Aspira appoints new Director of Software Development

 

Aspira, the specialist Project Management and Enterprise IT Solutions services organisation, has appointed Jim Blair as Director of Software Development. The appointment follows recent growth at the company and a number of significant client wins.

Jim brings over 30 years’ experience in product and software development to the company. From designing core elements of Mac OS at Apple to leading new product development at multiple Irish start-up companies, Jim has led the engineering of many world-class solutions. Jim will contribute to the growth of the software development teams at Aspira, working closely with clients to achieve seamless design, creation and implementation of software products that contribute to these organisations’ digital transformation.

Speaking on his new role at Aspira, Jim Blair said: “I’m delighted to take on this new role as Director of Software Development. We have a vastly experienced software development function at Aspira, and I look forward to working with my software developers and the complementary groups within Aspira to enhance the bespoke customer software service we provide to our clients.”

Aspira CEO, Pat Lucey, commented on the announcement: “We’re delighted to appoint Jim as Director of Software Development. Jim brings a wealth of experience that is critical for the development of world-class devices and software. Jim will be a fantastic asset to the team, contributing his strategic vision for the growth of the software development teams to the benefit of our valued clients.”

Aspira is a specialist consultancy, focusing on Enterprise IT Solutions, with offices in Dublin and Cork. Offering Project Management and Business Analyst Training services internationally, Aspira is approved by the Project Management Institute®, the International Institute of Business Analysis® and Scrum.org.

Please visit us at: www.aspira.ie or contact us on 021-2352550 or 01-5175777.

 

Emotional Intelligence – 50 shades of black and white…. (Part 2 of 2)

 

In Part 1 of my blog,  I spoke about the importance of Empathy – and making the effort to see things from the other person’s point of view.  Today I want to share two other ways I have learned to improve my level of EQ, or Emotional Intelligence:

Self-Awareness and Self-Regulation

To have self-awareness is the ability to recognize your own emotions, recognize the effect that emotions have on you physiologically, and recognize the effects they have both on your behaviours and how others will behave towards you.

Socrates (the philosopher, not the footballer) said “Know thyself” in order to understand the workings of the world. When dealing with people you have to be aware of how your own reactions and emotions can affect others and their view of us.

You need to be aware of our emotions in real time – as they happen. You will often have little control over when you experience emotions, especially negative ones such as nervousness, loss of motivation or anger.  However, you can regulate how you process the emotion and for how long you will feel that emotion.

I genuinely can feel a lot of anger very quickly, which has not always worked well for me at times in the past. Unless you’ve just won an Oscar, it is generally not advisable to communicate when in an overly-emotional state.  Whether you feel angry, upset or fearful, you can do lasting damage to relationships if you communicate when you’re not in control.

So when you feel a negative emotion kicking in, recognise it and know it will pass. Don’t let the emotion control your behaviour – instead you manage the emotion.  Consider what the behaviour was that triggered the issue, then identify what impact that behaviour has had on you to give rise to how you feel.  Armed with these three pieces of knowledge – Behaviour, Impact, Feeling, also known as BIF – you now have the tools to give constructive and effective feedback.  Give a BIF.

By communicating to the other person what their behaviour was, how it had an impact, and how that has made you feel; you have proactively managed the situation. Rather than sitting there seething in anger, or wallowing in self-pity, you have analysed the situation and have channelled your emotions to provide constructive feedback to tackle the problem at source.  As as a result, you have self-regulated your emotions and are in control of the situation.

In my role as a Senior Project Consultant with Aspira, I am sometimes required to take on Recovery Projects – projects that have gone wrong, and where I come in as a Recovery PM to get things back on track. In this scenario, relationships can be fraught as people will feel nervous and vulnerable.  This makes it absolutely critical that I maintain self-control and give calm, objective feedback to the project team members throughout.  By acting in a firm yet professional manner, the team can see that there’s a ‘new sheriff in town’ and will raise their own level of performance.

To conclude, one of the key strengths I look for in a great Project Manager is emotional intelligence, and the ability to see there can be 50 shades of black and white…

Author: Damien Kearns, Aspira.

Emotional Intelligence – 50 shades of black and white…. (Part 1 of 2)

It can be tempting to interpret things as simply black or white, good or bad, wrong or right. But the reality is that there are always different degrees of black or white, and while it can be difficult to discern them, it is important to tune your mindset to figure out how to identify which of the many shades of grey may be in front of you.

Throughout my life, I’ve always been looking to improve and develop, both in my personal and professional life. One area I have found where I can always improve is the area of EQ – Emotional Quotient -, which is based on the idea of IQ but looks at emotional maturity rather than raw brainpower.

Generally, I like to dissect where I can do better and one area I have found for improvement is how I relate to people and deal with situations. Sometimes it’s easy to react too quickly to a situation, only to overreact and regret that response later.

