Unlocking Digital Transformation: 4 Keys to Success

Unlocking Digital Transformation: 4 Keys to Success

 

“True Digital Transformation is an emotional rollercoaster ride. Who wouldn’t feel both scared and excited as they play around with their core business proposition, influenced by the latest in Digital” says Peter Ryan, MD Europe at Aspira who was interviewed about Digital Transformation on Dutch TV in late 2020. “To help us take the ride successfully, we need to be brave and expert!”

 

Aspira featured almost daily on Dutch TV (RTL4 & RTL-Z) for a week in October and across various websites. A feature of this were 4 highlighted segments of the interview broadcasted on LinkedIn. Now we have summarised the best of that content here in a compact set of advice i.e. ‘Aspiras 4 Keys to Digital Transformation Success’ below:

 

1.Key Ingredient: You cannot have Digital Transformation without People Transformation.

Digital Transformation is difficult because it requires people to change at a fundamental level.  People find change difficult; it’s uncomfortable and there is uncertainty about whether it will work. This change is doubly difficult when it comes to changing the core of your business by leveraging sometimes unproven technology. So the message is listen to your people (team, users, etc), learn (their challenges and opportunities in adapting and improving the outcomes) and finally co-lead the change with them.

 

2.Key Commitment: Your Digital Project Journey should never end!

Commitment issues are not just for relationships; they represent the biggest challenges in Digital Transformation. Digital Transformation requires a sustained (long term) commitment across the entire organization. It is not something that will be achieved in 3-months or 6-months and then “return to normal”.  It is making a commitment to change what you do and how you will do it – forever.

Some companies behave like a child who is keen to get a new pet but does not have the commitment to care for and exercise that pet every day for the rest of their lives.  Embarking on a Digital Transformation is like deciding to build a zoo – you will have to keep feeding and exercising those beasts.

 

3.Key Expertise: Digital Transformation Projects are achieved through a cooperation of experts; doing what they do best!

Digital Transformation requires people to ‘lose’ or (more politely put) ‘share’ control, where we have many rather than one expert leader delivering. Transforming the core business needs business owners to take the lead, owning the innovation but delivering the results needs a strong cooperation with delivery experts such as an Agile Project Managers.  An Agile PM will help a company shape innovative ideas into deliverable plans and onwards to great outcomes.  In, short you need the facilitators as much as the innovators.

 

4.Key Customer Mission: You don’t need to change your mission to Digitally Transform!

Blow away the myths around Digital Transformation. Your mission is not to inject Technology into everything or throw away your company’s mission. Digital Transformation requires a fundamental rethink on how core business products and services can be accessed, enabled, leveraged and imagined through the power of digital solutions.

Your mission therefore is to continually re-imagine your products and services – in an Agile / Digital fashion – so you continually ‘Wow’ your customers in line with your companys mission.

 

In summary, the 4 Keys to Digital Transformation Success ensures you have the capability, resilience, enthusiasm & mission-focus to continually innovate and wow your customers; to ride the rollercoaster to success!

Watch Peter Ryan’s recent TV appearance with RTL for more information on digital transformation and how to apply it to your business.

For all your Digital Transformation and Agile Project needs contact Aspira.

Author: Peter Ryan, MD Europe at Aspira

Social media in changing times

 

Social media in changing times

For years, marketers have been using social media to promote their business. Platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram have all given businesses the opportunity to grow online and reach a new audience. During 2019 many businesses began to notice the decline in reach of their organic content. It became rare to see an influx of followers or likes from posting a single Facebook or Twitter post. This was a trend that spread across many social media platforms with algorithms now focusing on promoting paid ads over organic.

In 2020 and the rise of the Covid-19 pandemic, it now meant that social media began to change again. Marketers had to look at new ways to promote their brands and increase their metrics, while also still being mindful of all the changes happening around the world. This was a challenge for many businesses this year.

With many countries in lockdown, social media saw a surge in users, with recent studies reporting that the average internet user now spending over 6 hours online each day. This gives marketers a new opportunity to promote to their target audience. Although there is a great opportunity now more than ever, it is essential that businesses remain mindful of the current pandemic, and to remain sensitive during these testing times.

Here are some tips to utilising social media in these changing times:

Go Live

  • Now more than ever is a great time to take advantage of the experts within the business and publish live content to engage your audience. This is a great way of keeping a human connection with your audience, which is greatly appreciated during times in lockdown. During this time, people crave human connection.

Engage in real time

  • A lot of the time marketers schedule their posts to have content going live on a consistent bases. This is great for increasing reach and brand awareness but now is the perfect time to utilise the functionality that social media platforms have, such as polls, question boxes etc. These allow you to interact with your audience in real time and help build the relationship that will help you increase the number of your audience you retain.

