How to manage your organisation’s digital security in the age of the cloud

Internet based technology and cloud is now central in everything we do, shaping growth, disrupting industry landscapes and providing the catalyst for transformation. Digital Transformation can be considered as the next industrial revolution. We now have a digital landscape where there are no defined borders and data is the new commodity to be bought, sold or stolen. The Internet is there to connect, not protect so it is inevitable that, as data is now king, securing it is a huge challenge.

Before the cloud, we could rest assured that our data was protected sitting in a data centre behind our firewall.  Our security challenges were simple – how do I secure my network and prevent intrusions.  We secured internal user access to resources locally, and we had a known security perimeter.

Today, with the internet and the cloud, the user can choose applications at random, store data anywhere, applications are increasingly external, and IT departments have limited visibility to provide protection.

So how do we enable the benefits of cloud while still being assured that our data is protected in a world where even organisations with enormous security budgets and elite security analysts are struggling to address modern threats?

To start, you need to change your perspective and work from the assumption that your security will be compromised. Plan for the eventuality by adopting an approach that focuses on protection, detection and response.  Adopt a security posture that is:

  • Comprehensive in terms of understanding your environment and weaknesses;
  • Well-informed in terms of what the modern security challenges are;
  • Prescriptive in terms of what steps to take to protect your environment and respond to security events.

To begin to develop your security posture, it will help if you separate your environment into:

  • The devices you use, how and where they are used, from data centre to end user;
  • The applications you use, where there are located and how they are accessed;
  • The data that is updated and manipulated by applications:
  • The users who access the data, through the applications, that is stored on the devices.

Then develop your plans and strategies for each layer.  Make sure you address your specific needs keeping in mind any internal, regulatory or legal requirements that affect your business directly.  And remember, when developing your plans always keeping in mind, what do you do if you are compromised.

Author: Jason Boyle, Operations Director, Aspira

Are you the next Shane Lowry or Tiger Woods?

Are you the next Shane Lowry or Tiger Woods?

The career of a professional golfer is similar to that of a project manager in many ways, and not just in its longevity.  Let’s explore three ways that will help PMs to be as successful as Tiger – or Shane Lowry, our popular recent winner of the British Open.

  • Dedication

Tiger famously started golf as a toddler, appearing on TV as a two year old.  Even though that was an extreme example, to become successful a golfer needs to have the dedication to work at their game.  And when success comes, they have to work even harder.  That means hour after hour of practice, investment in the best tools and equipment, and the obsessive desire to improve.

Project Managers have a similar challenge.  Many people are asked to lead a project without being given the training or tools they need – it can be a ‘sink or swim’ experience for many first-time PMs.  However, by dedicating some time to understand what project management is about, and by investing time to understand what proven tools and techniques are out there, a PM can ensure they are set up for success.

  • Support

No professional golfer gets there by himself/herself.  From their early days they need to enlist a good coach, someone who will invest time with them to provide positive and negative constructive advice and guidance to help them develop.  They need a reliable caddy, someone to put in the hard yards and be there to lean on when crunch time comes in a tournament.  They will need a supportive sponsor to give them the backing they need to establish themselves as a member of the elite.

Project Managers must also build a support team.  The support and backing of a Project Sponsor is critical.  Advice and guidance from a mentor is invaluable when trying to figure out how best to deal with a tricky situation.  And success will only come if the project team is willing to put in the effort and respond to the leadership of the PM.

  • Resilience

While any of us can hole a putt from 6 feet, how many of us could do it under the gaze of millions of people, and do it knowing that to miss the putt would mean losing your livelihood?  That is the kind of mental fortitude that elite golfers must demonstrate.  Many of them build up an entourage of physical trainers, dieticians, and psychologists purely to give them that resilience – give them an edge by having the confidence that are perfectly prepared for this moment.

