STEPS FOR SUCCESSFUL SOFTWARE PROJECT DELIVERY

 

Having worked a range of high technology Irish pharmaceutical and Government customers, we know that flexible engagement models, and a wide range of skills and expertise are required for successful software project delivery. Head of Software Development Jim Blair has put together his top tips for your software project success.

INCREMENTAL DELIVERY IN SOFTWARE ENGINEERING

There are almost unlimited ways to build a customer software solution which means that Software projects in particular, can be very complex to deliver. It is for this reason that builders lean towards incremental value delivery. Using Customer Development suggests that software teams should plan incremental deliveries to the customer. Teams can use feedback from the deployments to tailor subsequent deliveries, with short turn-around time periods. This approach ensures that the subsequent solutions are built on top of software that has been tailored for customer value.

AGILE SOFTWARE DEVELOPMENT

Incremental value deliveries are ideal for getting feedback that can tune the solution value. The Agile software development process is specifically geared to supporting incremental customer deliveries. Scrum, which is one of the most popular Agile frameworks (there are over 40 different Agile frameworks!), defines an iteration as a “Sprint”. Common Sprint iteration cycles are two to three weeks. Scrum also defines an explicit process for planning each Sprint and planning the higher-level scope for a chain of Sprints. The success of each Sprint is proportional to the planning effort put into each Sprint plan. So, although the Agile principle of “Working software over comprehensive documentation” puts emphasis on getting working software, the principle doesn’t imply that planning can be omitted.

From Database architecture, through to complex business application infrastructure, to the world’s most advanced client applications developed for popular phone and tablet platforms, to web agnostic and Microsoft specific technology solutions, Aspira offers full-stack development experience that matches most needs enterprise development teams reach out for. Our development team size supports most enterprise-class development and we have a proven development track record. We also work to deliver small projects or can provide your company with onsite contract development staff to help you deliver your software projects successfully. Contact our Head of Software Development, Jim Blair, about your upcoming project, email: jim.blair@www.aspira.ie

Author: Jim Blair, Head of Software Development, Aspira.

Carpe Diem – Seize the Day!

 

In the past two weeks, during three independent discussions, I heard people recall some advice they received from their teachers.

My sister recalled how she was once told by her career guidance teacher that she would never achieve her own goal of becoming a teacher. The spurious reason given was that she didn’t ‘fit the mould’. It’s ironic that those very words just motivated my sister to prove her teacher wrong, to go on to have a distinguished career as an educator and is now Principal of a College. Lucky she didn’t let herself be limited by her teachers lack of vision.

A friend of mine recalled his teacher using a colorful metaphor to explain how an expert differs from a practitioner. The explanation was that an expert is someone who knows everything in the Kama Sutra but who never gets to go out on a date. That memorable quote has helped my client chart his own career path and give guidance to his team on the importance of honing their practical skills.

A colleague of mine commented on how she never had any ambition to go to college until a teacher saw something in her – the potential to achieve – that nobody else saw, even herself. But this teacher volunteered extra time and effort to help that young girl develop her confidence and is credited by my colleague for inspiring her to embark on what has been a very successful career.

Those three discussions got me thinking – once we leave school, who takes over the role of teacher? At that age we tend to blank out any advice from parents, and I don’t recall any college lecturer imparting wisdom to me in the way some teachers did. The closest I can think of is what I’ve learned from my bosses and mentors at work.

In exactly the same way as teachers, some bosses are memorable for good reasons, and some for not-so-good reasons. I remember some great advice I got from different bosses, including the advice to treat people well while I was ‘climbing the ladder’ because they were the same people I’d meet on my way back down the ladder.

That advice came true when I was made redundant from a multinational after 17 years – it was the people I had worked with for years who then became my network. Luckily many of them were happy to give me introductions and contacts to find work for Aspira – karma for treating people well.

Each of us needs to realize that in our jobs – whether as a people manager, project manager, or as mentor to junior staff- we can have a real impact on our colleagues, for better or for worse.