Spend time listening

  • Spend time listening to your target audience. What may have been their desires last year, may not be their needs now due to changing times. Also look at your competitors and the industry as a whole, how are your competitors reacting/changing due to the current times.

Take the time to build trust

  • Now is the time to build trust with your audience. A recent survey reported that over 81% of customers said they need to trust a brand before they make a purchase. This trust includes how you react to things such as the current pandemic. When your audience sees your brand in a positive light, doing ‘the right thing’, they’re more likely to listen to what you have to say.

Keep your audience updated

  • Social media is the best way to keep your audience up-to-date. If your hours have changed or whether your office is now closed, make sure your audience know how and when they can contact you.

Social media is constantly changing and as a business it’s important that your strategy changes along with it. To utilise social media to its full potential requires regular research and proactive usage.

Under the hood of Azure Monitor costs

Under the hood of Azure Monitor costs

Whether you have a scalable Azure only or hybrid environment, you want to be sure that you are maximising the utilisation of resources while also ensuring that you are not over committing on those resources resulting in poor performance.  There are many tools out there for what would traditionally be called RMM – Remote Monitoring and Management – that you can consider as a service from a provider or to install and manage yourself. In this article I will take a look at how Microsoft Azure Monitor is priced and give you an insight into what you can expect in terms of the types of charges.

 

Azure Monitor is Microsoft’s integrated monitoring and management tool for all things Azure that can also extend to on-premise environments.  It is built into your Azure Portal and provides an integrated location to capture performance data and set alerts for system events.  The current version is the result of the amalgamation of the original platform with Log Analytics and Application insights as Microsoft continues to fine-tune its monitoring capabilities. The scope of Azure Monitor is wide, ranging from monitoring live web applications and container workloads to storage and virtual machines.

 

The system is based on a common monitoring data platform where data is drawn from various sources into one place for analysis and alerting.  The core of the system is based on collecting data from Metrics and Logs.

Metrics are a measure of an operation at a point in time that are collected to show performance over time, i.e., processor utilisation.  Logs are events that occurred within the system such as critical alerts, or service stop / start events.  Metrics are ideal for fast detection of issues while logs are good for root cause analysis.   Azure Monitor can also extend to integrate with ITSM solutions such as Service Now.

Aside from the technical merits of the solution, where things start to get tricky is when you look at how you will attract costs for the day-to-day operation of Azure Monitor.  If you have a large environment and are not careful these costs can creep up to give you a surprise.

Like everything in Azure what you pay is a direct result of your utilisation and Azure Monitor is no different.  To ensure you are getting the best value for your configuration you need to ensure your IT team are aware of how costs are incurred.  Aspects of the service where you can incur costs include:

 

  • Log Analytics
  • Application Insights
  • Metrics
  • Health Monitoring
  • Alert Rules
  • Notifications
  • Platform Logs

 

To illustrate this, I have put together a couple of scenarios on the tables below.

In the first example I am assuming a moderate sized IT operation with log collections and metrics coming from various sources and stored for a period of 12 months.

In my model I assumed I would like to keep log data for 12 months, so when forecasting my cost I must remember that the cost for storing the logs is accumulating as the months go on.  Something to watch also for with Application insights. (Note: I have used North Europe pricing and included on my detailed sheet for free items such as the first 30 days retention for logs etc on the tables.  I have not included the detailed tables here for brevity.  Notes on the table indicate where these apply)

 

The first thing that struck me was the number of different items to keep track of on the billing.  On the example above there are 16 different items where I can attract a charge over the “life” of monitoring for an event.  For example, I will gather data through a metric, trigger an alert for an event, and this may be dynamic, and send the alert by email and to mu mobile while logging a ticket in Service Now.  This to me is basic, but in reality how I configure the system will have an real influence on what I pay.  For example, looking at the costs for alert rules, Microsoft charge you for metric, log monitoring (incremental based on the interval checks) as well as for each dynamic threshold.  This means when configuring an alert you could be adding costs to your bill and not realise it.  (i.e., setting dynamic thresholds when you might not need too, or a 5 min interval or a log (€1.265 per log per month) when 15 min interval would do (€0.422 per log per month).

 

Already I was finding that I need to be well on top of what I am configuring if I would like to be comfortable in predicting my costs!

Next, I decided to see what the costs would look like if I had a larger environment with more going on.  I changed up my log analytics to the “capacity reservation” option to avail of a 15% discount on the log data ingestion charge, then increased the amount of utility costs on the other line items to reflect a larger deployment.

From the table you can see that these changes had a dramatic impact on the costs for the likes of data ingestion, storage and alert rules (for alert rules I was subjective and made the assumption if I have 100GB of log data per day I am going to have a lot of alert rules and loges to monitor and I also used a 5 min interval as opposed to 10min on the previous table).