Project managers also need resilience.  Every project involves risk, meaning every project will see things go wrong.  Should the Project Manager retreat into a bunker, blaming themselves for everything?  Of course not!  The PM needs to learn from mistakes and accept that not every decision made – even made the be best available information – will deliver the desired result.  After every bunker shot the PM needs to aim to chip back onto the green

So – maybe you project managers have more in common with Pro Golfers than you thought?  The next thing we need to do is secure some TV commentator roles for PMs who are ready to hang up their schedules?

Aspira delivers training to help Project Managers, Sponsors and Project Team members to get into the swing of things and make success par for the course!  https://aspira.ie/training/

 

Five skills every Project Manager should have

 

Mike Tyson is the youngest man to become heavyweight boxing champion of the world.  More famously (in the world of Project Management) he is known for his quote “Everybody has a plan, until they get punched in the mouth”.

To avoid getting punched, here are 5 of the key tools that Project Management gives to deal with uncertainty:

 

1. Schedule

The need to plan sounds obvious, but we all know we are guilty of rushing ahead to start executing a project rather than taking enough time to build a solid schedule.  A schedule takes a big project and breaks it down into a series of bite-size pieces, which can then be tackled day by day, week by week, month by month.

 

2. Triple Constraint

In addition to the schedule, any plan needs to have a defined budget (how much money is available); and a defined scope (how much work is to be done).  Those three things must be planned and balanced in a way that will deliver an acceptable level of quality.  By remembering this, a Project Manager will ensure they come up with a realistic plan that can be delivered, rather than a fantasy wish-list.

 

3. Identify Risk

A good boxer needs to be able to take a punch.  But a great boxer will see that punch coming, and avoid it.  To misquote Mr. Tyson, if you keep getting hit, your plan will become irrelevant.  So rather than live in optimism, you must think about the things that might go wrong, and then decide what you can do now to prevent those things from happening.  Some things can’t be prevented so then you decide what you can do as a contingency plan.  Think of it as wearing a face-guard.

 

4. Monitor & Control

Projects have a beginning and an end.  They rarely end exactly how you envisaged – changes will occur that require you to take action, switch stance and adjust your position.  Monitoring simply means checking how your project is progressing vs the plan.  Control means taking corrective action if you are falling behind the plan.  Both things must be done from the start right through to the end of the project.

 

5. Act on Lessons Learned

At the end of each project it can be tempting to just move on to the next one.  But it’s important to learn from our mistakes, and also to celebrate any successes.  The Project Management Body of Knowledge has been built up from centuries of people sharing their lessons learned – there are always new challenges to be overcome and new techniques that people discover.

 

Author: Pat Lucey, CEO, Aspira.

Delivering a fully-customised CRM system for Laya Healthcare

Image result for laya healthcare logo png

 

 

At Aspira, we regularly partner with leading organisations to deliver bespoke service packages. We teamed up with Irish healthcare insurance supplier, Laya Healthcare, to deliver a fully-customised Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. Keep reading to learn about how we supplied Laya with the system.

 

The Challenge

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

As Laya Healthcare expanded 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 didn’t have the capacity for Laya Healthcare’s rapid-growing needs, and 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.

 

The Aspira Solution

Aspira designed and developed a bespoke Microsoft Dynamics CRM for the rollout of the Thrive Health and Wellness project and the Quotations Management System (QMS) for Laya Healthcare. This solution involved the customisation 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 customised 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 Development Manager to add this information to the system and keep a track on the health check history of their clients.

 

Quotations Management System

Before the Microsoft Dynamics QMS was implemented, the Laya Healthcare team were manually using spreadsheets to provide information to their clients.

To ensure processes were running smoothly, a customized data feed of all the clients on the CRM was introduced and ran separately to the CRM on a scheduled task, that outputted the results of all the account details and claim details of each member on the 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 Development 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.

 

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 at 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.”

– Therese Condon, Corporate Development Manager at Laya Healthcare.

 

Authors: Anita Fitzgerald – IT PMO Analyst, Aspira and Damien Kearns – Senior Consultant and Project Manager, Aspira.

6 ways Resourcing can solve hiring needs

In recent months, the talent pool in Ireland has become more competitive. Many multinational companies have set up their European headquarters in Ireland. We regularly speak to client companies about the benefits of hiring for specific skills gaps during specific projects, on a long-term, or short-term basis, through a trusted partner like Aspira.

