Migrating Dynamics 365 to the Unified Interface

Migrating Dynamics 365 to the Unified Interface

With the increased focus on the Power Platform with Microsoft 365, the legacy version of Dynamics CRM must be moved to the “New look” Unified Interface. The deadline for this move is the 1st of December 2020, however you can start this transition right away.

After the deadline, any legacy applications will be transitioned automatically, so you should look to complete the transition as soon as possible.

What is the Unified Interface?

Unified Interface for model-driven apps provides a consistent and accessible user experience across devices. It is the latest look and feel of all model-driven apps and Dynamics 365 apps such as Dynamics 365 Sales and Dynamics 365 Customer Service.

When am I transitioning?

The deadline for transitioning is the 1st of December, however Microsoft have allocated a date for transition for all tenants. You can see this here. Once you login you should be able to see a list of your Dynamics environments, along with the date that each one is scheduled for transition.

Can I change my date?

This date can be pushed back to allow for you to plan for the transition, however it must occur before or on the 1st of December.

What do I need to do to Transition?

Things to focus on for this transition are:

  1. Create a pilot app.
  2. Follow the steps in the MS Checklist here and White paper here.
  3. Perform the pilot transition.
  4. Have end users test to ensure functionality works as intended. This step will be the longest and will require reviewing any customisation. The more complex the environment, the more time should be taken for this step. After all these customisations are reviewed and working correctly you can…
  5. Create a production app and perform the full transition.

I do not have any internal resources managing my CRM, what can I do?

Microsoft have provided the checklist and white papers which should make it easy to follow the process, but there is also a community group here to provided crowd-sourced assistance on transition. You can also log cases with Microsoft or your partner, if you are having any issues with the move.

If you would like a more in person support structure, Aspira provide expertise for businesses looking to benefit from Dynamics 365. We can provide expert support in migrating to the Unified Interface.  Contact Aspira for further information.

Additional Information

Here are some links with more information on transitioning to the new Unified Interface:

Microsoft Blog – Announcing the timeline to move to the Unified Interface: https://community.dynamics.com/365/b/365teamblog/posts/announcing-the-timeline-to-move-to-unified-interface-2137660788

FAQ’s: Transition to the Unified Interface: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/powerapps/maker/model-driven-apps/faqs-transition-unified-interface

Microsoft Blog – Moving forward with your transition to Unified Interface: https://community.dynamics.com/365/unified-interface/b/unified-interface-team-blog/posts/moving-forward-with-your-transition-to-unified-interface

Dynamics 365 Unified Interface Community – https://community.dynamics.com/365/unified-interface/

 

Author: Ian Jones, Software Developer, Aspira.

Technical Career Paths 

Technical Career Paths 

 

Technical Career Paths

A technical career in IT and Software Development…sounds boring, right? I don’t think so… 

In this blog I will talk about how a technical career in IT and Software Development can be the most exciting and fulfilling choice, and the limitless number of opportunities it can offer. 

 The starting point 

When you think of a Software Developer the first thing that springs to mind is a lonely “computer nerd”, who works all by himself (yes, you probably thought about a man …..) and understands all the mysteries of computers and programming. 

You couldn’t be further from the truth, and I talk from experience, having started my own career as a Software Developer over 20 years ago. 

To get started into this amazing career, it helps if you have a technical degree such as Computer Science or Engineering. After that, the world is your oyster! 

 Where do you go next? 

Technology is always changing, and so are the type of jobs and roles available, therefore it’s important to always upskill, stay abreast of new technologies, and equally critical is to understand where your strengths and preferences are. 

After a few years of hands-on technical work, you might want to expand your horizons, and the choices here are endless. 

  • If you really enjoy the technical stuff and learning about new technologies, you can choose to become a Technical Business Analyst, the person who knows what’s possible with today’s technology, and specifies to management and the engineers what needs to be done. 