So, with that in mind, I’ve highlighted three areas of Emotional Intelligence where I try to put extra focus when dealing with difficult situations or people:

  • Empathy
  • Self-awareness
  • Self-regulation

Empathy

In truth, we experience life and work from our own frame of reference, and if a view is expressed which conflicts with our picture of the world, we can treat that view as simply wrong.   This is a mistake, as by treating it as wrong, we make no effort to understand another’s person reasoning for disagreeing with us and we do not try to tune into their frame of reference.

Empathy is being able to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within their frame of reference. In other words, it’s the ability to put yourself in the other person’s position and look at the issue from their point of view.

It’s about trying to look at a situation using their perspective with a view to understanding their reasoning. I now try to take some time to understand the why of a person’s stance and try to place myself in their shoes.   I find that 99% of the time they have valid reasoning for their stance and it just takes some time and effort for me to understand it.  Sometimes that understanding helps me to change my opinion.  There are also times when understanding their viewpoint helps me to change their mind by explaining my argument in a way that will resonate with them.

Tune in to Part 2 of my blog next week when I share what I’ve learned about self-awareness and self-regulation, and how you can channel negative emotions into a constructive force.

www.aspira.ie

Author: Damien Kearns, Senior Consultant, Aspira.

The People in Your Neighbourhood

Do you remember Sesame Street and the song ‘Who are the people in your neighbourhood’? Have you ever stopped to consider just how many different people we meet each day – from family and friends, to complete strangers, including some people we might prefer to avoid!  Have you considered how much we rely on them, without even realising it?

Firstly, there’s friends and family; we look out for each other, rejoice in each other’s success as if it were our own, and we support each other in times of need. You don’t get to choose your family, but you can choose your friends – these are the people we grow up with and, in the words from the Friends theme song “I’ll be there for you ’cause you’re there for me too”.

We regularly meet the friendly postman who hands over bills with a smile on his face, or the local shopkeeper, who knows you by name and is always ready to discuss today’s weather. We are slightly obsessed by the weather; it’s always too hot, too cold, too wet or too windy – but it’s never boring, and a great topic of conversation!  We have a mutual interest when we meet our children’s teacher, so here the weather topic is dropped, and we discuss the current school extension funding efforts, or the approaching school holidays.  The periodic visit to the hairdresser or barber is always accompanied by a discussion on vacation plans, or reviews of a recent holiday trip.

We also rely heavily on those people we meet in times of mini crisis. It might be when an electrical fault causes you to stumble through the house in the dark, searching for your phone to speed dial your trusty electrician.  Or it might be when that dripping tap in your bathroom turns into Niagara Falls, and you need your plumber to appear and save the day (and your house).  It might be when your car splutters to a halt with a very strange noise coming from the engine, and you rely on your long-suffering mechanic’s magic touch to resuscitate the vehicle, so you can ignore all rattles for another twelve months!

Five days each week we meet work colleagues; catch up on the evening before, figure out how to share the workload for the day ahead, and make plans for the upcoming weekend. In many ways, companies are much like families.  Sometimes a ‘family member’ needs a little extra help to get that project completed by the due date, maybe the project has gone completely off track and needs some expert help in Disaster Recovery.

Sometimes the company may need to take on a completely new project, but simply not have the manpower. This is where you reach out to the ‘extended family’.  Aspira work closely with many companies to provide that helping hand when needed, asking our Project Managers, Business Analysts or IT Support consultants to fit right in with their ‘long-lost cousins’.  They help out by hitting the ground running and providing support throughout the whole project and beyond.

As with all families, if you need that extra helping hand, pick up the phone. We’ll be there for you.  www.aspira.ie

Author: Noreen Quinn, HR Partner, Aspira.

STEM Subjects – why Maths is Cool!

Maths was always my favorite subject and is at the core of STEM subjects (Science Technology, Engineering, Maths).  I was fascinated by how people used maths to solve real, practical problems.  Like the Egyptians building their pyramids, like carpenters using Pythagoras’ theorem to construct a right angle, like Marconi inventing radio – but more on that later.  In the present day it is used all around us – cryptography uses prime numbers to keep our passwords safe, social media sites use complex algorithms to figure out which video to show you next so you’ll stay glued to your screen, Spotify analyses the number of beats per minute of the music you like in order to suggest other songs you might like.

On the window of my office there is also a Mathematical formula written:  e =  -1  , which is Euler’s equation. It’s there because it’s my favourite – it’s where Mr. Euler brings a cast of super-star numbers together and then there is a big surprise ending.  The first super-star is Pi, which has a value of 3.14… and it goes on forever after the decimal point.  The second super-star is e, the exponential number which has value 2.718…. and it also goes on forever.  The third star is i, (or iota, the Greek letter for i).  It doesn’t have a decimal value as it is an imaginary number – it is the number than when multiplied by itself gives the answer -1.

