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

Making the dream of Aspira Europe a reality

 

 

When I flew into Amsterdam recently, I had plenty of time to think about what Aspira has achieved over the last number of months as a company.

Our objective for the project was to launch Aspira Europe in 2019, something which even with my overly optimistic persona was finding hard to grasp at that time. The numerous legal, financial, tax, company formation and HR challenges aside, my own ongoing concern was how we would bring our unique mix of services to a new market. It was a great idea, but it had to be commercially viable, and we would need to be attractive to Dutch clients, in a tight and competitive marketplace. When we opened the office in Dublin, at least it was familiar territory. I had clients, consultants and the right language to make it all possible.

But then, Aspira is an expert in project management and delivery. As the plan started to unfold, with the local guidance of Enterprise Ireland (EI) in Amsterdam Zuid, we located an office space, legal advice, marketing assistance, HR assistance, formed a BV (a private limited company in the Netherlands), and eventually identified a candidate who would lead from the front on the ground. Peter Ryan, the Aspira BV MD, is a lifelong Programme Manager, of course. We never intended to stray away from what we do best!

The offerings development and market penetration plan was much easier once Peter joined the party. Based on his own experience and contacts, we were able to articulate what Aspira in the Netherlands is offering today in country. We also listened to the advice of EI clients who had been here before, hiring a local Business Manager, Nancy Nieuwenhuis, and taking an office in a central location near Amsterdam International Airport (Schiphol).

As I flew in today, I was incredibly proud to be able to walk into a busy office, and contribute to a number of meetings focussing on delivering various project management services, and some business analysis consultancy projects for our Dutch client base. The dream is actually reality.

Aspira in the Netherlands offer a range of PM services in consultancy, training, resourcing and all this delivered in classic (Waterfall) and Agile methods. Our leaders are senior contributors to the Project Management Institute with Pat Lucey (Group CEO Aspira) being President of the PMI in Ireland and Peter Ryan Director at the PMI in the Netherlands. Most critically, our clients testify to the value added services that we offer with so many joining us at our 14 February Netherlands launch. If you would like to hear more, please connect with me, Peter or Nancy. I am sure you will be just as excited as I have become with what Aspira and the Netherlands has to offer.

Author: Russell Moore, Head of Resourcing, Aspira.

Internship – Putting theory into practice

As part of my college course, I started a six month internship with Aspira in January. At last, the chance to put all my college theory into practice!

From my modules in college, I gained a grasp of three of the key ingredients required to succeed in marketing – creativity, interactivity and engagement. Progressing through my internship, I learned that variety is another important factor in attracting user attention and retaining user interaction. Some individuals are like-minded but equally some are not – some prefer to watch a video versus reading content and vice versa.

For example, when I helped create the new IT Solutions section on the https://aspira.ie/it-solutions/ website, we included short videos and the option to view brochure elements which offer more detail about the services on offer. It is important to produce content in multiple formats, as people absorb information in different ways.

Tip-toeing through the tulips

Aspira unveiled its Amsterdam office on 14 February and I joined the preparations as part of the launch team. This was an exciting project that required a vast amount of elements to be organised, amended and researched, plus a new website http://www.aspira-europe.nl/ to be launched.

This project really drove home the need to get things right – I learned that in the real world, there is little to no room for mistakes. In college, there is usually the opportunity to rectify mistakes and scoring 8/10 is a very satisfactory result. In work, only 10/10 is acceptable!

I realised that errors can reflect badly on an organisation’s reputation, so I was determined to predict potential problems and address them before they could lead to trouble. Attention to detail is a key skill which should not be undermined.

An event to remember

For the first time, the Ireland Chapter PMI decided to host its annual National Conference outside of Dublin. The 2019 location was Fota Island in Cork and my boss, the Head of Marketing for Aspira, was selected as the Project Manager for the event. She encouraged me to be part of her team of volunteers.

