An introduction to SharePoint

There are many tools out there that enable businesses to improve their processes, increase productivity and improve teamwork between their staff. It can be hard to know where to start.

As a provider of Microsoft centred solutions, we often point our customers to SharePoint.

A web-based, collaborative platform, it integrates with Microsoft Office applications to provide a document management and storage system. SharePoint is highly configurable and its use varies from one business to another. Businesses generally use SharePoint to create websites. These are then used as a secure place by organisations to store, organise, share, and access information from any device, from a desktop PC, to smart phones and tablets.

  • Sites in SharePoint are where you store your data. SharePoint provides several Site templates out of the box that can be used instantly, two such templates are Team sites and Publishing sites. Both have different uses and different capabilities. Team sites can be used by your teams and departments, this site template provides the ability to upload documents to a library with or without version control, monitoring of documents with check in/out, metadata and tagging facilities. Content can be targeted to specific business users with audiences. In addition, you have pre-built workflows that can be utilised straight away. Publishing Sites allow you to control when and how content is deployed to the site using content management processes. Publishing sites are used to create public websites, intranets and communication portals.
  • SharePoint communities enable the sharing of knowledge using Wiki’s and Wiki pages bringing people together to share and learn. Information can be shared across your enterprise. SharePoint also allows you to tag content, you can understand the content and it’s use from its tags. Users can subscribe to tags to get to the right information faster.
  • With SharePoint, your content is all stored in one place. Typically, organisations store data in folders in file shares, with the result, documents get lost, users then end up recreating the same document. You can manage documents, web content and records on a single platform with SharePoint. SharePoint allows document versions to be managed, apply retention policies to documents to archive or expire your document or run audit reports. Metadata can be added to a document library to better describe the content and to find it using SharePoint search. With SharePoint’s office integration, your existing working environment remains the same.
  • SharePoint search provides one platform to access all your information in SharePoint in addition SharePoint can also search file shares across your enterprise and Exchange mailboxes using E-Discovery and then export the results for an audit or legal case. SharePoint enhances the presentation of the results which is a combination of refinement, people and relevance. On the results page of a search you will have metadata and tags to refine your results on the left side, with the most relevant results in the middle of the page and people suggestions on the right. Tags can also be used in search queries to locate documents or people.
  • Visualisation of data in SharePoint is accomplished using reports, charts, worksheets, dashboards, scorecard’s and KPIs. Performance Point services, Reporting Services and Power Pivot enables reporting, analysis and creation of Charts, dashboards, scorecards, KPI’s. Visio services enables rendering of diagrams and charts in the browser. Excel Services enables you to manage Excel Workbooks as interactive reports.
  • SharePoint compsites enable you to create business solutions by connecting and configuring the basic building blocks of functionality, this includes combining data, documents and business process in a productive useful way. SharePoint compsites enable your Power Users to build complex business processes without the need for code. SharePoint compsites can be a simple as a document approval workflow, to a BCS (Business Connectivity Services) profile page displaying external data in SharePoint with create, read, update, delete operations.

Our team of experts have accomplished numerous SharePoint projects across multiple sectors such as Banking and Finance, Construction, Healthcare and Medical devices. If you are interested in any aspects of our SharePoint offering, contact us for a free consultation.

Lean in and become a ScrumMaster

Most software development teams are either agile or leaning towards agile. Scrum has revolutionised IT and has trended significantly in recent years and qualified ScrumMasters are the new software development accessory.

In today’s highly competitive environment there are increasing demands for rapid release of software iterations with a focus on quality at affordable costs. By embracing the Scrum Agile methodology and mastering the skills of the ScrumMaster you will see both the passion of scrum teams and their increased productivity unleashed within your organisation.

The ScrumMaster is relentlessly focused on leading the development team to success and ensuring their path to delivery of their goals is clear.