Certifications are important, and CBAP is one of the most recognized. If you’re interested in a career as a Business Analyst and are thinking of taking the CBAP certification, look no further: https://aspira.ie/business-analysis/ 

Again, certifications are important, and if this is the direction you’d like to take, I’d highly recommend a PM course, anything from a 1 day introduction to the full PMP certificationhttps://aspira.ie/project-management-courses/ 

These are just two examples of the exciting new paths your technical career can follow, and there are many more (Scrum Master, Agile practitioner, Six-Sigma consultant, …). 

 Conclusion 

Don’t ever again think that a Technical Career is boring or limited, it is one of the best careers in the world, and it offers endless possibilities. So get started, upskill, follow your preferences, get certified, and enjoy!!! 

Author: Stefania Sartori, Technical Recruiter, Aspira.

Project Management in Microsoft 365

Project Management in Microsoft 365

After looking at how we can manage tasks within Microsoft 365 last week, today we’re going to have a look at what applications can be used for more formal project and portfolio management as well as when we should use these applications and what they’re best suited to.

When to move on from Planner.

You should consider moving beyond managing your projects with Planner when:

  • You have a formal, complex schedule for the project.
  • You have many different projects requiring resources to split time between each.
  • You have costing of resources and materials that must be tracked.

If any of these are true you should like at the options available within Microsoft 365.

Project for the web is the newest addition to the project family. It provides a step up from applications like planner by providing:

  • a Gantt view of tasks.
  • the ability to add task dependencies.
  • the ability to create a more formal project schedule.

The Project desktop client provides more advanced PM functions on top of what can be seen in project for the web including:

  • baselines.
  • critical path.
  • resource and cost management.

This makes it useful for large and more complex projects that could span over long periods of time.

Project Online gives access to the project desktop client but also allows for projects to be stored as a portfolio within a single location. This allows for program and portfolio management and can give more advanced planning throughout an organization which has many projects occurring simultaneously. It also allows for portfolio analysis to prioritise what project should be completed based on pre-defined rules.

Regardless of how intensive your project management process within your company is, Microsoft 365 has a solution that should help your organisation manage it effectively and efficiently.

For all your Microsoft 365 needs, please contact Aspira.

Author: Ian Jones, Software Developer, Aspira.

 

The Similarities and differences when working in Project Management across different industries

The Similarities and differences when working in Project Management across different industries

As a Project Manager working within multiple industries, the one thing that I’ve always noticed is how similar the work is throughout these varying industries.  Project Management has predetermined processes and procedures to carry out projects, these are followed whilst implementing a project or program as required.  Equally, similarities may be found when you review the types of people you meet and deal with in each company and industry.  The subject matter experts, stakeholders and project teams are made up of people working to achieve a common goal; to implement a project or program.

During my time with Aspira I have worked with a public authority and a private company.  The two industries are quite different. The public authority tends to have a more rigid reporting structure and decision making hierarchy than the FMCG private company in some respects.  Both industries want to succeed in their deployment of products or services for their customers, and thus want you to succeed in the completion of their identified projects.  As a project manager in these industries, my key to success will be a willingness to adapt to the requirements for reporting, communication and team management.

I think you will see the similarities and differences within these 4 key areas highlighted in the chart below.

 

Moving to a new industry or company may seem daunting because you are not familiar with the industry.  In reality, the company is seeking assistance to get a project completed.  The goal for this company is to use your expertise for their desire to implement one or several projects.  The actual products and services that the company provide should not be an issue for the PM, as they should be able to apply and adapt the tools and skills needed to meet the requirements of the company.

For all your Project Management needs, please contact Aspira.

Author: Sheila Sheehan, PM, Aspira.

Task Management in Office 365

Task Management in Office 365

 

Good task management is a vital part of success within any business. Many people use many different ways of managing their tasks but today we’re going to have a look at some of the options within Office 365 that we have to manage our tasks.

 To Do – The Personal Productivity Wizard

Microsoft To Do is the app that has replaced Wunderlist. The goal of this application is to give the end user the ability to productively manage their personal tasks. You can create tasks, set them as important, set reminders for those tasks, any due dates, categorise your tasks and attach files or notes. The default views can give you a list of all of the planned tasks you have for that day, any of the important tasks to be completed as well as a new view that will show any tasks that have been assigned to you within planner (more on that later). You can also create separate lists from your default task list If you have a group of tasks related to a specific project.