Throughout the next few weeks there were numerous phone calls, emails, late night meetings and a lot of organisation– from choosing menus to setting up exhibition stands to grouping name badges into sections. I really enjoyed this additional workload as it gave me the chance to utilise my skills and take on new responsibilities, where possible. I learned from the meetings how important it is to capture actions successfully and follow up on decisions reached.

Again, attention to detail was paramount. With a room full of project managers coming, it was important to have everything running smoothly and to pre-empt any issues. For example, on the evening before the event, we conducted a ‘walkthrough’ of the attendee registration process.

The walkthrough identified the likelihood of a bottleneck being created and so we re-designed the process into two steps, physically separated. The next morning, during the heat of the registration process, we really appreciated that change – and the attendees had a seamless experience – a win-win situation. It gave me a real sense of pride knowing that I positively contributed to such a successful event.

I am already approaching halfway through my internship and am looking forward to learning lots more as part of the Aspira team!

Author:  Dean Murphy, Marketing Co-ordinator, Aspira.

From denial to acceptance: The five stages of navigating unexpected change

The Kübler-Ross model lists the five emotional stages that we go through when dealing with grief. These are first denial, then anger, moving into bargaining, then depression and finally acceptance.

Apart from serious and tragic events, we can also go through a milder version of these five stages when faced with unexpected events or change.

Last Sunday I needed to drive from Cork to Dublin – normally a 2.5 to 3 hour drive, depending on traffic. I decided to detour via Limerick to attend a funeral which would add another hour to my journey.

I checked the weather forecast which was not great – lots of rain, wind and with the possibility of snow on high ground. But it was only a yellow alert – which is far from the “stay at home” red alert status.

So off I went. Within 30 minutes, the snow was pelting down.

Denial. This can’t be right? I’m not on high ground. It will go away shortly. 60 minutes in, some cars are pulling over and giving up.

Anger. 2 hours in. For god’s sake! Are these weather forecasters just looking out their windows? The radio station is giving me no information. This is ridiculous. The car behind me is driving far too close. Why are there so many muppets on the road?!

Bargaining. Ok – I will not attend the funeral as that will delay me an hour and then it will be dark driving through the snow. Visibility won’t be too bad if I complete my journey in daylight hours. If I just keep going I should get there within 5.5 hours. It’s the best option. Staying somewhere overnight means I’ll be stranded as the roads will be frozen over in the morning.

Depression. OMG. 6 hours in and I’ve spent the last hour literally parked on the motorway. Nobody moving. No idea what’s happening. Why did I leave this afternoon? Why didn’t I stay overnight in Limerick? Why did I need to go to Dublin? What’s the point of it all anyway? Why am I not in front of a warm fire watching football on TV? Why? Why? Why?

Acceptance. 8 hours in. Traffic has started moving again. Roads look fine here on the outskirts of Dublin. It was interesting listening to that Talk Radio report from Mobile World Congress in Barcelona – I never knew there was a tech review radio show on Sunday nights – mental note for the future. The most important thing was to travel safely even though the journey took longer than it should. Feeling lucky that I had a full tank of fuel when I set off on my trip this afternoon.

As I realise that I’ve reached a Zen-like state of Acceptance, I also realise that when I am dealing with people in work and trying to drive through a major change, I need to recognise that people may go through their own version of the Kübler-Ross model. So instead of rushing people along and telling them to ‘get with the program’, I need to recognise and respect people’s need to get through the cycle in order to become supportive of the change project. After all, we are all passengers on the same journey – let’s be courteous to our fellow travellers!

After 8 hrs 45 minutes. I arrived. New record. 3 hours spent stationary on the motorway. But feeling calm, I decide to go celebrate my arrival with a pint of beer in the Ferryman pub on Dublin’s Quays – a great pub.

But it’s Sunday, and I arrived after 11pm, so the pub has just stopped serving beer. I can feel it coming on again – denial – anger – etc. etc.

Here’s to acceptance!