Aspira’s world class training will take you to the heart of what being not just a good, but a great ScrumMaster really means. So lean in to our two day ScrumMaster training course and you will learn to:

• Understand the principles of Agile and how to implement the Scrum Agile Method

• Learn how to estimate and create a realistic plan so that project commitments will be delivered

• Increase your team’s productivity, and balance their workload

• Build up your capability to deliver early prototypes and projects

• Learn how to manage change when implementing Scrum in your organization

Aspira are approved education providers by the Project Management Institute, the International Institute of Business Analysis and Scrum Alliance. This means our Training has been audited by the PMI® and the IIBA® and meets their strict quality requirements.

Professional ScrumMaster course 

Cork on 24th & 25th September 2019

Are your project management practices questionable?

 

Are there key KPIs your business’s projects are just not meeting, time and time again? Are high priority projects regularly missing deadlines? Perhaps your projects are meeting most of their timelines but the project management practices are questionable, with little to no structure and a huge dependency on the skill and talent of the individual project manager? Aspira’s Project Capability Assessment is the perfect solution to enabling a substantial supportive structure around your project management processes, by identifying the strengths and transforming any shortcomings.

Project Management training and certification crafts individuals into excellent project managers. However it is possible and probable that the organisation’s project management framework does not align completely to the PMPTM or PMITM methodology. That being said, an organisation needs to have a mature and supportive project management framework in operation to create the ideal conditions for a PM to operate within – this is the scaffolding that supports the mason while they work. Maturity alone is not sufficient – countless organisations have mature but constraining processes which restrain operational effectiveness – year after year of working within a stagnant status quo.

This is why Aspira’s Project Capability Assessment service has proved extremely popular and effective. Aspira’s experienced project management experts conduct an assessment that will establish an independent and objective capability baseline revealing the true potential and opportunities that your PM framework provide for improvement, as well as cementing in the strengths that currently exist. True insight into your organisation comes from those who know it best; your key resources participate fully in our assessment process, maximising business buy-in to achieve ultimate success.

The Project Capability Assessment delivers a full detailed review of your current framework, methodology, skills and capability and outputs a set of clear achievable recommendations – short term quick wins as well as medium and long term mandates. Whether you are taking the first steps towards implementing a set of lean, standardized Project Management practices or already have mature, detailed processes in place – possibly operating your own Project Management Office –  it is essential to realistically assess the processes by which you select and deliver projects and then to compare this with best practice, highlighting where improvements need to be made.

Customers across Ireland trust Aspira to deliver operational effectiveness and achieve tangible, measurable improvement. Contact Aspira today to discuss benefits a Project Capability Assessment can deliver to you.

Connecting the dots

Connecting the dots: How I ended up at Aspira

One of my earliest memories is seeing the above picture of the Taj Mahal in a Ladybird book and being amazed. I stared and stared, wondering what this exotic building was and how a place like this could exist? This book showed pictures of the Wonders of the World and it completely captivated me. Fast forward to me as a seventeen-year-old, I sat in an office with my career guidance counsellor as he asked, “What would you like to do with your life?” I shrugged and said, “No idea”. He suggested “What about this IT thing?” and there I was: an IT thing guy!

Having spent my school years looking at maps, geography books, atlases and globes, imagining all the adventures to be had in the world… How was I going to be an IT thing guy? In my early twenties I got my first taste of foreign lands. On this trip bumped into and made friends with an Irish guy (Luca) who would return to this story twenty years later.

My IT career had taken off and I somehow fell into contracting in software testing. Truth be told I never really enjoyed my job, but I quickly learned I could use it to achieve my goals, not career goals but life goals. I worked and travelled, worked and travelled again… my life was truly a roller-coaster, from the lows of work to the highs of travel. Work was tolerable because it allowed me to live out many of the dreams that were started in that Ladybird book all those years ago.

Throughout this period of my life mentioned, I had become the ‘go-to’ guy for solving IT problems amongst my friends. I could spend hours or even days fixing something I knew nothing about. Eventually I would fix it, and it felt good, I couldn’t really understand why I got such a great feeling from this achievement, but I liked it – I fixed something that wasn’t working! How on earth can I do this for a job? Where do I start? Or am I too far down the line to make a career change?