To Do is the ideal task management app in Microsoft 365 for an end user that wants to focus on their productivity. While it is possible to integrate across with Planner, To Do really shines when managing your own tasks. It lacks the customization capability available in some of the other applications we are going to look at but for someone who wants to get started managing their tasks right away it’s the perfect place to start.

Planner – Out of the Box Team Manager

Planner is an agile task management app ideal for teams to organize and collaborate with one another. You can create Kanban boards on the fly and add checklists, files and labels for attachment within each task. It has useful visual charts to gain insight into how tasks are being handled within your team.

Planner is great for low level project management and for small or medium size teams managing their work in an agile manner. It’s extremely quick, clean and easy to use and offers a grace start to managing projects and tasks for a team. Platter sits a level below enterprise project management applications like Project for the Web and Project Online, which we will look at in an upcoming blog.

Microsoft Lists – The Powerhouse

Microsoft lists is an expansion of SharePoint lists now branded as a new separate application. SharePoint lists have been used to manage tasks on projects and within organisations for years and the new change has made them more powerful and more customizable. Lists provides much greater control of the fields within elements and the views of how elements can displayed as compared to Planner or To Do.

The main benefit of Microsoft Lists is the ability to customize. You could get an experience very similar to Planner using Microsoft lists however the development in creating that is only worth the time if you want to heavily customize the experience to a specific need.  Lists really shines when managing a combination of tasks and other elements such as invoice or orders.

Tasks in Teams – The Personal Hub

Tasks in Teams is a tab within Microsoft Teams that syncs directly with To Do and Planner. It allows users who frequently use both applications to manage personal and team tasks to get a singular view within Teams.

Tasks in Teams is more a way of viewing tasks than storing them. It’s an ideal choice for someone who is already using Teams extensively and gives a great big picture view of tasks that you may need to manage given that it integrates with Planner and To Do. Given the views that are used within it, it can give an excellent view of tasks that need to be completed related to a specific project or deliverable.

Conclusion

While there are many choices to look at when choosing a task management app, my general rule of thumb is:

  • To Do for managing personal, everyday tasks
  • Planner for a quick and easy way to start managing tasks and agile projects for small teams
  • Lists if you want to manage more than just tasks and customize the experience
  • Tasks in Teams to give a big picture of your overall tasks within planner and To Do

 

Come back in 2 weeks when we take a look at the world beyond task management and look at what Microsoft 365 apps can offer for project and portfolio management.

Author: Ian Jones, Software Developer, Aspira.

TikTok and the art of Concise Communication

TikTok and the art of Concise Communication

The only social media tool that I use regularly is LinkedIn, and I’m not even sure if that’s considered social media, is it?

But six months ago, on a pique of curiosity,  I installed TikTok.  Since then I have never created a TikTok or sent a message on it, but I regularly view the stream of pseudo-random video snippets that come in. I find it so interesting how much content people can cram into the 60-second limit.

To be successful, TikTok users need to be able to communicate concisely and succinctly.  Watching TikToks is like getting a Masterclass in succinct and impactful communication.  If your attention has not been grabbed within ten seconds, people will scroll on to the next clip.  If the story arc cannot be completed within 60 seconds, people are unlikely to go searching for ‘part II’.

Can Project Managers learn from TikTok masters? 

How many presentations have you had to sit through where, with better forethought and impactful delivery, the takeaways from a 30 minute presentation could have been delivered in 60 seconds?

The five C’s will help you to communicate with impact – whether via a boardroom presentation, or via a TikTok video:

  1. Clear:

Your key point needs to be communicated in a manner that’s easy for your target audience to understand, even if they are not paying attention fully (they could be sending snapchats and/or reading the Financial Times).

  1. Concise:

TikTok enforces brevity with their 60 second time limit.  Achieve the same effect with your presentations by being direct and to the point without inserting unnecessary distractions from your main points.

  1. Credible: 

Ensure you can justify any claims you make by having proof points and referencing supporting details to strengthen your key points.

