!…..”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At Aspira most of our staff work on in-house and external clients projects. They are specialist PMs, Business Analysts, Software Developers & Testers, System Admin and tech support professionals. As a consulting organisation, it is important that these staff are kept busy for their own personal job satisfaction as well as for the obvious commercial reasons. We hire staff who enjoy working with clients, have a sense of pride in meeting their expectations and feel comfortable with our policy of knowledge and skill transfer throughout project delivery. But there will be down time, and time on the bench….

All Aspira staff have a training plan and we ensure that time is set aside to complete training courses, upgrade certifications, and also work on Aspira internal projects. This utilisation strategy needs to align with our clients’ needs. They value our resources, and generally retain them for at least 3-9 months or longer in some cases. Our software projects tend to have more control from our side so we can plan downtime better. One of our .NET teams will be coming off a major project over the Summer and our plans are already in place to update and appraise their training and certification needs before they are snapped up again on their next client assignment.

This coming and going of staff in our Dublin and Cork Offices is something we are very used to. I know that many of us are always wary of being thrust onto tender work when coming off a project, but our Subject Matter Experts are the very reason that we have won so many public sector tenders. They understand what clients are trying to achieve on their projects, and are able to articulate very clear and comprehensive approaches to tender responses and proposed deliverables. As they are our own staff, we can stand over their delivery and make our prices attractive to client organisations. We believe that this level of engagement with our consultants give them a greater sense of belonging to Aspira, and more aware of our overall objectives.

So this brings me back to my football team. All parents want their child to play, but there are 16 on the squad which means 5 on the bench. I don’t expect any of those 5 to be happy to be on the bench, and I need them to be motivated and ready to play when I need them. I also need to make sure that the 11 on the pitch are set up in the correct formation, give us the best chance to win the game, whilst all are playing in their favoured positions. As with any company project or in the ongoing running of a client’s business, not everything will go to plan in a football match. The opposition are stronger, break us down on the right or left wing, have a greater threat at corners or present any other risk to our hopes of winning the game. So I make changes to counter that. We may switch to a 4-4-2 formation, replace a more skilful player with a more physical player, or use a different more direct approach that requires your tallest player up front. In that brief 80 minute period, the team that adapt better to the pitch, use their resources the best, have the highest work rate, play to a plan, and take their chances…..will win. I want everyone to play, and everyone to feel part of the objectives of the Club and our team. There are only 11 players on the pitch at any one time, but all 16 will feel rewarded in their combined efforts. Our players roll on and roll off the pitch, in the same way that our consultants help our clients deliver their projects.

We pro-actively manage a bench of skilled Project Managers, Business Analysts, Test & Test Managers, Software Developers and IT Support staff who can react promptly to our client’s project demands. Whilst this may not be as urgent or immediate as replacing my injured right back with a suitable substitute, it can be a huge benefit to our client to have a highly skilled PM come onto a project at short notice, and have an immediate impact on a project rescue or simply in standing in for a sick member of staff. The same goes for our SW development team. Clients may not have the headcount clearance to have 10 developers full time, which is where Aspira can help.

Aspira also have a proven resourcing methodology that allows our clients to issue staffing requirements to us, for diverse technical skill sets that our skilled HR team can source from our associate database or through referral. Our excellent screening processes, and inhouse technical expertise and prior knowledge of our clients work culture allow us to shorten response and lead times to fit the need.

 

 

 

In many ways, our children, players, parents and the wider community are the customers of Castleknock Celtic, and this is how I see my role as a mentor. In the same way, our clients staffing needs and projects demands are the priority of our Resourcing team. Please call or email me if you require our assistance in sourcing your staff solutions over the coming months.

 Author: Russell Moore, HR & Resourcing Manager, Aspira.