ISO is becoming a great guide for how to manage your business

Attaining ISO 9001 registration was commonly viewed as a costly endeavour.  Companies believed that they would be obligated to invest multiple staff months, for the purposes of documenting their development and operational processes.  The investment was seen as necessary to satisfy the inquisitive ISO 9001 auditor, who was seeking to uncover undocumented processes.

The encouraging news for businesses is that the ISO 9001 developers have been anxious to change their customers’ perceptions.   The ISO 9001 standards development team has refined the guidelines that are at the core of the ISO 9001 standard, and in almost every way, the ISO 9001:2015 standard mimics best in class management principles.

Three of the biggest improvements attributed to the ISO 9001:2015 revision are based upon well known business management practices. The three improvements are: (1) senior management collectively take direct responsibility for the business’ product/service quality, (2) organizations should incorporate process models to encoding their product/service activities, and (3) risk assessment and management should be built into the core product/service business activities.   There are numerous other improvements that come with the ISO 9001:2015 standard revision, but these three improvements are critical to building strong businesses, and are the headline examples of how ISO is incorporating strong business principles into the standard framework.

ISO has discarded the notion of a “Quality Manager”, as it has a tendency to marginalize core quality to a senior role that was “outside” the core business divisional roles.   By making senior managers accountable for product or service quality aspects, quality will be incorporated into the daily business thinking.

Secondly, businesses develop activities that deliver repeatable outcomes by encoding their activities as a process. Organizations must monitor articles, information and specifications that are involved in their production processes.  Typically, the processes are measureable, with feedback that is key to deliver improvements, and delivering a quality product or service.

Lastly, incorporating risk assessment and risk management in business processes helps an organization best deal with the threats and opportunities that are ever present, and the businesses that best deal with these challenges are likely to be the most successful. ISO 9001:2015 assessments look for evidence that Risk assessment/analysis is applied in every process definition and checkpoint.

ISO 9001 has evolved through each of its major releases into a highly applicable set of modern business guidelines.   What used to be considered overly bureaucratic, and burden to achieve compliance, is now a concise, valuable framework which any business director would be well advised to consider, if not fully implement.

For more information, please visit our consultancy page at:https://www.aspira.ie/consulting/

Author:  Jim Blair, Aspira Software Development

Power of Project Management: Linking strategy to action

Organisations are facing significant events and uncertainties such as GDPR, Brexit, adoption of Artificial Intelligence and President Trump’s new America. These uncertainties give rise to a dilemma for established businesses.  Should they adopt transformation programs within their organisations and risk cannibalising existing profits, or should they preserve what has made their organisation great?

 

Many organisations are opting for major transformation programmes in pursuit of competitive advantage. These programmes may require a shift in strategy, structures, systems, processes and culture while maintaining critical assets.

 

So if you are considering such a transformation, you need to ask yourself:

 

  • How widespread is the required scope of change – does it affect the entire organisation or is it concerned only with a particular division?

 

  • Who are the stakeholders that can have a positive or negative influence on the transformation? Who are the people you need to engage with?

 

  • Do employees see the need for the transformation and understand the importance of the change? In times of change, our autopilot mode stops working – choices suddenly proliferate, decisions need to be made – and this creates uncertainty. Sometimes what looks like resistance is often a lack of clarity. So you need to create clarity by communicating a compelling vision with a real sense of urgency.

 

  • Are you communicating for buy-in? Organisations need to appeal to employees emotional side, ‘find the feeling’ and make people feel something. People must feel they are capable of change and need to be encouraged to accept the challenges the transformation brings despite the complexity and risks.

 

  • How much time does the organisation have to achieve this transformation? A realistic schedule with clear deliverables and milestones will be required to shape the path and provide the plan for action. Achievement of these milestones will create short-term wins and build confidence and momentum for change within the team.

 

Sustaining competitive advantage has never been more challenging, and the stakes have never been higher. That means you have a tremendous opportunity.  By making the right big-picture, strategic decisions, you can chart your company’s course amid great uncertainty.

 

Aspira consulting services can help you navigate this complex environment. Our clients’ testimonials demonstrate the value of strategic input in realising their vision.

Contact us now for free consultation at info@aspira.ie

 

Author: Norma Lynch, Training Manager, Aspira.

Revealed! The Secret Language of Software Developers

 

I work with a bunch of extremely smart, extremely talented software developers. There’s no denying that seriously hard-core techies have a secret language they use to communicate. It doesn’t have to be in 1’s and 0’s, but it can still be unintelligible to those outside the caste. So we are going behind the scenes to reveal ten of the most commonly used phrases by developers – and what they really mean!

10:       “That’s a nice-to-have feature”

The real meaning is: “Are you crazy!? We have to figure out how to make the software actually work first”

9:         “I am not an expert in <insert technology name>”

The real meaning is: “I may well be an expert in this technology, but I will never admit to it because I like to be modest”

8:         “The complexity was under-estimated”

The real meaning is: “Aha! Now I finally understand what we need to do!”

7:         “I’d like to tweak the design”

The real meaning is: “Now that I finally understand what we need to do, it’s time to throw everything out and start again.”

6:         The customer is using it wrong

The real meaning is: “You asked me to design a toaster and now you’ve told the customer it can bake the bread”.

5:         You’re a manager – you wouldn’t understand.

The real meaning is: “The amount of energy necessary to translate the technical explanation into something you might understand is greater than the total energy in the universe!”

4:         The tester isn’t testing it in field conditions.

The real meaning is: “That tester is good… s/he has figured out ways to break my software that I never even imagined!”

3:         How long is a piece of string?

The real meaning is: “You’ve asked me to estimate something but I have no idea what the context is – please give me a few assumption I can use to come up with a reasonable estimate”

2:         The asynchronous SNR module has created a race condition so that the state machine’s stability renders the RCA status inaccurate and it will take a week to fix.”

The real meaning is: “There is a problem that will definitely take longer than a week to fix!”

1:         That’s not a bug, it’s a feature.

The real meaning is: “Yes, that is indeed a bug, but it would be really hard to fix, so maybe we can dress it up and call it a feature?”

 

Thankfully, if you choose the Aspira Software development team to take on some software development work for you, you will never* hear any of our developers use one of the above phrases, because they recognize that good communication is a critical part of any software development project.

*By never, we mean hardly ever, or at least not every day.

For all queries please contact 021-2352550 or 01-5175777  www.aspira.ie

 

Join our growing team today !

 

At Aspira, our culture is to look at things from the client perspective, and to behave the way we would like our suppliers to behave.  That means taking the time to understand the challenges and problems that clients need to solve. Aspira truly acts as a one-stop-shop for our clients.  Whether it is a short term consulting engagement, a training session to upskill your broader team, or you need to engage our Project Managers, Business Analysts or technical staff to work across some phases of your projects or if you require a Managed IT Service provider, deep Cloud expertise, a software solution to be integrated or developed from scratch, or you need expert testing resources to augment your project team – Aspira specialises in each of these areas.

We’d like you to be part of our team.

We are hiring top talent to join our team of over 100 highly experienced staff. We hold several industry certifications and qualifications, but more importantly we have the battle scars that come with the experience of delivering tough, challenging projects.

About you

We’re looking for amazing people around the world to join our core team.

Open roles:

We have a number of new vacancies to cover increased client demand and new service line offerings in both Dublin and Cork. Specifically, we are looking to fill the following roles;

 

For more information, please contact our HR Team via the Work with Aspira section on our website or email emma.hayes@aspira.ie

Thank you!

We’re honored that you are considering joining our team. We look forward to talking with you soon!

—The Aspira Team

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