  1. Compelling: 

Grab your audiences’ attention and inspire them to take relevant action.  The use of alliteration and assonance helps phrases to lodge in people’s brains – e.g. ‘Pat’s Chat’ is a more memorable title than ‘Pat’s Monthly Update to all Staff’

  1. Consistent: 

If you establish a communication cadence – e.g. weekly update, monthly newsletter, you MUST maintain that cadence consistently.  How many monthly newsletters never get past the second edition when the initial enthusiasm runs out.

 

For successful project management you need to consistently maintain concise, clear, credible and compelling information flow to your project stakeholders.  After you’ve done that you can start creating TikTok videos!

For all your project management needs please contact info@aspira.ie.

The World is Shrinking Faster Than You Think……

The World is Shrinking Faster Than You Think……

Gone are the days, when Earth seemed like a huge planet and people were disconnected from each other – even within their own cities, let alone the world! It was only in 1917 when the first public music broadcast was made by 9XM in Wisconsin. Gaining momentum, getting updates on world events was now easier. With the general public gaining access to telephones in the mid 1960’s, you could call virtually anyone across the globe – if you were rich enough! But the tides turned in 1995, when the internet was decommercialized and opened for public. As advancement gained momentum, the world began to shrink faster. There is one more important advancement left before we entered a new era in 2008. Amalgamation of all forms of communication technologies into one device: mobile phones. By this time more people were connected to each other than ever before in the history of humanity. It was cheap, reliable, convenient and secure(?!). What could possibly happen now? What if the devices around us could speak to each other now? Well, ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to todays topic, ‘Internet of Things’ aka IoT.

While advancements were being made in the field of information and communication technology over these decades, the standard of living improved in almost all the countries and with higher disposable income people started having more gadgets around them. Today on an average every person has 4 devices connected to the internet. This figure sounds crazier when you realize that 45% of human population doesn’t even have access to internet! This figure is set to rise to 6 devices per person connected to internet by 2020.

Cisco predicts a network of 1 trillion sensors to be present globally gathering information day and night by 2022. But the question is, what exactly is IoT? According to British Technologist, Kevin Ashton, IoT is a network that not only connects people but also the electronic devices around them. It is a vast network of smart objects which work together in collecting and analysing data and autonomously performing actions – is becoming a reality, thanks to the machine-to-machine communication (M2M) technology.

The smart home / automated home market, another IoT vertical, is forecast to grow significantly over the next few years, as the global smart home market is forecast to grow to more than 50 billion U.S. dollars. The smart home automation market is projected to reach more than 20 billion U.S. dollars in revenue by that time. The use of IoT extends to all types of buildings, as well as to the automotive industry, creating not only smart homes, but also smart cars and offices, and eventually smart cities. Well that’s still fine, I understand the human nature, curious, fearless, sometimes selfless, but this era will be unlike any other once we realize the depth to which IoT can penetrate our lives.

“By 2020, everything from clothes to food will be connected to the web”, Niall Murphy, CEO and co-founder of EVRYTHNG. EVRYTHNG already has deals in place that should see ten billion apparel items made by well-known brands fitted with digital tags in the next two years, and 20 billion food and beverage items tagged over the next 24 to 36 months. If a proportion of the trillions of products being sold every year become digitised, they will become “active digital points of interaction” with manufacturers of those products shifting gear to “become one of biggest media providers in the world”.

Murphy gave the example of a clothing company trialling smart clothing, where a jacket can act as a loyalty tool to let you buy things, a passkey to clubs and more. Brands, on the other hand, can track that product through its lifecycle to “drive experiences and interactions as it moves through the world”. Being smart with that data and using it to understand consumer behaviour and drive returns, will be key to whether this approach succeeds or fails for individual brands.

Another most recognizable form of IoT are smart assistants like Google Home or Amazon Alexa. According to Metova, 90 percent of U.S consumers now own some form of smart home device. This shows the IoT is well-and-truly reached mass adoption in the consumer space. A new player in this sector is ‘Kuri’ – A first-of-its-kind Home Robot unveiled at Consumer Electronics Show last year. It is different from other robots because,

  • It has it’s own personality, because it learns from what you teach it
  • It is aware of its surroundings, displays emotions and responds to your gestures
  • It is mobile, it will follow you, wherever you go!