Step back in the man I met almost exactly 20 years previously – Luca, who was now a director with Aspira. At this stage Luca knew me well and knew I liked resolving IT-related issues, so he asked me “Do you want a job?” I said “Yes”, then suddenly I was in a job doing what I discovered I loved: fixing things! I had finally become the IT thing guy – how could that counsellor have known? I’ve since hung up my backpack and swapped it for a family, I couldn’t be happier, and I never have to work another day in my life. It’s funny when you step back and look at life’s big picture… there are dots to be connected all over the place.

P.S. I made it. In more ways than one.

If you have an IT-related issue that needs solving, please reach out to Aspira today at info@aspira.ie.

Author:  Kevin O’Donovan, IT Engineer, Aspira.

Power of Project Management: Linking strategy to action

Organisations are facing significant events and uncertainties such as GDPR, Brexit, adoption of Artificial Intelligence and President Trump’s new America. These uncertainties give rise to a dilemma for established businesses.  Should they adopt transformation programs within their organisations and risk cannibalising existing profits, or should they preserve what has made their organisation great?

Many organisations are opting for major transformation programmes in pursuit of competitive advantage. These programmes may require a shift in strategy, structures, systems, processes and culture while maintaining critical assets.

So if you are considering such a transformation, you need to ask yourself:

  • How widespread is the required scope of change – does it affect the entire organisation or is it concerned only with a particular division?

 

  • Who are the stakeholders that can have a positive or negative influence on the transformation? Who are the people you need to engage with?

 

  • Do employees see the need for the transformation and understand the importance of the change? In times of change, our autopilot mode stops working – choices suddenly proliferate, decisions need to be made – and this creates uncertainty. Sometimes what looks like resistance is often a lack of clarity. So you need to create clarity by communicating a compelling vision with a real sense of urgency.

 

  • Are you communicating for buy-in? Organisations need to appeal to employees emotional side, ‘find the feeling’ and make people feel something. People must feel they are capable of change and need to be encouraged to accept the challenges the transformation brings despite the complexity and risks.

 

  • How much time does the organisation have to achieve this transformation? A realistic schedule with clear deliverables and milestones will be required to shape the path and provide the plan for action. Achievement of these milestones will create short-term wins and build confidence and momentum for change within the team.

 

Sustaining competitive advantage has never been more challenging, and the stakes have never been higher. That means you have a tremendous opportunity.  By making the right big-picture, strategic decisions, you can chart your company’s course amid great uncertainty.

Aspira consulting services can help you navigate this complex environment. Our clients’ testimonials demonstrate the value of strategic input in realising their vision.

Contact us now for free consultation at info@aspira.ie

 

The move towards Intelligent Business Applications

Pivoting to Success

Since Aspira was founded in 2007, it has had a Software Development team who design and deliver software solutions. Initially, the company was product-focussed, and then pivoted to be a services company – delivering a software development service amongst others.

Aspira’s software development offerings are great for clients who wish to have a new application developed or who require someone to manage the maintenance and development of their legacy products.

However, in many cases we find that a client specifically does not want software developers to build a whole new system for them.  Such clients prefer to avoid the pain of dealing with a new product, new supplier, longer-term product roadmap, future compatibility and maintenance issues that always arise with bespoke software.

What a majority of clients want is an ‘out of the box’ solution – where they will incur no development costs and where the long-term support is straightforward.

A Solution from the Inside

In response to this demand, Aspira set up the “Business Applications” team.  The task of this team is to not write software, instead they must build up deep expertise with many of the ‘out of the box’ software solutions out there. They must become trained and certified implementers of these systems. This foundation creates the ability to deploy, configure and customise solutions so that it will work effectively within the client environment, which ultimately addresses the client’s need(s).

The Aspira Business Applications team carry out these steps precisely – utilising technology such as CRM, SharePoint, PowerBI, Project Server etc. The team can rapidly deploy an industry-hardened solution in a way that retains a client’s satisfaction.