 

So what is all this telling me?  In my experience when it comes to monitoring and alerting tools, IT Engineers are used to going in, setting up what they need and working away in the system.  The cost of the system was dealt with when signing up and it is predictable, IT Management or Procurement sorted all that out before the engineer was “let loose”.  Now you have a scenario where you will not have a real handle on costs up front, and your IT engineers could inadvertently expose you to costs you had not expected.  To be fair to the IT engineer, they are typically there to implement and manage the software, not think of the cost.  This is a traditional disjoint that would need to be addressed when putting the system in.

 

In reality, if you are planning to use Azure Monitor in your environment you will need to take a new approach to determining what your costs will be.  You would need to deploy, then learn as you incur cost for a lot of the elements on the tables.  (e.g. possibly start with a per gb billing model for data ingestion and see what this is costing before considering the capacity reservations option, keep logs for shorter time periods etc.).

 

To wrap up, I think Microsoft seem to have overly complicated what should be a straightforward IT operation and don’t seem to have grasped the concept of how competing products try to simplify their billing for predictability. Microsoft appear to have missed this concept when putting together their model for Azure Monitor.

I deployed my first cloud based (called hosted back then) application and server monitoring solution in 2004.  Even then the provider had a simple “per device” price model.  Here we have a system that has so many underlying variable costs it means an IT team configuring the solution would need some fairly well constructed spreadsheets to even understand what costs they might be incurring.

Author: Jason Boyle, Operations Director, Aspira

My experience on the Entrepreneur of the Year program        

My experience on the Entrepreneur of the Year program       

Early this year I received a call to say I’d been nominated for the EY Entrepreneur of the Year title.  This was a nice surprise, though I wasn’t too hopeful of getting through to the finals.  I remember the formal meeting with the EY team as it was the first I had, where we were trying not to shake hands – instead we used variants of elbow-bumps and shoe-taps.  It felt very strange then not to shake hands with visitors, and now it seems strange to be in the same room as someone – how quickly we adapt.  They went on to interrogate me about Aspira – the business, the USP, the vision.

Becoming a finalist

During the first phase of lockdown, I got the call to say I had successfully made it as a finalist in the International category.  There were 24 finalists in total, split between Emerging, Industry and International categories.  This was great news and the whole team was delighted with the recognition of what we had achieved together.

Pre-Covid, the plan was that all finalists would travel to Cape town in South Africa for a week of business meetings, master classes and networking with many of the Entrepreneur alumni who have been through this program.  For me, this was to be the biggest advantage of being selected as a finalist – the chance to be part of that alumni – to meet with other business owners and have candid discussions about business problems and ways to solve them.

But of course, Covid meant that travel plans were curtailed.  Initially the back-up plan was to host a 3-day retreat in Wicklow, but as restrictions persisted plan C was to hold a 2-day virtual retreat.  This was an excellent session, with fascinating speakers and lots of virtual-interaction between participants.

We also held a number of dedicated Zoom calls with all the finalists and separately with those finalists in the International category.  One of the big themes that emerged from those calls was positivity.  I guess it is in the nature of entrepreneurs to be problem solvers and to see the glass as being half full.  After coming off the calls with my fellow finalists I found myself motivated and inspired by their ‘can-do’ attitude.

The Video Shoot

Each finalist was contacted to arrange a video-shoot – approx. 3 minutes of video footage that would give a sense of the person’s journey and what their business did.  This is where I am at a disadvantage, as Aspira are a technology project services company – we don’t have a cool backdrop of a product being manufactured by robots or jaw-dropping shots of our product in action.  Instead our typical work scene is people typing on a computer – and now those people were all working from home…

The TV producers suggested we feature my personal journey.  So they shot some footage of me in my home village of Patrickswell, Co Limerick, and some footage of me outside our family business premises, where I first learned to deal with customers, and learned the service ethos that remains within Aspira today.

Then they brought me to the old site where Motorola were based in Cork – this was the company that hired me in 1990, and is the reason I now live in Cork.  So I spoke about my experience working in a multinational and what I learned there.

Next they filmed me at our HQ in Aspira.  They required me to walk into our building four times before I got it right (strayed off the path first time, too grumpy looking the second time, opened door too fast the third time, fourth time just right – or else they stopped caring, not sure which?).  This experience confirmed that I was correct not to pursue an acting career…

At the end of the video shooting you are really at the mercy of the production crew, as they gathered probably 2 hours of footage which they would edit down to a few minutes to tell a coherent story.  The production company was Loosehorse, and they did an excellent job – I enjoyed watching all 24 videos that they produced for the finalists.