If you haven’t, meet Kuri here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=1&v=TlyEjlpDlxM

 

On 5th July, 2018 at the 41st Annual General Meeting of the Reliance Industries, MD Mukesh Ambani announced the launch of its Fibre-To-The-Home (FTTH) service with focus on IoT. With speeds of up to 1Gbps and JioSmartTv you could now make a video call anywhere in the world from your TV itself! Even more interesting is that this launch was accompanied with launch of IoT enabled Jio Smart Home Accessories like, audio dongle, video dongle, smart speaker, Wi-Fi extender, smart plug, outdoor security camera, and a TV camera, smoke sensor, water leak sensor, siren, gas leak sensor, panic button, door sensor, and smart video doorbells etc. These are designed to let users control and monitor their homes remotely using their smartphones. The prime purpose of the new launch is to expand the presence of connected homes in India. “With some simple accessories that Jio will provide, every appliance, every plug point, every switch in your house will become smart, which means that they can be securely monitored and controlled from anywhere and everywhere,” said Akash Ambani.

Author:  Anuj Agarwal, Project Engineer, Aspira.

 

Trust: Difficult to earn, easy to lose.

When we interview clients to understand why they choose to work with Aspira, the single biggest factor that comes back is trust – they trust we will do what we say and they trust us not to focus on just winning more business with them.

For many years my definition of how to build Trust was ‘to demonstrate consistency between words and actions’.  Recently I read about ‘the Trust Equation’, (Ref David Maister).  This equation lists four factors – reliability, credibility, intimacy and self-orientation.

While my previous definition focussed on just one of the elements – reliability, I was under-estimating the importance of credibility and I was ignoring the two emotional elements in the equation – intimacy and (lack of) self-orientation.

So how can we use this definition to build more Trust?  Well, one thing you cannot do is come up with a tagline that says “trust me”.  I am in fact more likely to distrust someone who declares their trustworthiness as their main attribute.

So in order to convey your organization can be trusted, you need to get across 4 messages:

  • Credibility – as evidenced by experience, thought leadership and track record
  • Reliability – as evidenced by case studies and measurable results
  • Intimacy – as evidenced by client testimonials and collaborative case studies
  • (lack of) Self Orientation – as evidenced by messaging that does not say “look how great we are” but instead says “look at the great things our Clients have achieved, with some help from us”

Trust has to be earned, but trustworthiness can be conveyed!  One of the goals of our marketing efforts in Aspira for 2020 is to use this approach to share the great things our clients have achieved.

 

 

SharePoint the ‘evolution’

SharePoint the ‘evolution’

SharePoint has been around now for quite some time. Its first iteration was as Microsoft SharePoint Portal Server in 2001, as largely a document management application. It was a traditional setup with little interaction from end users; instead they would come up with problems/requirements and hand them over to IT teams who would provided a solution to those problems.

In 2003 Microsoft made their first move to evolve SharePoint and brought it under the Office 2003 Application Suite, when they released a new version called Microsoft Windows SharePoint Server as part of Windows Sever 2003. This new version had an improved UI and better personalisation options for end users. However, it was still not a truly collaborative platform. This was to all change in 2007, with the release of Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS). End users could now create and manage team sites, they were given access to workflows and the platform embraced content management.

In 2010 Microsoft upgraded SharePoint to give a more enhanced experience for users with more services to enhance business connectivity, better integration with Microsoft Office’s application suite and more workflow automation, all with the goal of increasing business efficiency and better collaboration among business units.

The next iteration of SharePoint came with the release of SharePoint Sever 2013; this version was largely the same as 2010, with the addition of a lot of bug fixes and a few tweaks to the UI. The main additions were support for social media functions, support for mobile users, and support for large data sets. There were vast improvements to the underlying features of designing layouts and sites that need to adhere to brand guidelines. The biggest change however was the addition of SharePoint Online, a cloud based version of SharePoint, hosted on Microsoft Servers and bundled with the Office 365 package that is also maintained by the Microsoft team.