We can provide encouragement, career advice, and words of wisdom. Or we could choose to offer discouragement, cynicism, and negativity. Let’s make sure that each of us chooses to be the inspiring teacher who helps people to realize their potential and to Seize the Day!

Check us out at www.aspira.ie

 

Aspira Internship

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Can you describe a typical day in your role?

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

What key things have you learned during this internship?
Good communication skills from speaking with clients and managers, along with enhancing my development skills, and realising that there is something new to be learned every day.

Has this internship made you feel as though you’re on the right career path?
Certainly! I found the work incredibly fulfilling. Finishing a project always brought immense pride and camaraderie. At times during my studies, I had doubts if I was pursuing the right career, but after working at Aspira I’m positive I chose the right path.

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

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

4 Reasons to consider a Career at Aspira

 

1. You’ll never stop learning
At Aspira, training and development provision is one of our key services. We are renowned globally for excellence in Project Management and Business Analysis Training. We constantly reiterate the need for companies to train up their staff, develop new skillsets amongst their teams and empower their employees through learning. We are no exception to that rule. At Aspira, we have a company-wide focus on personal development and career enhancement through on site, internal and formal training programmes. All Aspira staff benefit from this approach.

2. Work with a connected community
will benefit from the support of your colleagues – a team of experts across a range of areas such as Development, Cloud Deployment, Senior Project Management and Business Analysis. Our collaborative approach to work is further bolstered by the opportunity to work in multi-experienced teams to help deliver exceptional projects for our clients.

We have a very present management team who are always nearby to point you in the right direction and offer their advice and support. Aspira staff also have a hands-on approach to companywide matters, having their say in a number of broader business aspects. The only limits at Aspira are the ones you set for yourself!

3. Flexibility and rewards
Our diversity means that we work with a new way of thinking. Our teams enjoy flexible working to allow for personal circumstances and family. Working for aspira also means flexibility in the clients you work with. We work with some of the best organisations in the country across both the private and public sector, in the country. The work is always exciting and never boring!

Our staff are also offered a number of other benefits such as pension, healthcare, training allowance, and paid holidays. Not to mention that our team is considered by many to be a family of sorts.

4. Diversity
Aspira is a diverse, international company. We have people from over 15 different nationalities building their careers with Aspira and we work with global leaders around the world. We offer opportunities to work globally and work on international assignments, so if you’re looking for a new challenge, Aspira might just be the place for you.

Want to work with us? See all current career opportunities on our website here https://www.aspira.ie/work-with-aspira/

Author:  Russell Moore, HR & Resourcing Manager, Aspira

Aspira appoints new Director of Software Development

 

Aspira, the specialist Project Management and Enterprise IT Solutions services organisation, has appointed Jim Blair as Director of Software Development. The appointment follows recent growth at the company and a number of significant client wins.

Jim brings over 30 years’ experience in product and software development to the company. From designing core elements of Mac OS at Apple to leading new product development at multiple Irish start-up companies, Jim has led the engineering of many world-class solutions. Jim will contribute to the growth of the software development teams at Aspira, working closely with clients to achieve seamless design, creation and implementation of software products that contribute to these organisations’ digital transformation.

Speaking on his new role at Aspira, Jim Blair said: “I’m delighted to take on this new role as Director of Software Development. We have a vastly experienced software development function at Aspira, and I look forward to working with my software developers and the complementary groups within Aspira to enhance the bespoke customer software service we provide to our clients.”

Aspira CEO, Pat Lucey, commented on the announcement: “We’re delighted to appoint Jim as Director of Software Development. Jim brings a wealth of experience that is critical for the development of world-class devices and software. Jim will be a fantastic asset to the team, contributing his strategic vision for the growth of the software development teams to the benefit of our valued clients.”

Aspira is a specialist consultancy, focusing on Enterprise IT Solutions, with offices in Dublin and Cork. Offering Project Management and Business Analyst Training services internationally, Aspira is approved by the Project Management Institute®, the International Institute of Business Analysis® and Scrum.org.

Please visit us at: www.aspira.ie or contact us on 021-2352550 or 01-5175777.

