Getting the Fundamentals of Project Management Right

“How do I get the fundamentals of project management right?” is an interesting question clients often pose. In our experience, to get the fundamentals right, businesses need to address three things – people, processes and technology.

 People 

All project stakeholders need to have an understanding of what the fundamentals of project management are, and specifically the role and responsibilities they each have in delivering projects. A project manager will need an in-depth technical knowledge of the 10 PMBOK knowledge areas, Integration, Scope, Schedule, Cost, Quality, Resource, Communications, Risk, Procurement, and Stakeholder Management, whilst also having strong leadership skills, and a good knowledge of, and expertise in the industry and organisation of the performing project. Training, formal classroom based, and on-going on the job training, is required to address the need for technical project management skills.

A project sponsor or steering group member will need to make sure that only the right projects – those most closely aligned with strategic objectives – get the green light to proceed. They need to ensure that the benefits a project is expected to deliver are understood by the project manager and team from the start, and drive the project manager and team onwards always in the pursuit of harvesting as many benefits as possible. They also play a key role in governing a project, with primary focus on the four corner stones of all projects; Scope, Schedule, Cost and Quality. Perhaps most importantly for a project manager and project team, the sponsor must also offer, and be available to support, the project team when required.

The project team are responsible for the duties assigned to them by the project manager, for following the agreed upon project management processes, for producing quality deliverables within the constraints of the project, and for identifying risks and opportunities to improve project management processes.

Aspira offer industry recognised and accredited project management training to project managers, project team members and sponsors.

Processes

Processes for delivering projects, from concept through to delivery need to be defined, documented, understood and agreed upon by all key project stakeholders. Top-down management agreement and support of these processes is vital to ensure the successful embedding of any process. Once the end-to-end project delivery processes have been defined and agreed, a strong governance framework is required to ensure the processes are consistently being followed by project stakeholders. Often businesses struggle to identify what the right end-to-end project delivery processes and supporting governance framework is for them. The consulting team in Aspira can help in this regard. We work with clients to identify end-to-end project delivery processes and supporting governance frameworks that make sense for their business, and assist in the roll out of these processes.

Technology 

Technology is often the first thing that a business will look at as a solution to getting the fundamentals of project management right, and although technology advances have seen incredibly smart portfolio, program and project management tools enter the market, technology will only be fully effective and embraced in a business when the people and process gaps above have been addressed first. Technology advances have resulted in the introduction of tools that can now make decision making, planning, executing, monitoring and controlling and closing projects much easier. With so many companies offering cutting edge technology to streamline and improve how projects are delivered, it can be challenging for a business to know what is the best fit for them. Aspira has worked with many clients to help them identify the technology solution that best suits their needs. We capture clients requirements, identify suitable technology and vendors, evaluate and provide recommendations on the technology solutions that best suit our customer’s needs.

Article by Gillian Whelan, Project Manager at Aspira. To find out more about how Aspira can improve your team’s project management, contact info@aspira.ie

Part 2 – Common issues project teams face – and how to overcome them

In the second of our two-part series, we look at some other challenges facing project managers and how best to manage conflict and change. By confronting these issues – and therefore improving project outcomes – you can boost your own performance, and benefit other team members in enhancing their own career development.