For more information on how Aspira can help your organisation navigate times of change using our project management expertise, contact us here. https://aspira.ie/consulting/

Reflecting on the Ireland Chapter of PMI’s National Conference 2019

Just six months ago, Aspira CEO Pat Lucey suggested I consider applying for the role of Project Manager for the Ireland Chapter PMI’s National Conference for 2019. Though I had little idea of what I was getting into, I successfully applied, and that was the start of one of the most amazing experiences of my life!

A conference of this large scale requires considerable financial resources and, therefore, sponsorship is essential. Thankfully, the Irish Chapter of PMI has a lot of credibility and is an attractive partner for highly reputable companies. Our Sponsorship Officer lined up some outstanding sponsors, with headline sponsor EY supplemented by other highly respected brands such as University of Limerick, Grant Thornton, Musgrave, Aspira, Cork Institute of Technology, Alpha Wealth, Auxilion, Cora Systems and Progressive Financial Services. As the Chapter is a not-for-profit body – it is reliant on the generous support of these organisations to run these major events.

One of the first decisions we faced was choosing a location – the conference had never gone outside of Dublin. Would a new venue work? Would people travel in numbers outside the capital? Once we checked out the wonderful facilities on offer at Fota Island Resort in Cork we were confident it would definitely deliver.

Another early decision that was important was selecting the conference theme which is relevant to the issues of the day. We settled upon ‘From Idea to Reality’ to explore how project management is utilised to deliver projects from conception to completion.

One of the biggest challenges of all was to line up a variety of speakers with diverse expertise and with the appeal to attract delegates in large numbers from all parts of Ireland. We were really privileged to have one of the founders of PMI, Jim Snyder, speak at the conference. His address turned out to be truly inspirational and so appreciated by all the delegates.

For any conference, one of the really vital calls is the choice of keynote speaker. It needs to be someone who is well known, respected in his/her field and has something fresh and interesting to say. This year, we secured high profile TV architect Dermot Bannon, who was simply superb. He was authentic, funny and shared meaningful insights into driving change through creativity and disruptive thinking.

All of the speakers delivered major contributions, from the remarkable and emotional journey of the Irish Hockey team, who went from rank outsiders to the World Cup Final, to the use of blockchain technology to improve the transparency of charitable donation. It’s always good to break up the flow of presentations so we included both an EY-led panel discussion and an interactive workshop from Walter Bradley of Dale Carnegie Ireland.

The special ingredient to complete the mix is the right choice of MC. We were thrilled with the contribution of Barry Murphy of Aprés Match fame who kept the conference moving smoothly along with good natured and, at times, hilarious efficiency. He helped maintain a high energy and positive buzz throughout.

After the excitement of the conference, coming back to work the following Monday was somewhat of an anti-climax. However, my spirits were elevated by the stream of positivity from the delegates. I have received numerous commendations, both verbally and online, all of them much appreciated and a tribute to the entire team. The response of the delegates is the real barometer of the success of a conference – for us it could not have been more positive.

So, what did I learn from the overall experience? Obviously, the application of good Project Management principles was key, from the original concept to the successful conclusion. In working with a team of volunteers, the importance of positive teamwork cannot be over stated. Working together as a team we met every challenge head on and with a positive mindset. I must also confess I was also inspired by the speakers. Seeing so many different individuals perform with confidence and poise drove home the importance of commitment, passion, vision and a strong work ethic – all essential for reaching one’s personal goals.

For anybody interested in taking on a new challenge, pushing outside your comfort zone and working with a great bunch of people, I definitely recommend volunteering with the Irish Chapter of PMI.

Author: Clodagh Geary, Head of Marketing, Aspira

Diploma in Project Management

 

In February, I was invited to give an address and hand out awards at the annual graduation ceremony for the Diploma in Project Management at Cork Institute of Technology.

It was a pleasure to do so, and get the opportunity to meet so many people who put in a huge effort to achieve their qualification. The CIT Diploma is not targeted at undergraduates – it is a part-time course (two days per month, over seven months) and the people on the course are typically working full-time jobs, who are seeking to build up their capabilities and career options, augmenting their existing qualifications with a respected qualification in Project Management.