 

Emotional Intelligence – 50 shades of black and white…. (Part 2 of 2)

 

In Part 1 of my blog,  I spoke about the importance of Empathy – and making the effort to see things from the other person’s point of view.  Today I want to share two other ways I have learned to improve my level of EQ, or Emotional Intelligence:

Self-Awareness and Self-Regulation

To have self-awareness is the ability to recognize your own emotions, recognize the effect that emotions have on you physiologically, and recognize the effects they have both on your behaviours and how others will behave towards you.

Socrates (the philosopher, not the footballer) said “Know thyself” in order to understand the workings of the world. When dealing with people you have to be aware of how your own reactions and emotions can affect others and their view of us.

You need to be aware of our emotions in real time – as they happen. You will often have little control over when you experience emotions, especially negative ones such as nervousness, loss of motivation or anger.  However, you can regulate how you process the emotion and for how long you will feel that emotion.

I genuinely can feel a lot of anger very quickly, which has not always worked well for me at times in the past. Unless you’ve just won an Oscar, it is generally not advisable to communicate when in an overly-emotional state.  Whether you feel angry, upset or fearful, you can do lasting damage to relationships if you communicate when you’re not in control.

So when you feel a negative emotion kicking in, recognise it and know it will pass. Don’t let the emotion control your behaviour – instead you manage the emotion.  Consider what the behaviour was that triggered the issue, then identify what impact that behaviour has had on you to give rise to how you feel.  Armed with these three pieces of knowledge – Behaviour, Impact, Feeling, also known as BIF – you now have the tools to give constructive and effective feedback.  Give a BIF.

By communicating to the other person what their behaviour was, how it had an impact, and how that has made you feel; you have proactively managed the situation. Rather than sitting there seething in anger, or wallowing in self-pity, you have analysed the situation and have channelled your emotions to provide constructive feedback to tackle the problem at source.  As as a result, you have self-regulated your emotions and are in control of the situation.

In my role as a Senior Project Consultant with Aspira, I am sometimes required to take on Recovery Projects – projects that have gone wrong, and where I come in as a Recovery PM to get things back on track. In this scenario, relationships can be fraught as people will feel nervous and vulnerable.  This makes it absolutely critical that I maintain self-control and give calm, objective feedback to the project team members throughout.  By acting in a firm yet professional manner, the team can see that there’s a ‘new sheriff in town’ and will raise their own level of performance.

To conclude, one of the key strengths I look for in a great Project Manager is emotional intelligence, and the ability to see there can be 50 shades of black and white…

Author: Damien Kearns, Aspira.

Emotional Intelligence – 50 shades of black and white…. (Part 1 of 2)

It can be tempting to interpret things as simply black or white, good or bad, wrong or right. But the reality is that there are always different degrees of black or white, and while it can be difficult to discern them, it is important to tune your mindset to figure out how to identify which of the many shades of grey may be in front of you.

Throughout my life, I’ve always been looking to improve and develop, both in my personal and professional life. One area I have found where I can always improve is the area of EQ – Emotional Quotient -, which is based on the idea of IQ but looks at emotional maturity rather than raw brainpower.

Generally, I like to dissect where I can do better and one area I have found for improvement is how I relate to people and deal with situations. Sometimes it’s easy to react too quickly to a situation, only to overreact and regret that response later.

So, with that in mind, I’ve highlighted three areas of Emotional Intelligence where I try to put extra focus when dealing with difficult situations or people:

  • Empathy
  • Self-awareness
  • Self-regulation

Empathy

In truth, we experience life and work from our own frame of reference, and if a view is expressed which conflicts with our picture of the world, we can treat that view as simply wrong.   This is a mistake, as by treating it as wrong, we make no effort to understand another’s person reasoning for disagreeing with us and we do not try to tune into their frame of reference.

Empathy is being able to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within their frame of reference. In other words, it’s the ability to put yourself in the other person’s position and look at the issue from their point of view.

