Ireland Chapter of Project Management Institute appoints new President

 

 

01 December 2017: The Ireland Chapter of Project Management Institute (PMI) has appointed Pat Lucey as President at the association’s Annual General Meeting last night (Thursday).

 

The Cork-based businessman succeeds out-going Ireland Chapter of PMI President, Niall Murphy, in the two-year voluntary role.

 

Pat has been on the Board of the Chapter since 2011, with responsibility for membership and sponsorship. CEO of consulting and enterprise IT services company, Aspira, Pat has more than 20 years’ experience in managing large-scale enterprise projects. He has also provided project management consultancy internationally to Fortune 500 companies and public bodies.

 

Speaking about his new role, Pat said: “I am honoured to be elected President of the Ireland Chapter of PMI. Thank you to Niall for his commitment and dedication to the Chapter over recent years. He has built a strong foundation that has seen our membership grow by 26% in the past 12 months. I now hope to build upon his legacy.

 

“We are also lucky to have a group of committed volunteers, without whom the Chapter would simply not exist. I look forward to working with them, and our new Board, to further strengthen project management within Ireland.

 

“There is no doubt that the role of project management will inevitably become more valuable in the coming years, ensuring the effective management and delivery of new projects coming into Ireland as a result of Brexit. The Chapter knows the importance of supporting these professionals in the times ahead. We are always focused on development opportunities and industry insight.”

 

New Principal Officers also appointed at the AGM include Jackie Glynn as Vice President and Clive Carroll as Membership Officer.

 

There are currently over 50,000 employed in project management across Ireland, in sectors such as IT, public sector, construction, pharmaceuticals, professional services, financial services and manufacturing.

 

For more information on the Ireland Chapter of Project Management Institute see www.pmi-ireland.org.

What is GDPR?

 

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into force on the 25th May 2018. It is now vital that businesses review how they handle and manage personal data that they collect.

What is GDPR?

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) outlines the rights and responsibilities that a business has when collecting, using and protecting personal data. For any business that collects personal data it puts focus on the need for transparency, security and accountability by data controllers. The regulation also gives more power to an EU citizen by:

  • Providing a “right to be forgotten”.
  • Allowing easier access to any data of theirs a business may have.
  • Requiring explicit permission whenever the business processes their data.
  • Requiring a business to inform them of any data breach within 24 hours.

The recommendation is to take a “Privacy by Design” and “Privacy by Default” approach to data to reduce potential problems with this regulation in the future.

Privacy by Design

This term is used to describe an approach to designing a system that takes privacy into account at every point of the process. It is not about protecting the data as much as it is about designing the system in such a way that the data doesn’t need protection.

Privacy by Default

This term is used to describe the idea of using the strictest privacy settings by default for a user. This will be more noticeable in areas such as social media and marketing email lists, where a business is storing or publishing additional data that is not needed to sign up to the service.

How Does this Impact your Business?

Preparing your Business

The first step is to review their data for any Personal Identifiable Information (PII) they may be storing.

Personal Identifiable Information

This term refers to data that could be used to identify, locate or contact an EU citizen. This can range from date and place of birth to financial or medical information.

It is vital that a business takes inventory of any PII within their business. This review should take into account questions such as:

  • How did you obtain the data?
  • Was the user notified that this data would be stored?
  • Is there any clearly defined reason for this data to still be stored?
  • How long do you plan to store the data?
  • Is there a retention policy on this data to ensure it removed when the retention period expires?
  • Who has access to the data?
  • Do third parties outside your business have access to this data?

Reviewing these questions with a GDPR consultant will give you an overview of the issues to be resolved.

Planning for the Future

Your business may need to have tighter controls on some data in order to avoid potential data protection issues going forward. These may include:

  • Appointing a data protection officer
  • Setting out clear processes for accessing personal data
  • Strict policies for deleting, sharing and transferring data
  • A process in place to handle data breaches

It is vital that these processes and policies are clearly defined from the outset.