2016 has added a few new options to SharePoint. However, the platform remains largely the same as 2013, with a few new additions and removal of old features. Some of these include an App Launcher, a new tool to further align SharePoint with the Office 365 platform as this tool now provides an identical interface for apps whether using SharePoint Online on Office 365 or on SharePoint 2016 on premise. Microsoft also introduced the concept of Mini Roles, relating to Farm Topology. There are now six pre-defined roles that are available to Farm Administrators when creating a new SharePoint Farm. Another new feature Farm Administrators can take advantage of, if they have configured high availability on their farm, is Zero Downtime Patching. Last, but not least by any means, is that Project Server now comes integrated with SharePoint (however it is licensed separately so will require an additional licence to use).

The latest iteration of SharePoint to date is SharePoint Server 2019 and it continues Microsoft’s ongoing journey with improving SharePoint. It brings more changes to the way SharePoint and its users interact with the addition of Modern Sites, Pages, Lists and Libraries, Team News and Communication Sites. One big change in this area is the addition of Microsoft Teams which has taken team collaboration out of SharePoint’s hands and is now the go to destination for team-based collaborative work. That’s not to say that SharePoint collaboration is redundant, content for these teams still remains on SharePoint, with the collaboration work now done on Microsoft Teams.

One of the more interesting features to come from SharePoint 2019 was the announcement at SharePoint Conference  #18   (#SPC18) of SharePoint Spaces. This new addition brings VR to SharePoint and will allow anybody to create mixed reality content experiences for a whole range of business processes.

One thing is sure; SharePoint continues to evolve at an unprecedented pace, adding new and interesting features for users and businesses alike.

Please contact Aspira if you have any Software Development needs.

Author: Paul Cuthbert, Software Developer, Aspira.

Project Management in the Financial Sector

Nearly two and a half thousand years ago the Greek philosopher Heraclitus wrote, “The only thing that is constant is change.”

That is a statement that remains just as true today as it was back then. Change is the only constant in our lives, and the same is true for organisations. In our globalised and highly competitive world, organisations are constantly challenged to adapt and evolve. ‘Project Management’ tools and techniques have been used as the main tool to respond to those challenges and to implement business strategies successfully.

If you look closely, most companies can be seen as a set of projects, as change permeates the entire organisation. These changing business environments, driven by both internal and external pressures, force organisations to establish a more structured and mature project management process.

In this context, project management has evolved from a set of unrecognised qualities from disjointed departments into a critical business function that is a recognised center of excellence in large, medium and small companies. It has expanded to almost all sectors and industries.

Of course, each industry has a different level of maturity when it comes to project management. In organisations that have a more mature project management mindset there is greater cohesion between corporate strategies and business operations. They work together, managing programmes that capitalize on the benefits of joint management of synergistic projects. They use Portfolio Management to manage the programs and projects, directing them towards the strategic objectives of the organisation and they use the Project Management Office to assist in improving the management of these organisational projects.

Over the course of my time working in the financial sector, there has been a huge amount of change and development of project and programme management methodologies, and the impact this can have on the organisation as a whole.

Originally, the use of methodologies, techniques and tools to manage projects were very immature and presented many challenges. With high failure rates for projects operating in that environment. Conceptually speaking, the project went wrong because it did not happen the way it was planned. Projects are living things and changes will happen, but they must be planned and managed in an efficient manner.

Over the years, PM methodologies have been implemented and improved, aligned with automated tools to manage projects, programmes and portfolios. The concept of PMO has been expanded in all organisations and now plays a huge role in implementing robust procedures, methodology and standards that support PMs to effectively manage their projects and programmes. All this has proved critical to the success of these projects and programmes, and in turn, delivered benefits to the organisation.

Furthermore, education and training has played a huge role in this process. It was imperative to spread a systemic culture of project management to all levels of the organisation. Educating business people on project management concepts and methodology was key. With many business people formally trained in project management, (some have even come to be certified PMs) they have become passionate about project management from seeing the tangible results of a well structured and managed project.