It’s about trying to look at a situation using their perspective with a view to understanding their reasoning. I now try to take some time to understand the why of a person’s stance and try to place myself in their shoes.   I find that 99% of the time they have valid reasoning for their stance and it just takes some time and effort for me to understand it.  Sometimes that understanding helps me to change my opinion.  There are also times when understanding their viewpoint helps me to change their mind by explaining my argument in a way that will resonate with them.

Tune in to Part 2 of my blog next week when I share what I’ve learned about self-awareness and self-regulation, and how you can channel negative emotions into a constructive force.

www.aspira.ie

Author: Damien Kearns, Senior Consultant, Aspira.

The People in Your Neighbourhood

Do you remember Sesame Street and the song ‘Who are the people in your neighbourhood’? Have you ever stopped to consider just how many different people we meet each day – from family and friends, to complete strangers, including some people we might prefer to avoid!  Have you considered how much we rely on them, without even realising it?

Firstly, there’s friends and family; we look out for each other, rejoice in each other’s success as if it were our own, and we support each other in times of need. You don’t get to choose your family, but you can choose your friends – these are the people we grow up with and, in the words from the Friends theme song “I’ll be there for you ’cause you’re there for me too”.

We regularly meet the friendly postman who hands over bills with a smile on his face, or the local shopkeeper, who knows you by name and is always ready to discuss today’s weather. We are slightly obsessed by the weather; it’s always too hot, too cold, too wet or too windy – but it’s never boring, and a great topic of conversation!  We have a mutual interest when we meet our children’s teacher, so here the weather topic is dropped, and we discuss the current school extension funding efforts, or the approaching school holidays.  The periodic visit to the hairdresser or barber is always accompanied by a discussion on vacation plans, or reviews of a recent holiday trip.

We also rely heavily on those people we meet in times of mini crisis. It might be when an electrical fault causes you to stumble through the house in the dark, searching for your phone to speed dial your trusty electrician.  Or it might be when that dripping tap in your bathroom turns into Niagara Falls, and you need your plumber to appear and save the day (and your house).  It might be when your car splutters to a halt with a very strange noise coming from the engine, and you rely on your long-suffering mechanic’s magic touch to resuscitate the vehicle, so you can ignore all rattles for another twelve months!

Five days each week we meet work colleagues; catch up on the evening before, figure out how to share the workload for the day ahead, and make plans for the upcoming weekend. In many ways, companies are much like families.  Sometimes a ‘family member’ needs a little extra help to get that project completed by the due date, maybe the project has gone completely off track and needs some expert help in Disaster Recovery.

Sometimes the company may need to take on a completely new project, but simply not have the manpower. This is where you reach out to the ‘extended family’.  Aspira work closely with many companies to provide that helping hand when needed, asking our Project Managers, Business Analysts or IT Support consultants to fit right in with their ‘long-lost cousins’.  They help out by hitting the ground running and providing support throughout the whole project and beyond.

As with all families, if you need that extra helping hand, pick up the phone. We’ll be there for you.  www.aspira.ie

Author: Noreen Quinn, HR Partner, Aspira.

Never work a day in your life… (part 1)

After spending 17 years working in a large multinational Financial Services company in various project and operational management roles, I decided to take a year-long career break.

During that break, I completed an MSc in Financial Services and also had the time to reflect on how frantic my working life had been. I tend to set very high standards for myself (with the exception of exercise and household chores!) and always want to be the best I can possibly be in order to reach my maximum potential.

I realised that pushing myself hard all the time had served me well and helped me progress in my career, but that same strong work ethic and ambition, coupled with a 4 hour daily round-trip commute, had probably left me feeling burnt out.

When I started to think about a return to the workplace and what my next role would be, Confucius’ saying was ringing in my ears “Find a job you love and you will never work a day in your life”.   This was the first problem to resolve, what was it I actually loved doing?

This is a question I have always struggled with as it relates to my career. I have a tendency to get stuck into a role and if I am performing well I tend to stay at it without ever challenging myself to assess whether I am actually happy doing the role. So rather than identify what role I wanted, I decided to identify a role that would play to my strengths, as that would surely have the potential to become a role I could love.