It is no joke to take on an educational qualification while also holding down a demanding job and balancing domestic responsibilities. It forces people to be organised and efficient in their allocation of time. Maybe it’s why many of these people like to study Project Management – they are a natural fit!

As I looked around the room, it was great to see the level of pride expressed by the family members who accompanied the graduates to honour, recognise and celebrate their achievements. People brought along their children, their parents, their partners, etc.
I know that in order to take time to study over weekends, the daily family responsibilities did not magically disappear – other family members or friends stepped up and helped out. It was heartening to see the graduates give a loud round of applause to all those people in their lives who helped them to successfully complete the Diploma.

Additionally, what struck me was the old African proverb – ‘to go fast go alone, but to go far bring a team’. None of the graduates completed their achievement alone. Every single one of them had the support of their families, colleagues, friends and of one another.

In my role as President of the Ireland Chapter PMI, it is a proverb I need to remember. When working in a voluntary organisation, it can be tempting to do things yourself, in order to achieve the fastest results. However, in order to build up an organisation’s long-term capability, it is important to build a team. A good team will always be far more capable that any one individual — no matter how efficient that individual is.

A huge congratulations to everyone who received their Diploma!

For those who may be interested in this course, the next cohort of the CIT Diploma in Project Management, starting 22nd March 2019, is taking in applications now. For more information, or to apply for the course, visit the course page here: http://bit.ly/2SHJlW6

Author: Pat Lucey, CEO, Aspira

Irish Enterprise IT Company opens office in Amsterdam and announces 30 new jobs

Irish Enterprise IT Company opens office in Amsterdam and announces 30 new jobs

Irish Ambassador to the Netherlands officially opens Aspira’s new European office

14 February 2019: Aspira, the wholly Irish-owned consulting and IT project specialists, today announced the opening of their new mainland Europe Headquarters in Amsterdam and the creation of 30 new high-level jobs. The award-winning company experienced accelerated growth, more than doubling in sales over the past three years, driven by a number of new project wins.

The 30 new jobs, which will be based primarily at the new Amsterdam office with some in Aspira’s Irish offices in Dublin and Cork, will be rolled out over 18 months and will include project management, business analysis, data analysis and software development roles. This office opening is in response to the rapidly expanding client base in Europe and Middle East.

The Irish Ambassador to the Netherlands, His Excellency Kevin Kelly, will officially open Aspira’s new state-of-the-art headquarters in Strawinskylaan, Amsterdam today.

Speaking about the jobs announcement, Aspira-Europe Managing Director Peter Ryan said, “The Netherlands is in the EU Top 3 for IT and project management and demand for these services is expected to grow significantly over the next four years. However, Dutch business leaders have identified that the shortage of good IT professionals represents a major challenge to that growth. Aspira bring deep bench-strength and experience in both IT and project management to the Netherlands and so this announcement of 30 new jobs is very welcome news.”

Aspira Group CEO, Pat Lucey said: “The new roles we are announcing today will strengthen our delivery capability and our management team at a time when we are expanding rapidly to international markets. We forecast overall sales to double again over the next three years, with international sales growing at an even faster pace.”

Aspira was established in 2007 and currently employs over 100 people. Its accelerated growth has seen it named in the Financial Times Top One Thousand Growth Companies in Europe for the past two consecutive years.  Mr Lucey continued, “For twelve years we have consistently provided best-in-class enterprise solutions for our clients, ensuring their delivery on time and on budget. We will continue to offer a world-class service that will address our clients’ growing needs for deep technical knowledge, data analytics and an Agile approach to delivery.”

Aspira caters for a diverse, international client base, including leading players in the IT, financial services, pharma/med devices, healthcare and energy sectors.  Aspira is supported by Enterprise Ireland, the state agency for developing Irish business globally, which has provided the company with international market entry assistance and will work closely with the company to accelerate its position in global markets over the next phase of its growth.