  • Project managers have to see beyond daily priorities, business as usual or personal glory. They need to deliver positive change for the entire organization that they are working for and consider how all parts of the project fit together. They also need to understand that project team members may have their own day jobs. For a project team, this means being able to think beyond your own area, about how you fit into the wider change programme or project and how you impact the end client’s or key stakeholders experience. This is about business sustainability and long-term success. Everyone is busy, but just being busy is not enough. Long-term project success requires long-term thinking.
  • Change is constant and unless carefully managed, it can be detrimental to teamwork and results. Change starts and ends with communication. Whenever you think you’ve communicated enough, you need to communicate some more – and it needs to be interactive: listen, talk and involve. Be aware of the change curve, or the four predictable stages of change: denial/resistance, emotional, hopeful, commitment. Each stage is needed, but how long someone stays at each stage can be managed and kept to a minimum.
  • Silo working is a reality for many project teams. Team members may sit side by side but not really work together. A great project team can be like the three musketeers – all for one and one for all. So if you are in a team, you may as well really be in it. Working together in earnest is about making the most of the fact that you are a team. Honour your time and efforts by seeing yourself as a full-time member of the team, not just an individual contributor. Imagine how great it would feel to be part of a team where everyone is thinking of the team and not just themselves – make that project a success by working together.
  • Conflict or a difference of opinion can be healthy and, if carefully managed, can trigger useful debates. It can make people think differently, expanding knowledge and insight; innovation can happen and results flourish. Different opinions are not a bad thing. It’s how we handle the conflict that makes a difference. Conflict should be seen as an opportunity, and a sign that people genuinely care about the outcome of the project.
  • A project team has a brand, an image and a reputation created by the actions and behaviours of the team members. A large part of the perception is driven by how well the team delivers on expectations and promises made. As a project team, you need to make sure that everyone understands and takes responsibility for their roles in creating the perception of the team. This includes both what is delivered on the project and how it is delivered. The brand should also reflect personal job satisfaction and a sense of mutual achievement in delivering a successful outcome.

 

Article: Russell Moore, Head of Resourcing  For further information please contact russell.moore@aspira.ie

 

Common issues project teams face – and how to overcome them

The very definition of a project manager’s role means that human resource challenges are often underestimated, in the hope that they will just disappear – which they rarely do. It is sensible to be proactive instead, and address any issues head-on. In this way, it’s much easier to create a successful project team, that will enable the PM to deliver their objectives efficiently. In a two-part blog series, we will list some of the most common problems that project teams face, starting with trust and teamwork.

  • Trust is crucial to teamwork, and it starts with people knowing each other both personally and professionally. Every good team has a diverse mix of skills and personalities, and team members need to be well acquainted, particularly in projects where tensions will run high at some point. It’s crucial that team members understand each other, otherwise, they won’t want to engage because they haven’t made that human connection and established mutual trust with other.
  • Knowledge is not power – unless it’s shared. Project team members all bring a unique set of skills, knowledge, experience and wisdom to the table. Effective project teams fearlessly share regularly and generously for the benefit of everyone and for the benefit of the project’s success. This makes the capability of the whole team grow and gives the team more power.
  • Team engagement is crucial to business success. If engaged, team members on a given project will be interested in what they do, committed to the project mission and willing to go the extra mile. They are there in body as well as mentally and emotionally. The key to engagement is involvement – by involving others you make it impossible to stay detached.
  • Without transparency, trust will suffer – both within the project team and with all other key stakeholders. Transparency is considered normal in project management, particularly on Agile projects and expectations are growing. It starts at the top: the more senior you are, the more responsibility you have to be a role model, and ensure that your own actions and objectives are transparent. There is no room for hidden agendas in the modern workplace. Employees will follow the leader’s behaviours, good or bad. When this is done well it can have a positive cascade effect when companies undertake new projects. The PM is a component of this overall leadership model.
  • To walk in the same direction, a team needs to know where it is going or what it is contributing to (vision) and why (purpose). Spend time on this with your team. This clarity provides a framework and ‘reason to be’ that can rally any given project team to work together. Keep in mind that visions need to be compelling and purposes meaningful. People respond to the importance of both. If you want to create a great project team, pay particular attention to behaviours. How we behave has an impact on others and affects how they behave. It’s when we change our behaviours that we can achieve transformational change.

 

Article by Russell Moore, Head of Resourcing at Aspira. To find out more about how Aspira can help your team achieve its potential, contact Russell.moore@aspira.ie

The Rise of Contingent Workforce – Aspira

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

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

Aspira can provide our clients with the highest calibre:

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

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

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

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

4 Reasons to work for Aspira

 

1. You’ll never stop learning
At Aspira, training and development provision is one of our key services. We are renowned globally for excellence in Project Management and Business Analysis Training. We constantly reiterate the need for companies to train up their staff, develop new skillsets among their teams and empower their employees through learning. We are no exception to that rule. At Aspira, we have a company-wide focus on personal development and career enhancement through on site, internal and formal training programmes. All Aspira staff benefit from this approach.