I quickly discarded the first few strengths that came to mind, shopping, socialising and making my friends and family laugh, none of these were ever going to pay the bills! The other strengths which seemed to offer potential were planning, organisational skills, communication, negotiation, influencing and an ability to work well under pressure.

When I put these together, it seemed like project management was the type of role that my strengths would serve me well in. I had worked as a PM for many years in financial services without realising it was my calling, perhaps because I wasn’t a pure PM in the sense I also had operational management responsibilities so my time was split between both project management and operational roles.

I happened to meet Pat Lucey, Aspira CEO, who advised that I should consider getting a project management qualification as companies tend to look for suitably qualified PMs. I did some research and concluded that PMP® (Project Management Professional) and PRINCE2 accreditations were both highly reputed in this field, giving potential employers the confidence that I had the proper level of understanding of the key project management concepts and how to apply them.

PRINCE2 is a process-based project management method that offers a systematic approach to delivering projects whilst PMP® is based on generally accepted best practices as defined by a large pool of experts from diverse industries and backgrounds.

Although both disciplines include teachings on tailoring their theory to your project and company’s needs, I felt PMP® was less prescriptive and therefore more relevant to a larger number of industries. Industry studies also have shown that certified PM’s earn more than their non-certified counterparts. The decision was made, I was going to get myself a PMP® qualification.

Tune in to part 2 of this blog next week to see how I got on!

Author:  Gillian Whelan, Project Manager, Aspira

 

The PMI logo is a registered mark of the Project Management Institute, Inc.

The Project Management Professional (PMP®) is a registered mark of the Project Management Institute, Inc.

Breaking Up with Folders

Breaking up with Folders

One of the most minor but regular annoyances within SharePoint is this:checkbox

This is an option being set to “Yes” by default is normally the cause of a lot of misery for anyone managing a SharePoint site.There are a million and one blogs written about why you shouldn’t use folders in SharePoint, outlining a lot of valid points. While I’m not sure I completely agree with removing them entirely, it’s worth understanding why you should or should not use them.

Why do people use folders?

People use folders because they have always used them. The concept of a folder structure is easy to understand. In the words of a former coworker, “you don’t have to think about it, you can just drag and drop”.

Why are they a bad idea?

Of course, you “don’t have to think about” the funny sound your car is making… right up until your engine explodes.

There are plenty of lists online that give specific technical reasons to avoid lists, so I’m going to stick to why they cause problems for an end user.

Folders should be used to group files, not categorise them. However, the majority of the time they are used for both.

Here’s an example that I have seen of this: a company stores all of their documents related to projects in a single document library. It has the following folder structure (excuse the terrible drawings, graphics are not my strong point):

filestruct

In this we see a great example of a bad folder and a potentially good (well, “okay”) folder.

Bad Folders

The “Project Phase” level of folders is everything that is wrong with using folders in SharePoint. There are 4 folders at this level (Not Started, In Progress, Complete, On Hold). Obviously, this will change through the lifecycle of a project. This means that everytime the phase of a project changes, you need to move the project folder out of one Phase folder and into another. This causes a number of problems:

  1. It changes the URL of the documents, breaking any links currently being used.
  2. It is awkward. Because folders aren’t designed for moving data in this way, there is no easy way to do it, forcing you to cut and paste or click and drag across different file explorer windows.
  3. It is slow. Moving a folder full of files can take a long time depending on file size and connection speed.

“Okay” Folders

While many people would probably debate this with me, I think the folder for each Project is acceptable in this type of structure:

filestructnew

Now, these may be better suited to an individual document library for each project, the folder is still doing what it is meant to; grouping files. It is unlikely that a file would be moved from one project to another. The only major issue you would see here is that permissions may become hard to manage if each project has different people accessing files. But if that isn’t a concern then this setup isn’t too bad.

Improving things with Site Content Types

So you like the idea of using an “okay” folder, but you still want to categorise your data. What’s the solution?

