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.

Let’s talk Transformation

Digital Transformation is a term we hear a lot, as Aspira works with organisations so they can take advantage of technology to find faster/leaner ways to serve their customers better.

But what does it take to transform? The dictionary tells us that ‘transformation’ is defined as a marked change in form, nature, or appearance. Transformation will not come about by accident – it will require dedication, planning, creation of a support structure and the willingness to take risks and cope with setbacks. It revolves around creating a sense of urgency by setting realistic goals with some achievable short-term wins that can then be built upon to achieve the longer term vision.

Rob Cullen from Dublin Chamber and his wife Yvonne have been on such a journey of transformation, losing 13 stone between them over the past couple of years. Listen to Rob share his story and learn the steps involved in successfully completing a journey of personal transformation. It’s amazing how the steps involved in personal transformation mirror the steps required for an organization to transform – come along to this talk in Aspira’s Lunch & learn series to learn the recipe for transformation.

Please join us on June 27 at 12.30pm at the Trinity City Hotel, Pearse Street, Dublin.

To register email:  philip.mcgillycuddy@aspira.ie

Aspira celebrates twelve years of operations

The world has changed a lot over the past twelve years. In 2007, the Motorola Razr was the world’s coolest phone – until Apple released the first iPhone that year. It was the year that saw Netflix start its digital streaming service, worrying that their customers would be willing to instantly access movies online rather than receiving DVDs in the post. Amazon released the first Kindle, encouraging us to ditch our paperbacks for an electronic library instead. It was also the first year that slim and lightweight LCD TVs outsold the old style cathode ray TV sets – the type you now only see abandoned at recycling centres.

It was 2007 that also saw the formation of Aspira, an Irish-owned technology and project management company. The company founders Pat Lucey and Colum Horgan (pictured above in 2007) were joined by four of their former software development colleagues from Motorola following its closure. The company was initially focussed on designing and developing software development products, and supplemented this activity by delivering some project consulting services, primarily to the energy sector.

In 2008, Aspira added project management training as a service offering, and doubled the team size. The following year saw the worst of the recession in Ireland, and saw many companies run aground. Luckily, being a small and agile company gave Aspira a competitive advantage and by 2010 it had beaten some prestigious competitors to deliver project management, business analysis, training and software development services.

2013 saw a change in focus – instead of being a product company, Aspira decided to switch focus to services. It retained all its staff but now focussed on delivering technology services to clients rather than developing new products. This change proved instrumental to accelerating growth in the company, with a second office opening in the Dublin Docklands region.

2015 saw the acquisition of an IT services company, expanding the range of services on offer and 2016 saw the grand opening of Aspira House – a new 10,000 sq foot headquarters in Cork. Growth continued and we were recognised by the Financial Times in 2017 and 2018 as one of “Europe’s Fastest Thousand Growing Companies”. 2018 brought the deployment of an IT technology team to the UAE. In 2019 a new mainland Europe office was opened in Amsterdam.

Having been through such a journey of change over the past twelve years, it is fitting that a lot of Aspira’s clients now rely on their expertise to delivery transformative projects, whether that is digital transformation or moving to Agile.

There are two groups of people that have been critical to the company’s success: The first is its staff. Aspira staff have proven to be loyal, hardworking, smart, innovative, flexible and reliable. They have taken on some huge challenges and have delivered every time. The second is their customers. Sometimes it takes courage for a customer to choose a smaller company to deliver its services. Aspira recognises that courage and seek to combine the maturity and reliability of the enterprise company, along with the energy and drive of an ambitious, growing company. It is a powerful combination.

In May 2019, we took some well-deserved time out to celebrate with staff and partners in recognition of the twelve years of successful operation. The company remains passionate about delivering change through technology, and on helping customers to manage their projects better.

Here’s to the next 12 years!

 

 

PMI EMEA Congress comes to Dublin

PMI EMEA Congress comes to Dublin

This month will see the biggest international event in the project management (PM) world come to Dublin. It will also be the largest PM event for the next ten years to come to Ireland and Aspira is delighted to participate in the event this year.

What is all the fuss about?

The Project Management Institute (PMI) is the biggest PM professional body in the world, and was founded 50 years ago in Philadelphia. There are two big events held every year; one in North America and one in the EMEA region. This year, the North American event will be back in Philadelphia to mark its 50th anniversary, while the EMEA event will be held in Dublin.

Because project managers are good at managing resources, the PMI actually roll up two events into one. On the Friday, Saturday and Sunday, they hold what is called the Leadership Institute Meeting (LIM for us lovers of three-letter acronyms). The LIM is an invitee-only event, and it is where the leaders of the PMI from all over the world come together to share ideas, initiatives, discuss new trends, and go networking.

Aspira at the Congress

As CEO of Aspira, along with my colleague Norma Lynch, who is Head of Training at Aspira, we will deliver a session on ‘Influencing Without Authority – An Essential Skill for Project Managers’.   In most organizations, project managers need to manage people by influence rather than by control, and this can be a hard thing to achieve if you don’t have authority in an organization.

Aspira offer a two-day training course on ‘Influence without Authority’ and the core concepts shared in that course have been distilled down into a 75 minute interactive session. There has been a huge amount of interest expressed by Congress attendees – so much so that we have been asked to deliver an encore presentation on the same topic on Tuesday. Special prize for anyone who attends our keynote on both days!

My involvement at the Congress as President of the Ireland Chapter of PMI

In my role as President of the Ireland Chapter of PMI, I am honoured to deliver the welcoming address as part of the opening keynote session to the LIM, where I will also introduce ‘The Sky at Night’ TV presenter Dr. Maggie Aderin-Pocock, who is a fascinating speaker. As part of the social setting we will introduce our PM Leadership colleagues from around the world to iconic Irish cultural activities, such as pouring a pint of Guinness and trying out for a Riverdance troupe. It will be interesting to see if project managers can bust a few Michael Flatley moves!