The Awards Night

In the run up to the awards night, EY released 2 minute videos of each entrepreneur.  I was blown away by the support I got from so many people – old school friends, neighbours, colleagues and customers.  I was amazed at how many people got to see the footage and was delighted that it included a nod to my family and my home place as well as my business journey.

The regular 1500 person televised black-tie awards event would have to change.  It stayed as a 1500 person televised black-tie event, but almost all those people were dialled in from home, including all 24 finalists, sitting on their couches or in their office, wearing the black tie formal wear!

EY sent us each a couple of bottles of personalised champagne, and a pop-up banner to try to fit into the camera shoot.  The show kicked off with the 24 finalists waving maniacally at the TV audience.  I was delighted that my wife and children were able to squeeze into the picture alongside me, and I grabbed our family dog to get into the frame to share in the spotlight.

The show zoomed along, with the winners of each category announced.  Congratulations to John O’Connell of West Cork Distillers for winning the Industry award, Matt Cooper of Inflazome for winning the Emerging award, and Nicola Mitchell of Life Scientific for winning in the international category.  There was also a special award given to Front Line workers in the Health Service and the Garda Police Force, before Nicola was announced as the overall winner who would go on to represent Ireland at the World Entrepreneur of the Year finals next year.  She is a so full of positive energy and really transmits that enthusiasm, even when communicating virtually, so I think she will be a strong contender in the World finals and would be great to see her succeed there.

Because Nicola was in my category of course that gave me license to claim I had come second.  Given the US presidential Election Count was in full swing I also threatened to refuse to concede and declare myself to be the true winner.  But unlike the situation with President Trump, nobody seemed to care what I declared!

 

One of the other finalists, Joe Lennon of Workvivo, wrote a post on LinkedIn about the value of the awards which really resonated with me.  He said that in his journey to build his business, there is never time to stop and smell the roses – you are always focused on the next challenge, the next problem, the next opportunity.  But participating in an awards program forces you to step back, to summarise what has been achieved. To realise that you have been lucky enough to work with a brilliant team of committed people who have helped  take your vision and bring it to life.  When you stop to collate what has been achieved, it generates a mixture of pride and gratitude.

 

So now my EY Entrepreneur finalist journey is over.  I have made some great contacts and friends through the experience.   I have become part of the Alumni, joined what is a very active Alumni WhatsApp group where people regularly reach out to offer practical help to each other.  I will also get an invite to the next trip – which we hope will be to Cape town.  It may be 2021 or 2022.  Regardless – I have my bag packed and can’t wait to go!

 

Author: Pat Lucey, Aspira CEO

Digital Transformation – it’s all about People

Digital Transformation – it’s all about People

In 2019, Digital Transformation was spoken about by many organizations seeking to change at a rapid pace.  In 2020, there has been little time for talk – people have just had to get it done.  So maybe it’s worth stepping back to reflect on what Digital Transformation is and what it entails for People?

People need to comprehend what is meant by Digital Transformation

The word ‘Digital’ in Digital Transformation may lead you to think that it is all about transforming the Technology. Well it is not that simple. While Technology is a key ingredient in Digital Transformation, People are most central.  Rather than simply digitalising a paper process, ‘Transformation’ requires a fundamental rethink on how core business products and services can be accessed, enabled, leveraged and imagined through the power of digital solutions.

People need to change & commit

Digital Transformation is difficult because it requires people to change at a fundamental level.  People find change difficult – it’s uncomfortable and there is uncertainty about whether it will work. This change is doubly difficult when it comes to changing the core of your business by leveraging sometimes unproven technology.

The ‘commit’ is the biggest challenge with Digital Transformation. It requires a sustained (long term) commitment across the entire organization. It is not something that will be achieved in 3-months or 6 months and then “return to normal”.  It is making a commitment to change what you do and how you will do it – forever.

Some companies behave like a child who is keen to get a new pet but does not have the commitment to care for and exercise that pet every day for the rest of their lives.  Embarking on a Digital Transformation is like deciding to build a zoo – you will have to keep feeding and exercising those beasts.

People need to ‘lose’ Control

Digital Transformation requires people to share control where we have many rather than one leader delivering. Transforming the core business needs business owners to take the lead, owning the innovation but delivering the results needs a strong cooperation with delivery experts such as an agile Project Managers.  An Agile PM will help a company shape innovative ideas into deliverable plans and onwards to great outcomes.  In, short you need the facilitators as much as the innovators.

 

In summary, these approaches I call the 4Cs People-focused Digital Transformation Model: Comprehend, Change, Commit, share Control – reinforces the fact you are fundamentally changing your company to have the capability, resilience and enthusiasm to continually innovate and wow your customers.