Probably the quickest and easiest way is to have a metadata column called “Phase” on each file. This way, you can bulk edit the value when the phase and you’re done. No need to click and drag, move files or wait around for a file transfer. It would also allow you to sort and filter on a specific, something that is lost with folders.

However, this doesn’t really make sense. The document itself doesn’t have a phase, the folder it belongs to does, so really it should be the folder storing this info. Well… that’s where Site Content Types become useful.

Site content types are incredibly underused in SharePoint. Many people spend a lot of time and energy trying to fix a problem that has already been handled by simply using a different content type.

The one to look at here is the Document Set content type. This content type is great for the above example. By default, when you create a document set, you give it a name and description.

docset

You will then be given a much cleaner view to handle documents in the set, along with a new “Manage” ribbon that lets you control permissions and edit properties.

docview

What we can do now is either copy this content type or modify the existing document set content type to allow for Project Phase. This is basically the same as editing any other custom list column. Go to Site Settings -> Document Set -> Add from new site column. You can then update the column to include whatever data you need.

docphase2

Now when you open each document set and edit the properties, you have the option to edit the phase of each set.

docphase

So before you rush to create a folder ask yourself: does it accomplish what it needs to? Put some thought into this and I guarantee you it will save you a lot of headaches in the future.

Author: Ian Jones, Software Developer, Aspira.

Back on the Saddle – Project Managing your Team to Victory

 

 

 

Last weekend legendary cyclist, Sean Kelly, & I undertook a most enjoyable spin around The Burren & Cliffs of Moher in Co Clare on a beautiful Spring day. The fact that there were over 2,000 others on the cycle shouldn’t detract from what became a serious grudge race between Kelly & myself (that Kelly was not aware he was in a race with me is irrelevant ? )

In the interest of suspense, I won’t reveal who won until the end of this piece!

Afterwards, Kelly took part in an informal Q&A session. One question raised was what separated a social cyclist, club racer & top pro. Apart from the predictable key areas of ability & dedication, an interesting point made was about project management – both race management and lifestyle management. It is not enough to be a strong finisher if you are left behind caught by a break half way through a race. There isn’t much good in being a hard trainer if you didn’t know how to rest & recover.

Sport is rightly viewed as an emotion driven, primal activity, but successful sports managers remove some of the emotion & replace it with good project management practices.

So if we are to take some key traits of a Project Manager in the world of Sport, who can we look to for examples of best practice and who could benefit from fine-tuning their PM skills?  Let’s look at three key areas of Project Management:

  1. Collaboration – How to develop a great team and keep it productive;

Best Practice – Joe Schmidt (Ireland Rugby).

Joe has created an environment with at least two players vying for every position, everyone ‘on message’, and arguably the strongest coaching team around him in world rugby. This is critical chain project management at its best.

Needs to Improve – José Mourinho (Manchester United).

While there’s no “I” in TEAM, there are five “I”’s in “Individual Brilliance” – it seems to be a case of ‘all about me’ with José it. Recently throwing his players to the wolves after a poor performance. His highly successful predecessor, Alex Ferguson, always defended his players – taking action behind closed doors when necessary.

  1. Communication – Great communication is a must to keep all stakeholders on-side, on schedule & focused;

Best Practice – David Brailsford (SKY Cycling).

Despite the bad smell now emanating from the SKY camp, Brailsford captured the cycling public’s interest for many years with a compelling story & consistent message of ‘marginal gains’. From nowhere, SKY became the No 1 team in world cycling & gave a new hope to the sport.

Needs to Improve – Jim Gavin (Dublin GAA).

Perhaps on his way to becoming the most successful ever Gaelic Football manager, Gavin remains enigmatic, having communicated none of his team’s ethos, dreams & goals to the Dublin GAA public, an important stakeholder.

  1. Leadership – Setting the tone for the project with integrity, providing a clear vision for the team

Best Practice – Brian Cody (Kilkenny Hurling).

Cody works long hours to prepare precise plans for all his management team & players. Consistently combative, sometimes cranky, but fiercely loyal to his organisation and never crossing the line by taking shortcuts to success. Treats everyone equally & shows respect for all opponents.