2. Work with a connected community
You will benefit from the support of your colleagues – a team of experts across a range of areas such as Development, Cloud Deployment, Senior Project Management and Business Analysis. Our collaborative approach to work is further bolstered by the opportunity to work in multi-experienced teams to help deliver exceptional projects for our clients.

We have a very present management team who are always nearby to point you in the right direction and offer their advice and support. Aspira staff also have a hands-on approach to company wide matters, having their say in a number of broader business aspects. The only limits at Aspira are the ones you set for yourself!

3. Flexibility and rewards
Our diversity means that we work with a new way of thinking. Our teams enjoy flexible working to allow for personal circumstances and family. Working for Aspira also means flexibility in the clients you work with. We work with some of the best organisations in the country across both the private and public sector. The work is always exciting and never boring!

Our staff are also offered a number of other benefits such as pension, healthcare, training allowance, and paid holidays. Not to mention that our team is considered by many to be a family of sorts.

4. Diversity
Aspira is a diverse, international company. We have people from over 15 different nationalities building their careers with Aspira and we work with global leaders around the world. We offer opportunities to work globally and work on international assignments, so if you’re looking for a new challenge, Aspira might just be the place for you.

Want to work with us? See all current career opportunities on our website here https://aspira.ie/work-with-aspira/

Author:  Russell Moore, HR & Resourcing Manager, Aspira

Lean in and become a ScrumMaster

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

• Build up your capability to deliver early prototypes and projects

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

Aspira are approved education providers by the Project Management Institute, the International Institute of Business Analysis and Scrum Alliance. This means our Training has been audited by the PMI® and the IIBA® and meets their strict quality requirements.

Professional ScrumMaster course 

Cork on 24th & 25th September 2019

Are your project management practices questionable?

 

Are there key KPIs your business’s projects are just not meeting, time and time again? Are high priority projects regularly missing deadlines? Perhaps your projects are meeting most of their timelines but the project management practices are questionable, with little to no structure and a huge dependency on the skill and talent of the individual project manager? Aspira’s Project Capability Assessment is the perfect solution to enabling a substantial supportive structure around your project management processes, by identifying the strengths and transforming any shortcomings.

Project Management training and certification crafts individuals into excellent project managers. However it is possible and probable that the organisation’s project management framework does not align completely to the PMPTM or PMITM methodology. That being said, an organisation needs to have a mature and supportive project management framework in operation to create the ideal conditions for a PM to operate within – this is the scaffolding that supports the mason while they work. Maturity alone is not sufficient – countless organisations have mature but constraining processes which restrain operational effectiveness – year after year of working within a stagnant status quo.

This is why Aspira’s Project Capability Assessment service has proved extremely popular and effective. Aspira’s experienced project management experts conduct an assessment that will establish an independent and objective capability baseline revealing the true potential and opportunities that your PM framework provide for improvement, as well as cementing in the strengths that currently exist. True insight into your organisation comes from those who know it best; your key resources participate fully in our assessment process, maximising business buy-in to achieve ultimate success.

The Project Capability Assessment delivers a full detailed review of your current framework, methodology, skills and capability and outputs a set of clear achievable recommendations – short term quick wins as well as medium and long term mandates. Whether you are taking the first steps towards implementing a set of lean, standardized Project Management practices or already have mature, detailed processes in place – possibly operating your own Project Management Office –  it is essential to realistically assess the processes by which you select and deliver projects and then to compare this with best practice, highlighting where improvements need to be made.

Customers across Ireland trust Aspira to deliver operational effectiveness and achieve tangible, measurable improvement. Contact Aspira today to discuss benefits a Project Capability Assessment can deliver to you.