Undoubtedly, all of this has contributed to the better management of projects . The results are expressed by less problems in communication, as the right governance is in place and the correct & consistent message is delivered to all stakeholders. Training and education have also improved the management of scope creep, risks and benefits, change control and finance management with proper budget approval, forecast and actual control. It also contributed to have more support from top management and sponsors of the projects and programmes as well as increased team support.

It has been a long journey and there are still many challenges to be overcome. Nonetheless it is clear that organization’s that embrace and apply PM methodology and that have a strong project management structure and process in place have delivered on the project scope and with that have the recognition of the entire organisation. Interestingly enough, those successes are being spread across organisation’s.

To find out more about implementing project management processes within your organisation email:  training@aspira.ie.

Author: Kátia Starck, Project Manager, Aspira

Six Basic Tips to Protect Your Digital Identity

Six Basic Tips 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.

Do you know what “ASAP” really means?

 

How many times have you been asked by your boss to deliver something ASAP, and your first reaction was to drop everything and start working on it right away? Only to learn later that not only the job wasn’t urgent at all, but also it was delayed, postponed, forgotten or simply cancelled?

Years ago, a Director asked me for a logo saying she needed it ASAP. Let me paint you a quick picture:

  • The logo was not for any critical project. Did I know that? No.
  • The logo was for her intranet channel. Yeap, I’m serious.
  • It was after 5.30 pm.
  • Well, she was a Director of something, which meant she was important!

My reaction was to drop everything I was doing and deliver it now. Quickly, I talked with one of my designers and asked him to do it, he looked at me annoyed (it was after 5.30 pm!) and said, “but she said it’s ASAP”, and I was like, “and? It’s ASAP!”.

When I was learning English as a second language (I am Brazilian), ASAP was one of the first things I learned, and I knew it meant “as soon as possible”, but clearly I was missing something.

He went on to explain that ASAP did not mean urgent, replied to the Director and told her “let me know if tomorrow afternoon is ok to deliver”, she then replied saying “that’s brilliant, thank you so much”.

I was mesmerized.

So simple! The trick is to gamble a bit, giving yourself the deadline you need to deliver the task requested — don’t be greedy though, aim for a reasonable timeframe that is still comfortable for you. Remember to keep your tone positive: you want to help, and you will get it done as soon as you can. I can guarantee that if it’s genuinely an ASAP request, the other person will be super happy.

A few years later, I went to work at a place where “everything was a priority”. Before any attempt to improve or implement new processes, I needed first to understand why my team weren’t able to follow a workflow plan, why they were all feeling overworked and that nothing was under control.

Among some other things, I realised that they were drowning in ASAP requests coming from different stakeholders. They would get paralysed by ASAP requests thinking that they were urgent, dropping everything whenever they heard the word “ASAP”, delaying (without knowing) tasks that were actually important. Even a simple Urgent-Important Matrix didn’t work at the time, since “everything was a priority”.

I have to be honest and say that it took me a while to identify ASAP requests disguised as urgent ones were one of the root problems. Then, one day it finally hit me, maybe they too don’t know what ASAP really means.

Wait, what? Mind blowing.

It didn’t cross my mind that my team (all English speakers) could have been having the same problem I had a few years earlier! I thought that this misunderstanding issue was particular to people who didn’t have English as a first language.

When I told my team that ASAP does not mean urgent and they should just return to whoever asked them for something inquiring what the deadline was, it was a game-changer. Ten out ten times the deadline was for “the end of the week”, “next week”, “just when you get a chance” and so on. I know, right?

Why do people disguise something as urgent when it’s not? I don’t want to dwell on the reasons, but most of the time, they just don’t want to commit to a timeline; just in case they can get whatever they need sooner.

My advice is: take advantage of the situation to protect your time and your work. Send a message to the world that you are the one calling the shots.

Guest Author: 

Mayra Boppre is a Program Manager with 10+ years of experience leading multi-disciplined teams, establishing processes and systems in fast-paced, complex organisations. Mayra specialises in the creative field and brings her expertise and curiosity to help companies achieve goals and objectives. Mayra is PMI certified and holds an MBA in Marketing.

This article was originally posted in Medium