Managing GDPR Going Forward

Monitoring and reporting will be integral to dealing with these changes within your business. For companies currently using SharePoint and reporting tools such as Power BI or SQL Server Reporting Services, these can be leveraged to provide your business with:

  • Effective tracking and reporting of data breaches
  • Approval workflows to manage data access requests
  • Team sites to store documentation on data policies

Microsoft have provided an Activity Hub as a starting point for this here. Consulting with a SharePoint architect who is well versed in GDPR can provide additional changes to better fit your companies needs.

GDPR is a big change for any business dealing with personal data. It is vital that you take a proactive approach to dealing with it. Investing time and effort now into the processes and policies you implement will ensure they are robust and maintainable going forward.

Author: Ian Jones, Software Developer, Aspira

 

What can an internship at Aspira teach you?

 

Tadhg Downey had heard great things about Aspira before starting his internship, but never could have imagined just how nurturing an environment it would prove to be.

What are you studying in college?

I’m studying Computer Science in University College Cork. It’s a four year course, with work placement taking place in third year.

What drew you to Aspira when you were seeking an internship?

I had heard of Aspira through the UCC careers service, and after researching about them online I thought it would be a fantastic place to work. They have a history of hiring UCC students for graduate and intern positions, and I saw that they had some really interesting clients, so it was a no brainer really!

What expectations did you have before you began your internship?

I had heard from past Interns that at Aspira, you’re given a lot of responsibilities right from the beginning of your placement. A lot is expected from you, in terms of being an active employee and engaging with your co-workers. Aspira has a friendly and social environment that I was really excited to be a part of. I was also excited to put my skills to the test and see how well equipped I was to work in the industry.

What duties and responsibilities were you given initially?

I was given immense responsibility right off the bat, which I thought was fantastic. I was given charge of a project which involved finishing the development of a Web Application by myself. At first, it seemed like an incredibly daunting task, but my Manager Mary and all of my co-workers were always there in support if I ever had a question. The project involved eliciting requirements from the Client, and working with a programming language I had never used before. However, I never felt like I was in over my head with such a supportive group behind me!

 Did the scope of your work change as the internship progressed?

As my internship went on, I had the opportunity to work on several other development projects, along with other areas of Aspira also. I got to work in teams with many different employees, attending meetings and tackling problems in a fast paced environment. I also got to work off site, working directly with clients in a business analysis role for a time!

Can you describe a typical day in your role?

Typically, the day would begin by emptying the dishwasher if it was your turn and putting on a pot of coffee! After greeting everyone in the office, I would settle down to work on whatever project I was currently tasked with. During the first few weeks while working on the Web Application, I would have daily meetings with my Manager, discussing what I had completed, what I was currently working on, and whatever issues I was encountering or foresaw. I would also be in contact with the Client, tailoring the application to their needs and working on any issues or bugs that had arisen.

What key things have you learned during this internship?

Good communication skills from speaking with clients and managers, along with enhancing my development skills, and realising that there is something new to be learned every day.

Has this internship made you feel as though you’re on the right career path?

Certainly! I found the work incredibly fulfilling. Finishing a project always brought immense pride and camaraderie. At times during my studies, I had doubts if I was pursuing the right career, but after working at Aspira I’m positive I chose the right path.

Do you feel more prepared for working life following your internship? 

Absolutely. From knowing what will be expected of me, to knowing simple skills like teamwork and communication, and even having a proper work-life balance. I feel like I now have my head screwed on and I’m going into Industry prepared next year.

Why should someone take up an internship at this company?

Aspira is a fantastic place to intern at because you’ll learn an immense amount, all the while being in a friendly and social environment. They give you plenty of responsibilities, and match it with great support. I’m very grateful to have had the opportunity to spend 6 months there and to have learned so much.

Author: Tadhg Downey, UCC.