For further information, or to arrange an interview with Peter Ryan or Pat Lucey please contact:

Clodagh Geary, Aspira Marketing Manager

Clodagh.geary@aspira.ie
087 232 7668, 021 235 2550

Guest blog: A sneak peek into choosing an Independent Consultants Life

We invited Niamh Kelly to write this guest opinion piece about her personal experiences as an independent consultant.

A job for life… career stability… security… these mantras are often bandied about as the holy grail of #careergoals. I disagree with all of these largely because they don’t exist. Job security, predictable income, Ts & Cs and the ability to plan far into the future based on holding on to a job is a mirage which is long gone. Teachers, lawyers & the current nurses strike are hard proof examples.

I noticed the trend toward moving away from a Job for Life in the early noughties fresh out of university and jumped on board as an early adopter of skill survival but it has taken many years and a huge recession for the penny to drop for many others. Some unfortunately are still in denial.

The term job-hopping is used in a negative way to describe people who move from company to company. There is a huge problem with subscribing to this mind-set for you, the employee, as you will get stuck, you will operate from fear and you will make decisions based on external opinions instead of listening to your gut and trusting yourself. As an independent consultant, I job-hop for a living although I prefer the term client-hop and once you move past all of this external noise you will find that it is easier to design your life and carve out your career in a way that works for you. This is a day, a week, several months in my life.

When the last recession hit in 2008, by 2009, I experienced my first redundancy, it was devastating but an extremely well disguised gift. There were some huge life lessons I learned quickly and brutally:

1. Life gets in the way and even if you do everything right, the worst can still happen. It’s not you it’s them.

2. Always be prepared financially for the rug to get pulled from under you.

3. Be prepared to mobilise quickly in all types of economies – hone your skills, diversify if necessary and be flexible to change. If you are not flexible you will break like a stubborn tree in a hurricane.

Another redundancy came a few years after that in my favourite company to date with our Dublin HQ closure and that was almost more brutal than the first as I was emotionally invested in the company and my team. The grief was different this time; I mourned what was lost but I was not afraid of surviving the future. I knew I had what it took, I‘d done it before and this time I had even more skills, more experience and higher resilience. I felt secure in knowing that I had cleverly branched out into the technology sector which was thriving and changing the working landscape. Instinctively, I did not put roots down in my next permanent position, I saw an opportunity to expand my skillset even further in Tech Project Management and start-up environments and sought out a way to step outside my comfort zone deliberately. I took on difficult tasks whether I liked them or not as a way to stretch my professional legs. I don’t like spreadsheets but I became highly Excel competent, not a fan of public speaking but workshopped more ideas, improvements and knowledge sharing than I can count and while I’m no Mathematician if you put a € in front of anything I can negotiate, manage and track it to the nearest cent even with a moderately bad hangover. I can plan, strategise and forecast with the best of them although I always liked doing that so it doesn’t count.

As I was outgrowing my last permanent job the feeling of being stuck was gnawing at me but I had now become a little too comfortable and wasn’t feeling under pressure to make any swift decisions. The universe had other plans, it threw up an opportunity for me to buy a very unique and special home which was meant for me, I already owned a property and initially I didn’t think it would be possible. I somehow made it happen within nine days and when I came up for air on day 10, incredulous that I pulled this off, I suddenly realised the scale of financial responsibility I now had to bear which hadn’t even entered my thoughts two weeks previously. This could have been overwhelming but I went along with it.

Several months later, I left the permanent job after being there for a few years, it was time, and I took the leap and branched out as an Independent Consultant and so far it has been a great move for me. I work when I decide or when the right contract lands and I take time to travel in between. I am also a landlord and while I employ a company to manage the property, I often find myself managing them. I am designing my life. In the last two years, I have visited eight countries on four different continents and have three more pencilled in later this year. Consulting gives me flexibility I would not get in a permanent role and I have upskilled with every contract and stretched myself professionally in a way that I was hindered from doing in permanent employment. Best of all, I have increased my income exponentially which allows me the freedom to travel, pick good contracts and live my best life. I rely heavily on my network to connect me with good clients and you have to be prepared to walk in somewhere on day one and instantly take the reins to keep the show on the road. You also need to have the ability to propose frameworks for improvements and change. I have recently coupled up with Aspira through an old network contact of mine who I worked with several years ago. I sent him a speculative email on a sunny afternoon last summer and we met for a coffee within days to chat and see if we could do some business together and now we are. While I remain independent, working with our latest client running a huge internal hardware and software migration for 700 users has been fantastic and I now have the support of the Aspira family behind me to help me with any challenges I may come up against. They are a valuable support system for me and also act as knowledge pool that I can tap into at any time to help me to help our client, it’s a win/win/win.

