Getting the Fundamentals of Project Management Right

Getting the Fundamentals of Project Management Right

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

 People 

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

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

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

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

Processes

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

Technology 

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

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

Unlocking Digital Transformation: 4 Keys to Success

Unlocking Digital Transformation: 4 Keys to Success

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Author: Peter Ryan, MD Europe at Aspira

Social media in changing times

 

Social media in changing times

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

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

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

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

Go Live

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

Engage in real time

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

Spend time listening

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

Take the time to build trust

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

Keep your audience updated

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

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

Under the hood of Azure Monitor costs

Under the hood of Azure Monitor costs

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

Author: Jason Boyle, Operations Director, Aspira

My experience on the Entrepreneur of the Year program        

EY Entrepreneur of the Year - 2020 Finalist Aspira

My experience on the Entrepreneur of the Year program       

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

Becoming a finalist

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

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

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

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

The Video Shoot

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

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

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

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

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

The Awards Night

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

Author: Pat Lucey, Aspira CEO

Digital Transformation – it’s all about People

Digital Transformation – it’s all about People - Aspira

Digital Transformation – it’s all about People

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

People need to comprehend what is meant by Digital Transformation

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

People need to change & commit

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

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

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

People need to ‘lose’ Control

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

 

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

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

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

Author: Peter Ryan, MD Aspira Europe

 

How to Protect your Mental Health while Working from Home

How to protect your mental health while working from home

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Author: Ciara Murphy, Technical Recruiter, Aspira

Aspira announces opening of two overseas offices

Irish company Aspira opens two overseas offices as it announces 30 high-level jobs

10 November 2020: Aspira, the Irish-owned consulting and technology specialists, today announced the opening of its Asia-Pacific regional headquarters in Malaysia and the expansion of its mainland European operations with the opening of its second office in The Netherlands. The company also announced the creation of 30 new high-level jobs. The new offices are being opened in response to increased growth in Asia-Pacific and the Benelux region, with Aspira prioritising having an on-the-ground presence to further build local relationships.

 

Commenting on the planned expansion, Aspira Group CEO, Pat Lucey said: “As businesses transform to cope with the pandemic, we are helping our clients to not just survive but to thrive through technology. We have seen a three-fold increase in demand for digital transformation services as companies enhance their e-commerce capabilities and supply chain networks as a direct result of the impact of Covid-19.

 

We can no longer jump on a long-haul flight to work alongside our global clients, so we are augmenting our ability to support clients remotely by having a physical presence in diverse parts of the world. To build these relationships and maximise our support to clients, we need to be on the ground in addition to meeting them virtually.”

 

The award-winning company has experienced accelerated growth, on average doubling in size every three years, driven by a number of new project wins. Aspira CEO and co-founder, Pat Lucey has been selected as a finalist in the EY Entrepreneur of the year International category for 2020. The 30 new jobs will be based primarily at the new office in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia with 12 positions in Aspira’s Dutch offices in Amsterdam and The Hague. The roles will be rolled out over the next 15 months and will include project management, software development and e-commerce systems positions.

 

Mr Lucey added: “We forecast overall sales to double again over the next three years, with international sales growing at an even faster pace. 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.”

 

The company opened its mainland Europe headquarters in Amsterdam in February 2019. The new Dutch office will be situated in the heart of The Hague business district at The World Trade Centre.

 

Speaking about the announcement, Aspira Managing Director Europe Peter Ryan said, “Aspira has always been on the leading edge of technology, enabling digital transformation and helping large scale businesses to unleash the power of ecommerce technology solutions. There has been a really positive response by companies in The Netherlands to our unique blend of technology and consulting services. To meet this increased demand, we are excited to grow our Dutch team, who will be based primarily here in our new office in The Hague.”

 

Aileen Cussen, Senior Development Advisor, Enterprise Ireland commented: “Enterprise Ireland has been working with Aspira since it was a start-up over ten years ago, supporting the company’s ambitious growth plans. Today’s announcement is a major milestone for Aspira’s international expansion, and we have supported this ambition though market development plans for these territories. By identifying key markets with a growing demand for Aspira’s combined service offering, the company is well positioned to accelerate its position in global markets over the next phase of its growth and Enterprise Ireland in Ireland, Malaysia and the Netherlands will be supporting Aspira along this journey.”