StrICTly Shake IT up

All too often we get caught in the rut of repetition, cocooned within our comfort zone.  Thanks to my company Aspira’s adventurous spirit I am often encouraged to try new things and expand that zone of comfort.  Usually this relates to me taking on new technical IT challenge or business venture, but last week it was a little different – it was to dance the Tango, in front of an audience of six hundred people with a partner I had not met before!

My comfort zone was a rapidly disappearing spec in my rear-view mirror.

Now that I have survived the experience, I can see so many parallels between my attempt to emulate Michael Flatley and the approach to taking on a new technical challenge.

Susan, my new dance partner, was full of enthusiasm to burn up the dancefloor, so I would have to up my game to meet her performance standards.  The dance we were assigned was a Tango to the Eurythmics’ number Sweet Dreams and we would have just five weeks to learn the dance and perfect the moves.

While I am naturally a “can do” person, I have to admit that when it came to dancing,  I had many moments of ‘what if I can’t?’   The thought of letting my new dance partner down (in every sense of the word) and delivering a substandard performance filled me with dread and made me consider dropping out – I had to make a conscious effort to banish negative thoughts because sometimes imagination can be one’s worst enemy.   I drew inspiration from a great book by Susan Jeffers, Feel the Fear & Do It Anyway, so – I took a great big gulp and committed.

In any new project team, we go through the phases of forming, then storming – where each person establish their ‘territory’ before settling into the norming stage where the ground rules are established.  Then the team gets to performing.  This whole process can take days or years, depending on the makeup of the team and the personalities involved.  For our Tango project, with a five week deadline, we needed to get through the storming phase quickly!  This meant we needed to swiftly come to terms with the initial awkwardness of grappling with a stranger and instead learn how to operate together and complement each other’s strengths.

By the end of week three, our communication had improved – we were comfortable being direct with each other and challenging each other.  We started to see results as our moves came together and so our confidence improved, giving us enough courage to tailor some moves to improve them, or replace them with moves that we thought were a little more complex or artistic.

In my working world, this is where scope creep can become a problem, when there are uncontrolled changes to the project scope of work, so you could end up delivering something that is different to what was requested!  To avoid this, you need to recognise when there are changes to scope and ensure they are approved in advance.   For our Tango project, we made sure to avoid scope creep by checking in with our expert advisors all the time to approve that any changes we made were legitimate Tango moves.  We kept checking in with each other and leveraged  our supporting team of experts throughout the process.

Then, like many ICT projects, we had to deal with unforeseen risks!  The ex-Hurricane Ophelia struck, meaning our training schedule was condensed even more.  I did not get much sympathy from colleagues who had lost their electricity when I moaned how to storm had interrupted my dance practice.  To recover from this setback, we put in some extra unscheduled effort and continued practising right up to the show.

When the event night itself arrived, we were all set for the project to go live!   We knew we had put the preparation in, so we felt confident we could give it our all, though there was always a chance of a – literal – slip up.  Thankfully there were no mis-steps during the performance, Susan was fantastic,  and we somehow managed to achieve a 10 out of 10 from each of the four judges.  Relief!  The feedback was fantastic and surpassed our wildest hopes.

After the excitement settled I had time to reflect.  When I embarked upon this project my initial fear was would I be able to  learn the new skill – the dance moves.  In fact, like many projects, the technical skills were not really the obstacle – the single biggest factor to our success was being able to work effectively together – which we achieved through clear, honest communication and agreed focus on a common goal.

The next time Aspira presents me with a technical challenge that will push me outside my comfort zone, I will keep those lessons in mind, and hopefully tap-dance my way to success!

Author: Bobby Murphy, Director IT Services, Aspira.

‘Coasts full of jobs, seas full of fish’ – Navigating the challenges of Stakeholder Management


 

The single thing that makes a project complex is when it involves stakeholders with conflicting requirements.   Project Managers can struggle to understand everyone’s requirements and then navigate a course through those requirements to deliver satisfied stakeholders.