Done well, Digital Transformation goes viral amongst your people, ensuring the success of your company into the future.  Everything digital, at the speed of a click!

For all your Digital Transformation and Agile Project needs contact Aspira.

Author: Peter Ryan, MD Aspira Europe

 

How to Protect your Mental Health while Working from Home

How to protect your mental health while working from home

Winter, cosy nights in with the fire burning, hot chocolate on tap, the Late Late Toy show on in the background and nonstop Christmas, parties all these lovely images that could almost be a Hallmark card but this winter will be very different!

Like so many others, mental health issues has been a huge part of my life and they are now slowly becoming a normal talking point of our everyday conversations. With working from home becoming the “new normal”, one thing covid has taught us in the past few months is how important social interactions with one another really are. So how do we look after our mental health I hear you ask? Well, I’m going to give you a few tips on what I’ve been doing and what I hope might help you too!

 

Keep a routine – Trying to find the right balance between work and personal time is very important when working from home and this helps when you have a routine. Try follow your normal routine as if you are getting up for work, Try get up at the same time, eat breakfast and even try change out of those pjs (even if it’s just into some tracksuit bottoms and a new pair of fluffy socks). Most importantly when the work day ends, stop working. Click out of your working environment and into your home life!

Talk to others – Even a 5-10 minute quick video chat with a colleague can be so important to people. Whether it’s to get help with a project or just to have some interaction to break up your day. Human contact has never been so important and you never know how important that call could be to the other person. As much as I contest sometimes myself, even switching on the camera every now and again isn’t all that bad!

Activity and exercise – I know, I know it’s winter and it’s cold and sometimes miserable out there but getting some physical activity is so important. We spend sometimes 8+ hours sitting down over a laptop, we have to get out and do something to stretch those muscles. Whether it be a quick walk or bike around the block (don’t forget to keep within your 5km), a home work out or baking your ninth banana bread! Keeping you and your brain active are so important.

Rest and recovery – Good quality rest can really impact on your physical health as well as your mental. One thing I’m trying to do is a “digital detox”, after spending all day on your laptop I’m trying not to strolling through Facebook, Instagram and my new personal favourite TikTok for hours.

Me time The most important thing you can do for your mental health is to be kind to yourself. Acknowledge you can’t always control everything that is happening around you and you are trying your best and that is good enough!!

 

I hope my little tips help you out in some way or another and fingers crossed we will all be back to “normal” soon.

Author: Ciara Murphy, Technical Recruiter, Aspira

AGE IS JUST A NUMBER!

AGE IS JUST A NUMBER!

The more birthdays I have, the more I believe that nobody ever REALLY grows up!  Do I feel any different now than I did 10/20/30 years ago – not really (except 30 years ago I would have looked at someone my age and thought they were ancient!), so maybe I have grown up a little…, but I still have the same personality, strengths, weaknesses and stubbornness.  I just act like a grown up sometimes now, as in, I know how to behave in different situation, with different people.

What does growing up mean? To have responsibilities – yes, to act maturely – when needed, but I still love to prank people and as a ‘mature, responsible adult’ laugh at things that I probably shouldn’t find funny. Regardless of whether you’re 18 or 80, splash in the puddles, laugh at silly jokes, play hopscotch, enjoy your ice cream – HAVE FUN. My octogenarian parents have so much fun playing card games, board games, football and pranking their great-grandchildren, they say it’s what keeps them young – I want to be like them when I grow up!

‘We don’t stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing’ George Bernard Shaw

Growing up is like parenting, it doesn’t matter how many books you read on the subject, it still comes as a shock when you realise you are officially a ‘grown up’.  It’s what you’ve wished for all your adolescent life and you suddenly realise nothing much has changed after all, except maybe you’ve gained a few wrinkles! We do however all want different things out of life, and this determines the decisions we make. We are all learning how to be adults and will continue to do so all our lives!

‘Man’s flight through life is sustained by the power of his/her knowledge.’ – U.S. Air Force

Always remember that knowledge has no boundaries or age limit. Aspira is an advocate of Lifelong Learning (Lifelong learning is a form of self-initiated education that is focused on personal development. It is best described as being voluntary with the purpose of achieving personal fulfilment.) and encourages all employees to grow and develop within the Company through various courses that may be of interest to them, and beneficial to their future career.  Aspira also offers many different training programmes which can be tailored to an individual company’s needs, including Project Management, Business Analysis, Agile Training and Lean Six Sigma, these are all delivered virtually with engaging and interactive assignments to tackle before, during and after each session. Contact training@aspira.ie for further information.

So, what is holding you back?  Experience as much as you can, to be the best you can be. Keep an open mind because when you stop learning, that is when you stop growing. Live your life to the fullest.

‘You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.’ – Betty Friedan.