Connecting the dots

Connecting the dots: How I ended up at Aspira

One of my earliest memories is seeing the above picture of the Taj Mahal in a Ladybird book and being amazed. I stared and stared, wondering what this exotic building was and how a place like this could exist? This book showed pictures of the Wonders of the World and it completely captivated me. Fast forward to me as a seventeen-year-old, I sat in an office with my career guidance counsellor as he asked, “What would you like to do with your life?” I shrugged and said, “No idea”. He suggested “What about this IT thing?” and there I was: an IT thing guy!

Having spent my school years looking at maps, geography books, atlases and globes, imagining all the adventures to be had in the world… How was I going to be an IT thing guy? In my early twenties I got my first taste of foreign lands. On this trip bumped into and made friends with an Irish guy (Luca) who would return to this story twenty years later.

My IT career had taken off and I somehow fell into contracting in software testing. Truth be told I never really enjoyed my job, but I quickly learned I could use it to achieve my goals, not career goals but life goals. I worked and travelled, worked and travelled again… my life was truly a roller-coaster, from the lows of work to the highs of travel. Work was tolerable because it allowed me to live out many of the dreams that were started in that Ladybird book all those years ago.

Throughout this period of my life mentioned, I had become the ‘go-to’ guy for solving IT problems amongst my friends. I could spend hours or even days fixing something I knew nothing about. Eventually I would fix it, and it felt good, I couldn’t really understand why I got such a great feeling from this achievement, but I liked it – I fixed something that wasn’t working! How on earth can I do this for a job? Where do I start? Or am I too far down the line to make a career change?

Step back in the man I met almost exactly 20 years previously – Luca, who was now a director with Aspira. At this stage Luca knew me well and knew I liked resolving IT-related issues, so he asked me “Do you want a job?” I said “Yes”, then suddenly I was in a job doing what I discovered I loved: fixing things! I had finally become the IT thing guy – how could that counsellor have known? I’ve since hung up my backpack and swapped it for a family, I couldn’t be happier, and I never have to work another day in my life. It’s funny when you step back and look at life’s big picture… there are dots to be connected all over the place.

P.S. I made it. In more ways than one.

If you have an IT-related issue that needs solving, please reach out to Aspira today at info@aspira.ie.

Author:  Kevin O’Donovan, IT Engineer, Aspira.

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

 

How to manage your organisation’s digital security in the age of the cloud

Internet based technology and cloud is now central in everything we do, shaping growth, disrupting industry landscapes and providing the catalyst for transformation. Digital Transformation can be considered as the next industrial revolution. We now have a digital landscape where there are no defined borders and data is the new commodity to be bought, sold or stolen. The Internet is there to connect, not protect so it is inevitable that, as data is now king, securing it is a huge challenge.

Before the cloud, we could rest assured that our data was protected sitting in a data centre behind our firewall.  Our security challenges were simple – how do I secure my network and prevent intrusions.  We secured internal user access to resources locally, and we had a known security perimeter.

Today, with the internet and the cloud, the user can choose applications at random, store data anywhere, applications are increasingly external, and IT departments have limited visibility to provide protection.

So how do we enable the benefits of cloud while still being assured that our data is protected in a world where even organisations with enormous security budgets and elite security analysts are struggling to address modern threats?

To start, you need to change your perspective and work from the assumption that your security will be compromised. Plan for the eventuality by adopting an approach that focuses on protection, detection and response.  Adopt a security posture that is:

  • Comprehensive in terms of understanding your environment and weaknesses;
  • Well-informed in terms of what the modern security challenges are;
  • Prescriptive in terms of what steps to take to protect your environment and respond to security events.

To begin to develop your security posture, it will help if you separate your environment into:

  • The devices you use, how and where they are used, from data centre to end user;
  • The applications you use, where there are located and how they are accessed;
  • The data that is updated and manipulated by applications:
  • The users who access the data, through the applications, that is stored on the devices.

Then develop your plans and strategies for each layer.  Make sure you address your specific needs keeping in mind any internal, regulatory or legal requirements that affect your business directly.  And remember, when developing your plans always keeping in mind, what do you do if you are compromised.