For Aspira’s September (Thursday 21st)  Lunch & Learn offering, we are delighted to welcome Dr. Susan Steele, Chair and CEO of the Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA).   “The marine is a shared resource.” says Dr. Steele, “The SFPA act as guardians to make sure that it is protected and fairly shared. Our vision is ‘coasts full of jobs and seas full of fish’.

A passionate communicator and multi-tasker beyond compare, learn how Dr. Steele approaches the challenge of dealing with different stakeholder requirements, finding a way to make those requirements align, with the goal of achieving a win/win for the stakeholders and for the project.

Susan holds an MBA, MED as well as a PhD. She has seven children. She is an avid sea swimmer, swimming every day in the sea. She is also a runner having completed over 70 marathons, ultramarathons up to 200km in length and ironmen distance triathlons. Susan holds a private pilot’s license. To register, please complete the form below.

Lunch & Learn Registration

 

Top 10 traits I most admire in a Manager

 

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

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

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

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

Author: Mary Dwyer, Operations Manager, Aspira.

Aspira – Building Bridges in Dublin Docklands

 

 

Aspira’s new Dublin office is open a little over a year now & has seen significant changes in that short period. Here at the heart of Silicon Docks building developments mushroom overnight, new neighbours are arriving & exciting infrastructural plans are afoot. The return of the cranes to the Liffey skyline, and the general increased buzz around the Quays has really confirmed our decision to locate our Dublin HQ in what was a much quieter area only 2 years ago.

While the resulting noise and construction traffic can sometimes be a challenge, our staff are understanding – after all, engendering change and progress is often what Aspira provides to our consultancy clients.

On our doorstep is the flagship development, Capital Dock http://capitaldock.ie/ which will bring over 2,000 new jobs to the area but that is only part of a bigger story.

The IDA & Enterprise Ireland continue to drive inward investment & opportunities while Dublin Chamber is playing its part with the ‘Great Dublin Survey’ http://www.greatdublinsurvey.ie/  which is looking as far forward as 2050 and Dublin Docklands Forum also has ambitious plans for a vibrant community well into the future http://docklandsbusinessforum.ie/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Proposal-for-the-Grand-Canal-Basin-and-Plot-8.pdf

Now ranked in the top 10 European cities for their startup eco-system, Dublin Docklands provides the perfect springboard for reaching a European Market and with Brexit uncertainty continuing without resolution, candidates are now choosing to make the jump from the UK to a Dublin base. This has been of great benefit to our HR & Resourcing Team, as we continually strive to source and place new consultants on our own projects or on clients sites. Many of our clients are located within 2 miles of our Office, Matheson, EirGrid, RTB, Central Bank, AIB, Dublin City Council and the Department of Public Expenditure to name a few. It’s a great advantage to have our consultants close to the Office to ensure a great sense of belonging to the Consulting & Resourcing Divisions.

The new plans to build additional footbridges to connect the North & South Quays, and also Ringsend open up new possibilities for easier access to our clients, or the host of new social venues that are springing up all over Docklands. The advantage of our location, close to Hannover Quay will be further enhanced by a quick stroll over the new bridge to the Point Village in the future. We hope that the new bridges prove to be a symbolic reference to Aspira building up our local client base and continue the growth of all of our service lines into 2018.

Author:  Philip McGillycuddy, BDM, ASPIRA

 

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

Aspira customises Microsoft Dynamics applications for Laya Healthcare

 

Laya healthcare is the second largest provider of private health insurance in Ireland with over half a million members, offering some of the most innovative benefits in the Irish health insurance market along with life insurance (Layalife.ie), travel insurance (Layatravelinsurance.ie), and Thrive health and wellness provided by Ireland’s largest wellness team.

 

Challenge

The challenge faced by Laya healthcare was to source a CRM system that could best support its efforts to not only manage and service existing members; but to identify new opportunities and also deliver robust reporting capabilities.