How to Protect Your Digital Identity

How to Protect Your Digital Identity

My PayPal account is disabled, my Amazon account is suspended, there has been suspicious activity on my IP address so my router will be barred… I am either flat broke (and I know I’m not) and can’t pay my bills or there is a problem with the provider, so I must click on this link to see what I need to do to sort it out…

Within the last 10 days I did get each one of these notices, 2 were emails and 1 was actually a phone call to my unlisted landline!  (yes, I still have a landline).

What is a fact is that each one of these was a phishing scam.  Now, I have worked in IT for almost 30 years so you would expect I would be sceptical and wise to these attempts, and I am, but there are many people who are not;  like my 70+ year old next door neighbour that calls me every-time she gets a phishing email and is visibly upset thinking something is actually wrong.

With COVID-19 and a large part of the population working from home, isolation, reliance on home broadband (as opposed to the it being the IT departments problem) and a general sense of nervousness means a lot of people are more open to falling for these scams.  These criminals are psychological experts at placing doubt in your mind, so don’t let them!

But then again, I have anti-virus, a firewall and encryption so I am OK.  Wrong again!  In our now totally connected world, while all of these security measures do offer a level of protection, they are not a silver bullet – a panacea for all security needs.

The fact is quite a lot of security breaches are as a result of an issue between the keyboard and the back of your chair…..  that is You!  Your digital identity is what these criminals ultimately want.  And they will have ingenious ways to try to get it.  However, you can take some basic and simple steps to secure your identity, these include:

  1. Be vigilant. No provider of a service ever asks you to verify anything by email.  You can do two things to set your mind at ease when you receive a phishing mail.  The first is look closely at the sender address to see if it is genuine.  For example, double click it (depending on your mail client) and you might see something like amazonsupport@yahoo.com – you can be pretty sure Amazon don’t use yahoo mail.  Otherwise you could telephone them, or login to your account (not by clicking the mail link you were sent, but by accessing it how you normally would) and verify everything is OK.
  2. Whatever system you are using, Google, Office 365 etc – all of these providers offer “Multi-Factor Authentication”. This is where, in addition to your password, you are required to verify your login with a pin code or automated call to your mobile.  If you have not enabled this service, do it!  This means if a criminal does get your password, they still cannot access your system – as they don’t have your phone.
  3. In addition to Anti-Virus on your device, install specialised anti-malware. Anti-malware service providers provide real-time protection scanning thousands of websites looking for malicious activity, so if you click on a link that may be taking you to a site that could damage or encrypt (with crypto-virus) your machine you will be prevented by the anti-malware.
  4. If you get an email from a colleague looking for account information, a banking transfer etc – unless you expect the mail, don’t do it! Call that person and verify the request.
  5. If you get a phone call asking for information, hang-up and call the provider on their listed number for support. Never give information to someone on the basis of an unsolicited call.
  6. Finally, make sure you have a backup of your data. Google Cloud, OneDrive, whatever is your preference, set it up and set it running.

These are basic steps; they should seem obvious and I hope for most reading this they are.  But for the non-techies out there that do get “hacked” every day, these simple steps should help prevent it happening to you!

Author:  Jason Boyle, Operations Director, Aspira.

AGE IS JUST A NUMBER!

AGE IS JUST A NUMBER!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For all your training needs please contact Aspira.

Author: Noreen Quinn, HR Business Partner, Aspira.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Consider the merits of a hybrid approach

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

Key points to keep in mind…

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

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

For all your Agile needs, please contact Aspira.

Author: Thomas McGrath, Advisory & Resourcing, Aspira.

Starting a new job in times of Covid-19

Starting a new job in times of Covid-19

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

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

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

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

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

Have a space

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

Start a routine

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

 Ask for support

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

Take the time to connect with your colleagues

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

Enjoy the process

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

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

Check out all our open roles here.

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