So what about company loyalty, I hear you wonder, she hasn’t mentioned that at all, isn’t that important? I know that loyalty and longevity are two completely different animals. I still have huge loyalty to the Senior Management teams and Founders of the two companies I mention above. I continue to be friends with and mentored by these individuals, many years on, and I believe that many of us will work together again in the future – lads if you’re reading this you know who you are. I have huge respect and admiration for these people and have learned so much from how they handled the challenges as well as the successes. I have remained longer in other companies where we didn’t quite fit but I had a purpose, I delivered it and moved on. Relationships and positive networking are hugely important if you are taking this path, as the old saying goes, it’s all about who you know – but then to stay doing this and make a good living from it you have to be good at what you do.

Will I remain independent forever? Who knows, but right now I am incrementally maximising my skills & income level and pushing myself to achieve what I envision for myself, in the shortest amount of time – patience has never been my virtue. If I create a good solid design now then I should be able to withstand whatever the economy throws up at me in the future and it’s exciting and comforting for me to know that Aspira are part of this journey.

Author: Niamh Kelly

Scope Change or Scope Creep?

 

I’ve worked as a Project Manager for over 20 years, predominately using the traditional predictive approach, better known as Waterfall. This discipline has five distinct phases: Initiating, Planning, Executing, Controlling and Closing. Each phase is dependent on the previous one being achieved.

The Project Manager is fundamental in leading and guiding the team to achieve successful completion of each phase. This involves detailed planning and scheduling, focusing on dependencies, comprehensive risk assessments and an agreed budget to achieve strategic objectives and goals. The overall scope of the project is agreed prior to the execution phase with key milestones throughout each phase agreed and documented.

The Project Manager is ultimately accountable to deliver on time and within budget. However, there can be many surprises along the way that will impact the timeline, scope or budget and which threaten those key milestones.

The risk of scope change exists for any project and – if not managed properly – can significantly increase the complexity, causing a project to fail or run well over budget. It can happen as a result of poor due diligence during the initiation phase or a change in requirements. Managing the scope is key for any Project Manager – if scope changes are allowed to happen without the PM’s oversight, the project is said to suffer from Scope Creep – uncontrolled change in the project scope.

To avoid Scope Creep, it is crucial to engage and communicate regularly with project stakeholders/sponsors. Having a common understanding of the overall project goal and what business requirement it needs to satisfy should be clearly defined in the project charter. Clearly spelling out what is not in scope can be as important as defining what is in scope.

Typically, scope changes to the overall objectives will impact project time and cost. The Waterfall approach can be quite rigid and usually requires much justification for changes with a lot of resistance to break through. It predominately follows a top-down approach and once the plan is final, it is final!

Instead, an Agile approach is intended to embrace uncertainty in the project scope, and allows the project team to take a bite-by-bite approach to delivering the project, instead of needing to devour the whole thing in one bite.

Author: Orla Commerford, Project Manager, Aspira.

Influence without Authority – how to ensure co-operation for a successful project delivery

The Holy Grail for project managers is trying to get all the work done on time and within budget. However project managers encounter many challenges in the pursuit of successful completion of these objectives. Among the challenges is the strong possibility of working with stakeholders who you may have no formal authority over, but the project success hinges on their cooperation with you. In any attempt to influence key stakeholders, you need four key influencing skills:
1. Assume all are potential allies. You need to believe that the uncooperative will cooperate. If you think negative thoughts about your target, even if you don’t verbalize it, the target will sense these negative thoughts and will then shut down and close off to any influence attempts. Remember you need to suspend judgement and ask questions that do not assume negative motives.