 

As Laya healthcare evolved from providing much more than health insurance solutions, its previous system could not cater for its fast-changing needs. The insurer was becoming the leading health and wellness provider in Ireland; supporting its corporate clients in achieving their wellbeing goals.

 

The company’s previous system wasn’t built to cater for its fast-growing needs, and Laya healthcare saw its teams develop their own solutions to manage new requirements. The insurer quickly identified this and sought to find a new CRM system to ensure its members continued to experience an uninterrupted, great level of service.

 

Solution

Aspira customized, designed, and developed Microsoft Dynamics CRM for the rollout of the Health and Wellness project and the Quotations system for Laya healthcare. This solution involved the customization of Microsoft Dynamics including entitlements, forms and reports and custom designed .NET workflows and plugins.

 

Thrive Health and Wellness

 

Thrive Health & Wellness by Laya healthcare provides tailor made, evidence based health & wellness programmes which are personalised and measurable for individual workforces. Laya healthcare’s connected health approach is unique compared to competitor offerings in that it utilises data to map the best possible programmes for members and it is delivered by Ireland’s largest team of clinical professionals.

 

To support, Laya healthcare’s fast-changing needs, Aspira customized a form on Microsoft Dynamics CRM for the Business Developer Manager to import and export information on the clients screening to their profiles on the Microsoft Dynamics CRM site. This functionality makes life easier for the Business Developer Manager to add this information to the system and keep a track on the health check history of their clients.

 

Quotations System

 

Before the Microsoft Dynamics quotations system was implemented, the Laya healthcare team were manually using excel sheets to provide information to their clients. These processes weren’t talking to each other or providing client contact history.

 

To ensure processes were talking to each other, a customized data feed of all the clients on CRM was introduced and ran separately to CRM on a scheduled task that outputted the results of all the account details and claim details of each member on CRM. The system provided the user with a screen to select different healthcare providers, plans and costs of the available plans that was on the market by Laya healthcare and other competitors. This tool gave the Business Developer Manager a comprehensive view of what kind of plans were already on the market for their members and to help them acquire potential new members.

 

Therese Condon’s (Corporate Development Manager at Laya) testimonial:

 

The support we have received from Aspira’s CRM consultant on our digital transformation of Microsoft Dynamics CRM has been exceptional. Throughout the entire process, Aspira supported Laya healthcare in evaluating our needs, identifying the scope and requirements for our team while also identifying the impact any changes would have on our members – who are at the heart of all our decisions here in Laya healthcare.

 

The importance of having an expert local partner who has comprehensive knowledge of the capabilities, functionality and configuration experience of Microsoft Dynamics CRM, was critical in the success of this project.

 

Authors: Anita Fitzgerald, PMO and Damien Kearns, Senior Consultant, ASPIRA.

10 reasons employees should bring their dogs to work

10 reasons employees should bring their dogs to work

Dogs are everyone’s best friend. Our four-legged friends work alongside us every day, but it seems this is forgotten. Police dogs catch criminals while service dogs assist their owners to live independently. Dogs have many roles working alongside their humans. But, the most important job of all, dogs are companions, best friends and family members. They make people’s lives better with their unconditional love. You can celebrate that on Take Your Dog To Work Day on June 23.

In a modern world, with many hours spent at work, dogs get left at home while employees earn a living. Pet Sitters International started Take Your Dog To Work Day in 1996 to encourage employers to allow dogs at work.

 

Here are 10 ways dogs make the perfect resource partners.

Boosts employee morale

Dogs are dependable, reliable, optimistic and have an unquestioning willingness to do what you ask. They alert staff to problems and are always happy to see you. Dogs in the workplace improves staff productivity because their best friend by their side.

Increases teamwork

Dogs invite interaction and help form strong bonds among staff. They are great for breaking the ice. People are more likely to talk to each other when someone has a dog. Employees can find common ground over dogs. This can cut down office gossip because they are too busy discussing dog stories.