In my PMI role, I will deliver a talk on Sunday morning on the subject of Sponsorship and Project Management. This is a topic I am very keen on, as establishing and maintaining a good relationship with sponsors can deliver a real win/win for all concerned.

On Monday, the Congress commences. Attendance is not restricted to this – basically anybody interested in project management can participate. The Congress attracts a huge crowd from all over the world – it is the most geographically-diverse group in the PMI annual calendar. It runs from Monday, 13 May to Wednesday, 15 May and will include a number of site visits to real-life working projects in the Dublin area.

The Congress will wrap up with a TED session on Wednesday, exploring aspects of Project Management. I am a huge fan of the TED format so I have high hopes for the event to have a fantastic finish.

It is exciting to welcome so many people with a passion for project management to Dublin.  Ireland has deservedly established an international reputation as a centre of project management excellence and this event gives us an opportunity to demonstrate our expertise and talent in project management.

 

Bottom-up Initiative Power

It is often acknowledged that innovation and initiative come from groundswell movements. It is important for society and organisations to leverage these opportunities. One particular example of a ground-up movement is the Irish “Blood Bike” organisation. This is a bottom-up initiative of motor-bike enthusiasts in Ireland, who assist the health services by providing timely courier services for blood and other patient care support.

There are seven Blood Bike groups organised in Ireland, based all around the country (East, Leinster, South, West, Mid-West, North West, and Cú Chulainn Blood Bikes). These regional groups are completely self-organised and driven by nothing more than the initiative and creativity of local Irish bikers.

I have ridden motorcycles ever since I could legally have a driving license, so luck struck when my hobby and interests crossed paths with the local Cork “Blood Bike South” group. That good fortune enabled me to find another outlet (or excuse!) for jumping on a motorbike, and it afforded the grounds-up initiative of Blood Bike South, to support more services for the Irish healthcare system.

The service is provided completely by volunteers, with this groundswell from Irish motorcycle riders having significantly contributed to courier cost savings for the health service. More importantly, the service has undoubtedly saved lives because of the timely door-to-door courier service, and is an example where a local idea and initiative can grow to become a country-wide valuable service.

In addition to the Blood Bike movement, Aspira and its staff regularly volunteer for a number of other organisations in various sectors and recognise the importance of giving back to the community.

Author: Jim Blair, Director of Software Services, Aspira

 

The four ways your leadership is killing your project, and how to change it.

Growing up, my favourite Star Trek Next Generation character was Commander Will Riker. And I’ll admit it, I may have modelled my own beard on Number One’s impressive facial hair. But apart from the trendy beard, here is why Commander Riker should make you rethink how your leadership style is affecting the projects you sponsor.

‘Command and Control’ style leadership is something many of us grew up watching on television and in movies, and it’s still the approach many of us encounter and expect today in our organisations. But in a modern dynamic digital world, ‘Command and Control’ leadership is killing projects.

Statistically 32% of projects fail to meet expectations, and the leaders sponsoring those projects are the number one issue. So here are the four ways your leadership is killing project success, and how you can change it:

First, you are only human and like all humans you have insecurities. So although being a project sponsor demands a different approach, it’s common to default to your ‘business as usual’ way of working because you are afraid to fail. But the leadership approach that works so well in your day job as Sales Director, Account Manager, CEO etc. doesn’t transpose to the project world. In that world as a project sponsor you must be the team’s champion, not their captain. It is your job to set out the vision, and get the team fired up about bringing it to life. Your biggest achievement is not getting started, it is binding together as a project team to work through issues together as they arise. Plan for some setbacks, accept the team’s support, and persevere for success.

Second, avoid the HIPPO effect. The Highest Paid Person in the Office is the one people usually defer to, rather than listening to the most capable person in the office. Your project team have special skills and responsibilities in their roles, different from their ‘business as usual’ functions. Just because you have more stripes on your shoulder doesn’t mean you have the right answers. Unnecessary hierarchy constrains innovation and project delivery success. So if you run into one of the project team in the corridor and are tempted to over-reach your sponsorship role by acting as the high commander, remember that dictatorial decision making is almost always counter productive.

Third, embrace the fact that projects can often be seen as a disruptive and loss making entity at the start. This can be very confronting and stressful for an executive leader used to running a profit making unit, especially when this costly project is changing core business. I have seen leaders lose sight of the overarching vision amidst all this change, and interfere with the project plan causing chaos. Stay focussed on the vision and benefits of the project, and facilitate the unlocking of your project team’s immense skills so they can deliver successfully.

Fourth, be willing to release control and take a ‘belly of the beast’ approach. Support self managing teams because they will be more innovative, more empowered and will deliver change faster. Traditional top down ‘command and control’ is disproportionate, time consuming and less effective. I have supported leaders to release control, and those project teams having failed to deliver their KPIs initially, went on to exceed them. There is no situation where control becomes irrelevant however. Instead it’s about the boundaries to that control and how those are interpreted. Good governance, agreed responsibilities, and inclusive ways of working are the key to productive dynamic project teams.

Follow my four recommendations to relinquish your ‘Command and Control’ leadership style, and make the move to a more people-centred project approach. You may not satisfy all of your requirements, but your organisation will evolve to become more nimble and more innovative, and better able to respond to rapid technological change.

For all your PM Consultancy needs,  please contact aspira.ie or aspira-europe.nl

Author:  Peter Ryan, Managing Director, Aspira-Europe