Integrating the Past with the Future

In some incidents, we pull in the Software Development team too.  Often, there can be a small amount of legacy applications or home-grown applications, to which clients need the new ‘out of the box’ system to connect.

Being equipped with a development capability – the Business Applications team can apply this to their advantage. It is here where our developers can not only build the interfaces but also configure the system to function with the legacy systems if required. Rather than a zero-code solution, it becomes a low-code solution.

Aspira is a company that focuses on delivering the people and technology to solve problems – the new Business Applications team is a fantastic addition to that capability.

If you would like more information on this topic, please contact info@aspira.ie

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/

 

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

Embracing the digital transformation

 

At Aspira, we are constantly seeking new ways to make a positive impact on our surroundings and one of these decisions came in 2017, when the company committed to solely purchasing and using electric cars.

This decision seemed like a natural progression for Aspira, as we recognised the positive impact electric cars have on the environment. As a project management firm, in recent years, we have also noticed a digital transformation occurring within the industry. Technology has heavily influenced how project management is now practiced – and the same can be said for motor vehicles. In this blog we look at how these changes mirror each other.

The digital transformation of the motor vehicle

Initially, motor vehicles were not equipped with features such as indicators – a feature that we now take for granted and heavily rely on to drive in an efficient manner. In addition, manual windows/manual unlocking have now transitioned into electric windows and immobiliser unlocking. Nowadays, your car acts as an entertainment centre – with features such as sat-navigation, Wi-Fi and even technology to parallel park or even drive.

There has even been a digital transformation in the way vehicles are produced. With Henry Ford’s invention of the production line concept, bringing the vehicle a long a belt to employees, digital advances have replaced these employee roles. Instead of supporting traditional methods, new types of innovation and creation, such as robotic arms, create industrial advantages:

  • Time efficiency – Robotic arms are tasked to do specific tasks. There are no interruptions as there is no need for human speech – once the robotic arm is programmed, it operates effectively
  • Safety – Less chance of an injury occurring – no human errors occurring during process, once it is programmed correctly
  • Financial savings – Although, a high initial cost may be required, there is no on-going wages – although minor servicing costs may be incurred

The digital transformation of project management

In a similar manner, project management has undergone a digital makeover. Technology has enhanced our ability to be more efficient and we now rely on mobile apps and social media to instantly connect with our team members and communicate key messages to one another. This reduces waiting time and speeds up the delivery of projects. We can also share documents with one another from different locations. No more waiting for faxes and documents to arrive by post!

Technology allows teams to operate in various locations, adhere to project deadlines and stay on budget.

At Aspira, we celebrate the advancement of technology to support the practice of project management and understand its importance to contribute to a better work environment. Our decision to purchase electric cars which rely on technology to positively impact our surroundings echoes our sentiments.

Article by Dean Murphy, Marketing Intern, Aspira.

Let’s talk Transformation

Digital Transformation is a term we hear a lot, as Aspira works with organisations so they can take advantage of technology to find faster/leaner ways to serve their customers better.

But what does it take to transform? The dictionary tells us that ‘transformation’ is defined as a marked change in form, nature, or appearance. Transformation will not come about by accident – it will require dedication, planning, creation of a support structure and the willingness to take risks and cope with setbacks. It revolves around creating a sense of urgency by setting realistic goals with some achievable short-term wins that can then be built upon to achieve the longer term vision.

Rob Cullen from Dublin Chamber and his wife Yvonne have been on such a journey of transformation, losing 13 stone between them over the past couple of years. Listen to Rob share his story and learn the steps involved in successfully completing a journey of personal transformation. It’s amazing how the steps involved in personal transformation mirror the steps required for an organization to transform – come along to this talk in Aspira’s Lunch & learn series to learn the recipe for transformation.

Please join us on June 27 at 12.30pm at the Trinity City Hotel, Pearse Street, Dublin.

To register email:  philip.mcgillycuddy@aspira.ie

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