Needs to Improve – Eddie Jones (England Rugby)

Jones was glib, condescending & argumentative while enjoying a record-breaking winning streak, but took a major wobble in team selections, public utterances & body language when the pressure was on following three consecutive defeats. In danger of ‘losing the dressing-room’, Jones would do well to remember that a calm, even-handed leader in good times & bad will earn the respect of his/her team.

 

Our  Project Management course will give you the knowledge and skills required to be a successful project manager including the ‘hard’ skills of managing and planning the scope, schedule and budget and also the ‘soft’ skills of engaging and communicating with your stakeholders and ultimately managing their expectations and meeting the customer requirements.   Details are at: https://www.aspira.ie/training/

Footnote: In a disappointing end to my duel with Sean Kelly, he opted to complete the 125km route when the courses diverged, whereas I stuck to the much more difficult 80k route. I look forward to crossing swords with him again in the future, meanwhile Mr. Kelly remains oblivious to the whole episode!

 

Author: Philip McGillycuddy, Client Services Manager, Aspira.

STEM Subjects – why Maths is Cool!

Maths was always my favorite subject and is at the core of STEM subjects (Science Technology, Engineering, Maths).  I was fascinated by how people used maths to solve real, practical problems.  Like the Egyptians building their pyramids, like carpenters using Pythagoras’ theorem to construct a right angle, like Marconi inventing radio – but more on that later.  In the present day it is used all around us – cryptography uses prime numbers to keep our passwords safe, social media sites use complex algorithms to figure out which video to show you next so you’ll stay glued to your screen, Spotify analyses the number of beats per minute of the music you like in order to suggest other songs you might like.

On the window of my office there is also a Mathematical formula written:  e =  -1  , which is Euler’s equation. It’s there because it’s my favourite – it’s where Mr. Euler brings a cast of super-star numbers together and then there is a big surprise ending.  The first super-star is Pi, which has a value of 3.14… and it goes on forever after the decimal point.  The second super-star is e, the exponential number which has value 2.718…. and it also goes on forever.  The third star is i, (or iota, the Greek letter for i).  It doesn’t have a decimal value as it is an imaginary number – it is the number than when multiplied by itself gives the answer -1.

Euler takes these three superstar numbers and combines them in a formula, and the answer is … wait for it…  minus one.  So, by multiplying these never-ending number and imaginary numbers, you get -1.  That is just so surprising!  And it helps calculate satellite trajectories.

Maths makes for a really cool exploring tool.  Marconi was interested in Maths and Physics, and studied the new science of electromagnetism.  While most people were trying to figure out how to generate power, Marconi was interested in the fact that the mathematical models of electromagnetic waves suggested that in theory they could be transmitted over large distances.  Marconi went on to build a transmitter and receiver that proved the mathematical models were correct – and so came the telegraph, radio, television, Wi-Fi.  It was only because the maths predicted it, that Marconi had the stubbornness to try it.

The same phenomenon happened in the past few years – back in the 1960’s a mathematical model suggested the existence of a new elementary particle, called the Higgs Boson (aka the God particle).  Because Maths showed it should exist, scientists spent the next 50 years searching for it, until in July 2012 they found it, measured in and weighed it.

Maths is also a really useful tool when embarking on a new project or business venture.  ‘Do the numbers stack up?’ is a frequent question.  When setting up Aspira back in 2007, my co-founder and I made a list of all the costs we could think of, how much money we had available, and the likelihood of generating some sales.  By putting this into a spreadsheet, it told us how long we could survive even if we made no sales (the answer was six months) and it also told us how much sales we needed to win in order to break even.  The mathematical model we built gave us the confidence to embark on the journey to set up Aspira.

Mathematicians are like explorers, on a voyage of discovery, looking off into the distance and predicting things that are far away.  But those predictions are what cause people to choose their target and set sail for new horizons.

For all your consultation (maths!) needs, please visit our website https://www.aspira.ie/contact/

Author: Pat Lucey, CEO, Aspira.