Author: Jason Boyle, Operations Director, Aspira

6 ways Resourcing can solve hiring needs

In recent months, the talent pool in Ireland has become more competitive. Many multinational companies have set up their European headquarters in Ireland. We regularly speak to client companies about the benefits of hiring for specific skills gaps during specific projects, on a long-term, or short-term basis, through a trusted partner like Aspira.

We put together project delivery teams with a blended mix of our expert permanent staff and our experienced associate consultants. Many of our associate consultants are active in the contract market, and have a long-term association with us.

The companies we work with all have similar challenges:

• It is very difficult to find permanent people for niche IT Role.
• Experienced and qualified Project Managers and Business Analysts are hard to find.
• The talent pool in Ireland is extremely competitive, making it more difficult to source staff.

Despite these issues, we find that companies are reluctant to use day rate consultants, considered to be ‘too expensive’, ‘not a long-term solution’, ‘don’t understand the company culture’ and so on. However, sometimes you face a business project that needs urgent delivery and this is where an experienced Aspira consultant might just be the answer.

The benefits of hiring a daily-rate Aspira consultant include:

1. You only pay them for days worked.
2. If hired through Aspira, all the payroll costs are handled which is less work for the finance department.
3. No additional hidden costs because a daily rate is all inclusive.
4. Costly employee benefits such as training or bonuses are not charged to the client company
5. Less of a notice period in case projects are cancelled.
6. If you hire an Aspira team member, you can expect results and delivery in a shorter time. They are experienced at quickly evaluating client challenges and ensuring minimum delays through long learning curves.

For more information on resourcing and how it can benefit your organisation, contact our resourcing team at info@aspira.ie or visit the website www.aspira.ie

Author: Russell Moore, HR & Resourcing Manager, Aspira

Embracing the digital transformation

 

At Aspira, we are constantly seeking new ways to make a positive impact on our surroundings and one of these decisions came in 2017, when the company committed to solely purchasing and using electric cars.

This decision seemed like a natural progression for Aspira, as we recognised the positive impact electric cars have on the environment. As a project management firm, in recent years, we have also noticed a digital transformation occurring within the industry. Technology has heavily influenced how project management is now practiced – and the same can be said for motor vehicles. In this blog we look at how these changes mirror each other.

The digital transformation of the motor vehicle

Initially, motor vehicles were not equipped with features such as indicators – a feature that we now take for granted and heavily rely on to drive in an efficient manner. In addition, manual windows/manual unlocking have now transitioned into electric windows and immobiliser unlocking. Nowadays, your car acts as an entertainment centre – with features such as sat-navigation, Wi-Fi and even technology to parallel park or even drive.

There has even been a digital transformation in the way vehicles are produced. With Henry Ford’s invention of the production line concept, bringing the vehicle a long a belt to employees, digital advances have replaced these employee roles. Instead of supporting traditional methods, new types of innovation and creation, such as robotic arms, create industrial advantages:

  • Time efficiency – Robotic arms are tasked to do specific tasks. There are no interruptions as there is no need for human speech – once the robotic arm is programmed, it operates effectively
  • Safety – Less chance of an injury occurring – no human errors occurring during process, once it is programmed correctly
  • Financial savings – Although, a high initial cost may be required, there is no on-going wages – although minor servicing costs may be incurred

The digital transformation of project management

In a similar manner, project management has undergone a digital makeover. Technology has enhanced our ability to be more efficient and we now rely on mobile apps and social media to instantly connect with our team members and communicate key messages to one another. This reduces waiting time and speeds up the delivery of projects. We can also share documents with one another from different locations. No more waiting for faxes and documents to arrive by post!

Technology allows teams to operate in various locations, adhere to project deadlines and stay on budget.

At Aspira, we celebrate the advancement of technology to support the practice of project management and understand its importance to contribute to a better work environment. Our decision to purchase electric cars which rely on technology to positively impact our surroundings echoes our sentiments.

Article by Dean Murphy, Marketing Intern, Aspira.