For all your training needs please contact Aspira.

Author: Noreen Quinn, HR Business Partner, Aspira.

To Agile or not too Agile, is that the question?!

To Agile or not too Agile, is that the question?!

Agile certainly has its benefits, but it’s not always the answer. Taking a Hybrid approach may be worth considering as it can lend itself better to a given environment.

Initially it is worth considering the key reason’s organisations are adopting agile such as Faster time to market; Developing products; Risk reduction; Increased Quality & Efficiency; Improved Customer Satisfaction. Ultimately, the outcome is the key driver and the approach is simply what best enables the realisation of these outcomes.

An enterprise wide adoption to agile can be painful, time consuming and costly, so a Hybrid Approach which takes the best elements of Agile with minimal disruption might be a more prudent approach. A daily stand-up meeting is one such element of Agile that most environments could easily & seamlessly adopt to enhance a project teams’ focus during specific periods of a more traditional project delivery. Using an agile approach for one aspect of a project while using a more traditional (waterfall) structure for the overall project can certainly provide the best of both worlds in the right environment…for example, applying a traditional waterfall approach to your planning stage (where more structure and definition is required) and then using agile during the development phase generate more frequent outputs and/or increased customer collaboration and satisfaction.

Using agile, or elements of agile, doesn’t make sense for every project; culture and environment play a big part in determining the right approach to take. Environments with long standing rigid processes and policies are less likely to embrace agile, but that doesn’t mean it’s completely impossible if considering a Hybrid Approach. The key is to be clear about what agile is and also what it is not, in that environment. One all too common misperception is that you don’t need a plan or to document requirements with an agile approach, therefore saving time and avoiding difficult conversations with users and stakeholders. Not True!

 Consider the merits of a hybrid approach

A hybrid approach can often be an effective way of working through challenging situations where your user (aka Product Owner) is not certain of the finer detail of the end product they need, but they know they need something to meet a certain objective at a certain time. As such, you can always utilise an agile approach with a wider traditional product construct which allows for iteration and exploration to get to the product required while still holding firm to a specific delivery date. Combining elements of certainty while allowing for cycles of iteration is a good balance of tradition and modern, as it provides increased levels of collaboration while meeting an agreed date for delivery.

Key points to keep in mind…

  • Agile is a set of elements, not a complete solution in of itself
  • Adopting agile doesn’t have to mean wholesale adoption and training your entire organisation in support
  • Using agile doesn’t mean you can’t use other methods or a blended approach
  • Is the adoption of agile right for your project or organisation…weight up the pro’s & con’s
  • Don’t treat agile as something mystical…its mostly just common sense but takes know how to adequately adopt

Resist choosing your approach and trying to force that approach into an environment that’s not suited…rather look at all approaches and tailor to your needs and environment such that the probability of success is that much greater.

For all your Agile needs, please contact Aspira.

Author: Thomas McGrath, Advisory & Resourcing, Aspira.

Starting a new job in times of Covid-19

Starting a new job in times of Covid-19

The day after my interview, I was called with great news that I had received an offer. I was excited and nervous because that same evening, our prime minister announced that the country was going into a lockdown. Starting a new job remotely sounded like something surreal.

Beginning a new job is always an exciting but nervous experience, you always look forward to walking through the office on your first day not really knowing what to expect. Getting introduced to everyone, the handshakes, the meetings, the on boarding, the face to face contact, it all adds up to such an exciting day. Starting a new job during the middle of a pandemic was a little different. Although it may be a different experience, you can’t forget how lucky and fortunate you are to acquire a new job. The working from home aspect was new to a lot of people but it was exceptionally new to anyone who would be beginning a new position within a company, having not met any of your colleagues in person.

You learn quite quickly to utilise all the online assets that are available to you. You get to know your colleagues through online meetings, calls, emails etc. You learn to find out as much information and obtain as much detail as you can during meetings and calls. You discover how to really manage your time to increase productivity, and although there is nothing that really compares to face to face contact and being in person with someone, that doesn’t mean you can’t make the most of working from home.

What I soon noticed was that it had its benefits, I felt closer to my international colleagues because video calling was the new norm. There are no boundaries in our new normal, and this is something I hear daily when speaking to candidates. Candidates living in Ireland and working in the Netherlands.

As more and more people begin a new job working from home, here are some tips to help you through the process:

Have a space

  • Having a space dedicated to where you work can help you feel more relaxed and organised when starting a new position. It’s important to create a workspace environment at home where you can separate your work life from your personal life. Creating a small space in your house that is used for work, will help you to separate your workspace from your living space as much as you can when working from home.