Euler takes these three superstar numbers and combines them in a formula, and the answer is … wait for it…  minus one.  So, by multiplying these never-ending number and imaginary numbers, you get -1.  That is just so surprising!  And it helps calculate satellite trajectories.

Maths makes for a really cool exploring tool.  Marconi was interested in Maths and Physics, and studied the new science of electromagnetism.  While most people were trying to figure out how to generate power, Marconi was interested in the fact that the mathematical models of electromagnetic waves suggested that in theory they could be transmitted over large distances.  Marconi went on to build a transmitter and receiver that proved the mathematical models were correct – and so came the telegraph, radio, television, Wi-Fi.  It was only because the maths predicted it, that Marconi had the stubbornness to try it.

The same phenomenon happened in the past few years – back in the 1960’s a mathematical model suggested the existence of a new elementary particle, called the Higgs Boson (aka the God particle).  Because Maths showed it should exist, scientists spent the next 50 years searching for it, until in July 2012 they found it, measured in and weighed it.

Maths is also a really useful tool when embarking on a new project or business venture.  ‘Do the numbers stack up?’ is a frequent question.  When setting up Aspira back in 2007, my co-founder and I made a list of all the costs we could think of, how much money we had available, and the likelihood of generating some sales.  By putting this into a spreadsheet, it told us how long we could survive even if we made no sales (the answer was six months) and it also told us how much sales we needed to win in order to break even.  The mathematical model we built gave us the confidence to embark on the journey to set up Aspira.

Mathematicians are like explorers, on a voyage of discovery, looking off into the distance and predicting things that are far away.  But those predictions are what cause people to choose their target and set sail for new horizons.

For all your consultation (maths!) needs, please visit our website https://aspira.ie/contact/

Author: Pat Lucey, CEO, Aspira.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Author:  Jim Blair, Aspira Software Development

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do unlikely alliances breed success?

 

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

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

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

Sold!

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

To Conclude:

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

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

Then try crisps with chocolate…yum!

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

 

What is SharePoint?

 

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Author:  Paul Cuthbert, SharePoint Developer, Aspira.

Top 10 traits I most admire in a Manager

 

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

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

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

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

Author: Mary Dwyer, Operations Manager, Aspira.

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

BYOD Rocks! How the Joshua Tree influenced Mobile Device Management

The legendary U2 album “The Joshua Tree” celebrated its 30th Year in March this Year, twenty years before the formation of Aspira!   The Windmill Lane recording studio was used in the production of the album, which is around the corner from the new Aspira Docklands building in Dublin.   It is interesting to see the influence that this seminal work has had, both consciously and subconsciously…

 

Mobile devices in the workplace have rocked the World of many IT leaders.  It’s as if U2 played from the office rooftop ordering all the end users you support to buy as many devices as possible from the Streets With No Name and connect them to corporate services.

 

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) was born and employees Followed in the masse like there was No Line On The Horizon. However, it’s not all Bad.  There’s no point in Running To Stand Still or pretending it isn’t happening or saying “we don’t allow our employees do that.”

 

The truth is, it’s Out Of Control, they’re doing it already and will continue to inject noncompliant devices into your network With or Without Your permission. ONE recent Gartner survey suggested that currently, most employees are eligible to use their own equipment with employee data on board.

 

This is the Elevation of An Electrical Storm: how will you support workforce Desire to use personal apps and devices while allowing them to be productive in a secure environment that protects corporate data?   Here are eight tracks to try out:

 

  • Craft Policies, It’s Even Better Than The Real Thing.
  • Evaluate devices connecting to your network – don’t leave yourself wondering if I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.
  • Authenticate devices and apply user acceptance signoff.
  • Security, corporate data protection, and compliance are shared responsibilities. There is no chance of reducing risk without cooperation. A self-service portal can help users understand why they may be out of compliance – Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own
  • Communicate the privacy policy to users and make it clear what data you can and cannot collect from their mobile devices
  • Isolate personal data from corporate data – North and South of the River.
  • Manage data usage on subsidized plans
  • Monitor devices continuously for compliance to policies

 

Surrender:

BYOD is an emerging best practice for giving employees the freedom to work on their own devices while relieving IT’s significant financial and management burdens. However, BYOD will never deliver on these promises of streamlined management and cost savings without a well-written policy and a robust management platform.

 

Stranger In A Strange Land:

Your business isn’t limited to your own systems. Thanks to access to cloud services we can communicate with customers, share files, collaborate, video conference and more. While these cloud services increase capabilities with good value for money, its important not to forget that every connection that reaches out from your network may open the door for someone to reach in.

 

It’s a Beautiful Day!

Aspira is celebrating its 10th anniversary in May this Year and will be announcing the opening of Aspira Docklands building beside Windmill Lane.  It’s The Sweetest Thing!

 

Author:  Luca Santos, Aspira IT Operations