Promotes good health

The added bonus of dogs in the workplace is that it forces employees to take breaks. Staff have to walk them for a good 10-minutes a few times a day. This promotes a healthy work life balance during the day.

More employee flexibility

Many people cannot wait to leave work to get home to their pooch. Their pet has been locked up, alone all day and need their human’s time at the end of the day. Dogs are part of employees’ families, so allowing them in the workplace removes the need for staff to rush off. Employees will be more flexible with their time if their best friend is by their side rather than waiting for them to get home. What a great way to increase productivity.

Financial benefits

Bringing their dogs to work has huge financial benefits for employees and costs the company very little. No longer will employees have to pay for dog walking services or doggy day care if their dog is at work every day.

Attract the best people

People think of their dogs as part of the family.  Potential employees may prefer a company that allows dogs at work over a company with a no dog policy.

Improve the company image

Dogs in the workplace improve a company’s image. Clients will see the company as forward-thinking and progressive. Being able to interact with pets when they visit, will boost your clients’ sense of wellbeing. It helps them relax and enjoying visiting your workplace.

Relieves stress

Dogs are natural stress relievers. They are sensitive to your needs. When you need to blow off steam, they are ready to play. They will snuggle close when you feel down and need a quiet moment. A dog friendly workplace relieves employee stress and encourages harmony, which, in turn, increases productivity each day.

Reduce staff turnover

Staff turnover is a huge problem for employers. It costs time and money to get new hires up to speed. Workplaces with a ‘bring your dog to work’ policy encourages people to stay rather than risk not being able to bring their dog to work somewhere else. This is a great perk to keep staff loyal to organisations.

Pets reduce employee sick days

Dog owners do not want to leave their pets at home while they go to work. Employees can call in sick or leave work early to attend to their pet’s needs. Allowing pets in the workplace eliminates this problem.

At Aspira we understand the problems of resourcing your projects. We can help boost your business to achieve your vision. Contact Aspira to found out how – www.aspira.ie.

 

A Problem Shared Is A Problem Halved?

 

We’ve all heard the saying ‘A Problem Shared Is a Problem Halved’, but when it comes to Project Management is this really the case?

 

As a Project Manager, and a Mentor to other Project Managers, I often jokingly remark that my job can be that of a ‘PM Counsellor’. I meet with my clients for an hour at a time and, swapping a reclining couch for a Gantt Chart or Risk Log, discuss their most recent project woes, challenges and achievements. More often than not, whilst working together in this manner, we unearth potential solutions where there may initially have appeared to be none.

 

Over time, working with clients of varying levels of seniority and experience across many different industries, one observation has cropped up again and again. Sometimes simply the exercise of articulating a problem to an impartial third party can be just what is needed to gain perspective on a particular situation or challenge. In my own experience I’ve found that by providing a non-judgemental, supportive environment to the Project Managers I meet, they often answer their own questions in the process. Having neutral, unbiased support where there’s no judgement on the proverbial ‘stupid question’ can make it a lot easier to come to a satisfactory solution to the challenges that face every project.

 

When I reflect on my own career progression as a Project Manager I realise now that I may not always have leveraged the vast wealth of knowledge and experience of the people around me. There were occasions when I could have found a simple answer to a question, if only I had just asked someone on my team who I trust. So for those of you who are new to Project Management, or more experienced people who maybe too slow to ask for help, here are some tips to help you on your way:

 

  • Use your Team! Delivering a project is a collaborative effort and your project team are in it with you. Each member of the project team will have different areas of expertise and experience so don’t underestimate the knowledge which is readily available to you.
  • Talk to other Project Managers in your organisation – chances are they’ve faced similar challenges before and have the scars to prove it. I’ve yet to meet a PM who doesn’t love to be the Superman or Wonder Woman of project management solutions, and they will be happy to share their experiences.
  • Find someone independent to your project that you trust to give an unbiased opinion. When faced with a difficult decision, maybe treat them to a coffee and talk through the challenge with them. Often you’ll know what the best course of action might be, but saying it out loud, could be just what you need to gain a better perspective on the situation.
  • Get a Mentor – in addition to giving advice based on their own experience, a mentor will help you develop your strengths as a Project Manager and can introduce you to a network of people who may help your career progression in general.
  • Join a Project Management Community – forums like the PMI Chapter in your area or the various Online Groups that sites like LinkedIn provide, are excellent opportunities to meet your peers in both social and professional environments.