Start a routine

  • Similar to creating a workspace, it’s important to start a routine when working from home. It can be easy to slip into bad habits so creating a routine from the start will help you to settle into working from home. As your workspace becomes part of your home, it can feel like there is a blur between personal life and work life, it’s important to establish boundaries between the two to keep a healthy work-life balance.

 Ask for support

  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions. With any new experience, we will all have questions. Don’t be afraid to ask anything you need to help you settle in better. Set up regular meetings/check-ins with your manager to ask any questions you may need and to keep up to date. Organise meetings with other staff members to learn more about different aspects of the company and ask questions where you may be unsure. This is a great way of learning more about the company and your colleagues.

Take the time to connect with your colleagues

  • Settling into a new job can be difficult, a good way to get settled in and feel comfortable is to meet with your colleagues and get to know them on a personal level. Although this may be a little more challenging working from home, it is definitely a good idea to get in touch and reach out to colleagues for a catch up/chat. Ask if there are currently any social video calls/meetings happening within the company throughout the week that you could join.

Enjoy the process

  • While a new position at any time comes with its challenges, don’t forget to enjoy the process of starting your new job. As a new employee you are not expected to know everything straight away and hit the ground running, so take this time to learn more about the company and your colleagues, do your research and become familiar with how the company works.

It’s an exciting time to start a new job, we are adapting, becoming more flexible, and beginning to think outside the box.

Check out all our open roles here.

Author:  Bruna Clemens, Client Services Manager, Aspira Europe NL.

The role of an Agile Coach

The role of an Agile Coach is a role that has come to the fore increasingly over the past number of years, as organisations look for guidance on adopting scrum and in expanding it at an enterprise level. The role is one which is more to do with the organisation than an official role in the scrum process.

It is important to firstly state that the role of coaching is assumed by the Scrum Master, as they are the ones responsible for the scrum process itself. The scrum master is responsible for ensuring the team, product owner and stakeholders understand and adhere to the process. The Scrum Master is both an educator and evangelist for the process.

The adoption of scrum in an organisation usually takes one of two approaches.

  • The Big bang method – where the organisation decides that they, entirely, are going to adopt scrum in an overnight fashion. The scary one, but can be very effective with the right leadership.
  • The organic method – where a team or, a small number of teams, adopt the process. This is observed and further growth stems from here. This is the more traditional approach, not as scary. More a suck it and see approach, although it does have its downside with pace of adoption.

As the adoption of scrum expands the need for a consistent experience for the teams, product owners and stakeholders becomes a vital ingredient in the successful transition of an organisation to an Agile organisation. It is here that the need for a specific role in owning this adoption is needed and this is usually formed in an Agile Coach.

Some areas that the role covers are:

  • Understanding why an organisation is choosing Agile and Scrum as their preferred methods of delivering projects and ensuring the organisation keep these drivers at the forefront of their implementation.
  • Senior leadership/executive level understanding of what scrum means and how to work with it is paramount to its success. The coach should ensure this level of management are getting and understanding the information they need to run their organisation.
  • Instilling an agile way of thinking in an organisation. Traditional expectations, fundamental ones, for project delivery still need to be met , they just look different in an Agile approach.
  • Identification and development of a scrum master community ensuring a consistent understanding and implementation of scrum across the teams in the organisation

The adoption of agile and scrum is a fundamental change in the way an organisation delivers its projects. Change is never easy and although scrum is a very easy methodology to understand, it can be a very difficult one to implement. Having an Agile Coach as the focal point for this transition can be vital to its success.

Choosing the right person to help in that transition is a crucial decision. An Agile Coach should have a wealth of experience as a Scrum Master, as the roles are very similar in content if not coverage.

Understanding why an organisation wants to be agile is one of its biggest drivers it needs to understand. Bringing an Agile Coach in at the start can save a lot of money and heartache, with regard to ensuring the right drivers are in play from the start.

Often there is only one chance to make a good impression of what scrum is within teams and in an organisation. An Agile Coach can ensure that this impression is a very good one from the start.

If you require an Agile Coach or Scrum Master, please contact Aspira today.

Author:  Aidan Muldoon, Scrum Master, Aspira.

5 Microsoft Project Tips

5 Microsoft Project Tips

  1. Organize Global Template

Did you work  hard customizing one of your project schedules to suit your business needs with custom tables, filters, calendars or fields – just to realise that your next schedule needs the exact same metrics? To avoid the pain and hassle of re-working and re-developing those metrics try this nifty trick the next time you’re stuck.

Open your old schedule with metrics and the new schedule both at once.

In the new schedule go to ‘File’ option and under the ‘Info’ tab you will see an option, ‘Organize Global Template’.

Set the first window to the old schedule (box 1 in image below), then select the metric category you want to copy over (box 2 in image below).

Finally , set the reporting metric you wish to copy from the old schedule (box 3 in image below).