We put together project delivery teams with a blended mix of our expert permanent staff and our experienced associate consultants. Many of our associate consultants are active in the contract market, and have a long-term association with us.

The companies we work with all have similar challenges:

• It is very difficult to find permanent people for niche IT Role.
• Experienced and qualified Project Managers and Business Analysts are hard to find.
• The talent pool in Ireland is extremely competitive, making it more difficult to source staff.

Despite these issues, we find that companies are reluctant to use day rate consultants, considered to be ‘too expensive’, ‘not a long-term solution’, ‘don’t understand the company culture’ and so on. However, sometimes you face a business project that needs urgent delivery and this is where an experienced Aspira consultant might just be the answer.

The benefits of hiring a daily-rate Aspira consultant include:

1. You only pay them for days worked.
2. If hired through Aspira, all the payroll costs are handled which is less work for the finance department.
3. No additional hidden costs because a daily rate is all inclusive.
4. Costly employee benefits such as training or bonuses are not charged to the client company
5. Less of a notice period in case projects are cancelled.
6. If you hire an Aspira team member, you can expect results and delivery in a shorter time. They are experienced at quickly evaluating client challenges and ensuring minimum delays through long learning curves.

For more information on resourcing and how it can benefit your organisation, contact our resourcing team at info@aspira.ie or visit the website www.aspira.ie

Author: Russell Moore, HR & Resourcing Manager, Aspira

Aspira celebrates twelve years of operations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s to the next 12 years!

 

 

Three Tips To Influencing Without Authority

PMI EMEA Congress 2019

PMI EMEA Congress 2019

 

The 2019 PMI EMEA Congress kicks off in Dublin next week, where I will deliver an interactive session on the crucial project management skill of influencing without authority, alongside my colleague and Aspira CEO, Pat Lucey.

Getting things done on time, on budget and not leaving a trail of dead bodies while doing so is always a bonus!

The old style of command and control hierarchy is gone and project managers have to manage by influence, especially in a matrix environment. Often as a project manager you are managing people who don’t typically report to you and may have never worked with you, who are in separate locations and are likely to be at least working on more than one project.

Therefore, to deliver your project successfully, you need to manage by influence.

Make a good first impression

From the start of your project, you need to assume everyone is a potential ally and that the uncooperative will cooperate. You must suspend judgement and be curious about their world.

This is also your time to establish yourself as a credible leader by speaking about your experience of leading similar projects and highlighting your skills.

Your ability to influence is at its highest point at the start of the project, so this is a crucial time to impress your stakeholders.

Communicate the right messages

Begin by communicating what you are trying to achieve and help each person understand the vision and mission of the project and how they are connected to it.

Each person whether down the corridor or across the ocean needs to know, believe in and feel connected to the project story.

Understand your stakeholders

It is important to schedule time with each of your stakeholders to understand their priorities, concerns and objectives.

This will allow you to see the project through their eyes. You will learn how they are rewarded and measured, what is important to them, what keeps them awake at night and what they are passionate about. It will also give you insights into their preferred working styles and methods of communication.

This information will allow you to build rapport and communicate in a way that resonates with them, mapping project benefits to their needs.

If you would like to learn more about how you can influence without authority, click here for an insight to our dedicated training course.

 

Author: Norma Lynch, Head of Training, Aspira

 


 

PMI EMEA Congress comes to Dublin

PMI EMEA Congress comes to Dublin

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

What is all the fuss about?

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

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

Aspira at the Congress

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Bottom-up Initiative Power

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

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

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

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

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

Author: Jim Blair, Director of Software Services, Aspira

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Author:  Peter Ryan, Managing Director, Aspira-Europe

Making the dream of Aspira Europe a reality

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Author: Russell Moore, Head of Resourcing, Aspira.

Internship – Putting theory into practice

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

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

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

Tip-toeing through the tulips

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

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

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

An event to remember

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

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

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

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

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

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