2. Diagnose the world of the other person. If you are unclear about what matters to an important person or group, are puzzled by their resistance and assuming the worst about their motives, you may need to analyse their world carefully. Gather intelligence on people’s hot buttons, taboos and values in order to identify hooks to get on their wavelength.

3. Identify relevant currencies – in other words, what matters to them. One of the best ways to learn about a person’s currencies is to listen closely to their language. When you are tuned in, you will be amazed at how often and how repetitively people broadcast their currencies by their choice of metaphors or by the questions they ask.

4. Understand your individual workstyles. All people have a certain workstyle – a way of solving problems, dealing with others and doing their jobs. You need to understand your workstyle as well as theirs and adapt your workstyle to match theirs to increase your influence.

Using these influencing skills will help you to navigate the matrix environment, build relationships with key stakeholders and successfully achieve your objectives.
For more information please click on link: https://aspira.ie/training/

Author: Norma Lynch, Head of Training, Aspira.

Aspira Highlights 2018

Aspira Deloitte Fast 50 Award

Aspira Deloitte Fast 50 Award

It has been an amazing year for the Aspira team. As 2018 draws to a close, we’ve reflected on some of our favourite moments. Here are some of our top highlights from 2018…

Amsterdam Office Opens

Aspira has opened its mainland European office in Amsterdam. We are excited to bring our unique brand of client centric consultancy to the Netherlands. We look forward to expanding our team in the Netherlands in the New Year, under the leadership of Peter Ryan.

New Training Courses

This year we introduced our Leadership without Authority training course, aimed at providing teams with the skills they need to lead and deliver successful projects. It has been very successful so far, with a number of organisations booking this course as part of our bespoke Aspira training for 2019. If you are looking to plan your teams’ training for 2019, contact us at training@aspira.ie

Sponsorship and CSR

Once again, Aspira continued our sponsorship of Cork City Football Club through the year. We also chose to further support business development in Ireland by sponsoring a number of awards including Private Sector Project of the Year at the National Project Awards, Top Innovator at the Docklands Business Forum Awards and Multinational of the Year category at the IT@Cork Leaders Awards. We also provided over ten thousand euros to good causes, such as Brighter Communities Worldwide, Simon, Irish Cancer Society and Down Syndrome Charities in Ireland. The funding was supplemented by efforts from our team in running the marathon as a relay team and through our BCW software project.

New Team Members

Our team has expanded significantly this year. We are delighted to welcome no board a number of new team members who will drive the company forward including Jim Blair, who is our new Director of Software Development, Jason Boyle who is providing guidance on our IT direction, Paula Good in Finance and Vikas Sahni who has joined the team as Head of Emerging Technologies. We look forward to further growing the team in 2019 and there are a number of positions currently available. If you are interested in joining Aspira, please contact careers@aspira.ie

Working Internationally

This year, we’ve been working extensively with our clients overseas. We’ve been delivering consultancy and training to organisations in Abu Dhabi, Miami, Amsterdam and more. We work with leading companies across a variety of industries including energy/utilities, IT & software, pharmaceutical, med tech, manufacturing, finance and professional services.

Awards

We are delighted to announce that Aspira was a winner in the Deloitte Fast 50 for the fifth year in a row. This placement showcases our five years of significant continued growth. This was topped by appearing in the Financial Times Top Thousand companies in Europe. We were also very proud to be shortlisted in the National Project awards in the corporate good category for our work with Brighter Communities Worldwide.

Expertise

Lastly our CEO, Pat Lucey, had the honour of holding the title of President of the Ireland Chapter of PMI this year, and receiving an award for excellence from the PMI central body in recognition of the Chapter’s achievements. Pat will continue his presidency in 2019, working with the committee to further develop and drive excellence in the project management discipline in Ireland.

The team at Aspira would like to wish our clients, colleagues and friends a very happy Christmas and a peaceful New Year.