  1. Timeline View

We often underestimate how powerful Microsoft Project is. The different views and reporting templates it provides by default can, in most cases, satisfy the majority of our business needs. One of the most powerful views (in my opinion) is the ‘Timeline View’.

This can be found: ‘View’ tab > ‘Split View’ > Timeline.

The real trick comes in with how creatively you can customize it. After clicking on the Timeline, head over to the ‘Format’ Tab and click on ‘Existing Tasks’ from the ‘Insert’ section.

Here you can select the summary tasks you need for a high-level view of your project. I think this gives a much better overview and more customization than your traditional Gantt Chart.

  1. Task Form View

This is by far the most powerful views that your stock Microsoft Project can offer without any plugins, especially when you’re dealing with schedules in excess of 2000 tasks.

This can be found: ‘View’ tab > ‘Split View’ > Details.

If ‘Task Form’ view isn’t the default setting, you can select it from the drop down beside the ‘Details’ box.

Again, as with any view, the trick comes with how you customize your view to suit business needs. By default Microsoft Project shows resources on the left pane and predecessors on the right pane.. This can be changed to suit your preferences by right-clicking the ‘Task Form’ view.

You can literally control the entire project from here, changing dependencies, changing type of connections (FS,SS,FF,SF), adding or removing lag, editing task name. Everything in a nutshell!

  1. Tasks

Ensure that task relationship dependencies are set up appropriately so that there are no orphan tasks for the scheduling calculation. Avoid start-to-finish relationships, if possible.

  1. Project Comparison

If you have two different correct versions of a project schedule (yes it can happen!) which is well over 2000 tasks, it wouldn’t be a wise idea to scroll down 2000 tasks for each schedule. This is where the Project Comparison tool comes in real handy.

Go to ‘Report’ tab and click on ‘Compare Projects’ after opening both the files.

Once the comparison view is open you can easily see the differences across both the projects by using different filters. I wish I knew this handy tool before!

For all your Project Management needs, please contact Aspira.

Author:  Anuj Agarwal, Project Scheduler and Planner, Aspira.

Project Performance versus Information Management

Project Performance versus Information Management

Project Management has been consolidated as one of the main ways for organisations to successfully deliver their strategic business plans. Nowadays, there is no doubt about the benefits of project management. It significantly improves project results, shortens delivery times, optimises use of resources, reduces project costs, increases productivity and return of investment – just to point out a few benefits.

However, a high number of projects do not achieve success, i.e., do not meet their objectives. Surveys indicate the major cause of this disconnect between intention and results, is communication. Communication involves information management.

Information Management

Information is an important element within project management. On the one hand, projects make use of information in order to reduce uncertainty. On the other hand, they are also major producers of information, as they present an intense flow of information throughout their life-cycle.

All this information needs to be managed in favor of the project – however, most organisations are not prepared for the management of this information. It is estimated that  almost 80% of information and knowledge within an organisation is not shared. This inevitably leads to informational chaos which is then transposed to the project environment.

Differentiating information management within projects 

Due to their unique characteristics, projects require a clearly differentiated information management process. Such management should be focused on the procedures required to ensure that all project information is generated, collected, distributed, stored, retrieved and organised properly, as highlighted in the PMBOK ® Guide (Project Management Body of Knowledge – PMI ®). Furthermore, decisions are always made within the project, and must be supported by accurate and timely information.

Based on my own empirical research within small, medium, and large organisations, it is possible to state that there is a straight correlation between clear communication and project performance. More research needs to be done, but it was clear that organisations with more mature communication processes in place, including information management processes, presented far better project results.

Combining human and automated resources to manage the information in projects can highly improve communications. Among those automated tools, SharePoint sites are popular and we would highly recommend them when managing information within projects.

However, using technology alone is not enough. Here are some tips to guide you however, the support of a project management specialist may also be of benefit to successful project delivery:

  • Engage the team around the use of a clear information management process.
  • Recognise that people learn and work in different ways.
  • Identify the information needs (why users need certain information and how they use it).
  • Use IT resources such SharePoint to better organise, store and facilitate information sharing.
  • Add value to information by focusing on the content and quality of the information.  Is it current, accurate and useful?
  • Clearly define a communications plan, specifying who needs which information, when and how.
  • Disseminate an information culture, including sharing knowledge around projects and throughout the organisation.

To conclude, it is understood that information management should be seen as a systemic action, seeking to understand and meet the information based needs of the project. Certainly, it will contribute to a reduction in costs and the increased success of projects. Consequently this will help companies to thrive in a globalised and highly competitive world where everything is interconnected and interdependent.

For all your Project Management needs, please contact Aspira

Katia Stark, Project Manager, Aspira.