 

As the now iconic British Telecom ads of the early 1990s endorsed, “It’s good to talk”. Make this your motto as you navigate your career in Project Management.

For more information on Aspira’s Project Management Mentoring & Coaching Services please contact info@aspira.ie

 

Author:  Emma Daly, Project Services Director, Aspira.

Land Speed Record – How to Survive

The official land-speeds record (measured over a mile) is 1,227.985km/h or 763.35mi/h. The record was set by Andy Green in ThrustSSC (a turbofan jet powered car) on the 15th of October 1997, in the Black Rock Desert, Nevada USA.

When taking on a challenge like breaking the land speed record there are many key considerations; firstly and most importantly the drivers safety. Secondly developing a vehicle that has the ability to move fast enough to break the land speed record.

To make a successful attempt at breaking the record it is vital that there are clearly defined requirements gathered. The requirements include all the considerations for a successful attempt at the record. The requirements are broken down into functional and non-functional. Functional requirements should be gathered by subject matter experts to ensure the requirements gathered are accurate. High-level functional requirements when trying to achieve the land speed record in a motor propelled vehicle include; an engine powerful enough to beat the current land speed record, the vehicle must be aerodynamic to reduce drag (drag is friction caused by air), also required is a functional and practical cockpit to aid the driver in pursuit of the record and most importantly a vehicle that is safe for the driver.

Once the requirements are successfully gathered a plan can be initiated to roll out the development of the vehicle. The plan will include a testing phase and although each phase of the project serves a purpose, the testing phase is crucial to ensure the original requirements have been met. The test plan should be derived from the functional specifications (functional and non-functional requirements doc). When testing a vehicle designed to break the land-speed record, the tester is essentially responsible for ensuring the vehicle has hit all the requirements as specified in the functional doc, in other words; the engine has enough power to move the overall weight of the vehicle fast enough to break the record; that the vehicle’s shape will allow air to pass over and around it to reduce drag which will maximize efficiency on the engines power output; And most importantly that the driver is safe and that disaster recovery procedures are in place and more importantly they work.

Before an official land speed record attempt can take place, the test manager must ensure all the planned test cases have passed. Any failed tests must be addressed, resolved and retested before the testing phase can be signed off. The purpose of testing is to minimise the risk of overall project failure. Risk on projects vary in terms of impact, but when attempting to break the land-speed record the risk can potentially include fatalities. So there is a lot of pressure on the test manager to conduct the appropriate tests to ensure everything is working as it should. At the end of the day when it all boils down to it, it is the driver’s life at stake.

This is only a small taster of the spec of requirements and testing required for such a complex project but it highlights the inseparable relationship between, requirements gathering and testing. For example; if you build a go cart, any rational person would try it on the flat before taking it to St. Patrick’s hill in Cork City to compete in Redbull soapbox race. Although, there is always an exception (Evel Knievel, springs to mind), the risk taker in this case is the driver who has the burning desire or in this case a “Need for Speed”. Don’t get me wrong, we need risk takers. In business risk takers are generally the entrepreneurs and are crucial for economic development, for innovation and social/ cultural development, unfortunately that’s a topic for another day. So, I will close by saying; test test test before you go live, because that’s how to ensure the driver arrives alive.

 

At Aspira we have a dedicated testing team with many years’ experience across multiple sectors. If you require any further information on Aspira’s services contact us on: info@aspira.ie

Author:                Arron Keenan

Role at Aspira: “PMO Lead