Starting a new job in times of Covid-19

Starting a new job in times of Covid-19

The day after my interview, I was called with great news that I had received an offer. I was excited and nervous because that same evening, our prime minister announced that the country was going into a lockdown. Starting a new job remotely sounded like something surreal.

Beginning a new job is always an exciting but nervous experience, you always look forward to walking through the office on your first day not really knowing what to expect. Getting introduced to everyone, the handshakes, the meetings, the on boarding, the face to face contact, it all adds up to such an exciting day. Starting a new job during the middle of a pandemic was a little different. Although it may be a different experience, you can’t forget how lucky and fortunate you are to acquire a new job. The working from home aspect was new to a lot of people but it was exceptionally new to anyone who would be beginning a new position within a company, having not met any of your colleagues in person.

You learn quite quickly to utilise all the online assets that are available to you. You get to know your colleagues through online meetings, calls, emails etc. You learn to find out as much information and obtain as much detail as you can during meetings and calls. You discover how to really manage your time to increase productivity, and although there is nothing that really compares to face to face contact and being in person with someone, that doesn’t mean you can’t make the most of working from home.

What I soon noticed was that it had its benefits, I felt closer to my international colleagues because video calling was the new norm. There are no boundaries in our new normal, and this is something I hear daily when speaking to candidates. Candidates living in Ireland and working in the Netherlands.

As more and more people begin a new job working from home, here are some tips to help you through the process:

Have a space

  • Having a space dedicated to where you work can help you feel more relaxed and organised when starting a new position. It’s important to create a workspace environment at home where you can separate your work life from your personal life. Creating a small space in your house that is used for work, will help you to separate your workspace from your living space as much as you can when working from home.

Start a routine

  • Similar to creating a workspace, it’s important to start a routine when working from home. It can be easy to slip into bad habits so creating a routine from the start will help you to settle into working from home. As your workspace becomes part of your home, it can feel like there is a blur between personal life and work life, it’s important to establish boundaries between the two to keep a healthy work-life balance.

 Ask for support

  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions. With any new experience, we will all have questions. Don’t be afraid to ask anything you need to help you settle in better. Set up regular meetings/check-ins with your manager to ask any questions you may need and to keep up to date. Organise meetings with other staff members to learn more about different aspects of the company and ask questions where you may be unsure. This is a great way of learning more about the company and your colleagues.

Take the time to connect with your colleagues

  • Settling into a new job can be difficult, a good way to get settled in and feel comfortable is to meet with your colleagues and get to know them on a personal level. Although this may be a little more challenging working from home, it is definitely a good idea to get in touch and reach out to colleagues for a catch up/chat. Ask if there are currently any social video calls/meetings happening within the company throughout the week that you could join.

Enjoy the process

  • While a new position at any time comes with its challenges, don’t forget to enjoy the process of starting your new job. As a new employee you are not expected to know everything straight away and hit the ground running, so take this time to learn more about the company and your colleagues, do your research and become familiar with how the company works.

It’s an exciting time to start a new job, we are adapting, becoming more flexible, and beginning to think outside the box.

Check out all our open roles here.

Author:  Bruna Clemens, Client Services Manager, Aspira Europe NL.

The role of an Agile Coach

The role of an Agile Coach is a role that has come to the fore increasingly over the past number of years, as organisations look for guidance on adopting scrum and in expanding it at an enterprise level. The role is one which is more to do with the organisation than an official role in the scrum process.

It is important to firstly state that the role of coaching is assumed by the Scrum Master, as they are the ones responsible for the scrum process itself. The scrum master is responsible for ensuring the team, product owner and stakeholders understand and adhere to the process. The Scrum Master is both an educator and evangelist for the process.

The adoption of scrum in an organisation usually takes one of two approaches.

  • The Big bang method – where the organisation decides that they, entirely, are going to adopt scrum in an overnight fashion. The scary one, but can be very effective with the right leadership.
  • The organic method – where a team or, a small number of teams, adopt the process. This is observed and further growth stems from here. This is the more traditional approach, not as scary. More a suck it and see approach, although it does have its downside with pace of adoption.

As the adoption of scrum expands the need for a consistent experience for the teams, product owners and stakeholders becomes a vital ingredient in the successful transition of an organisation to an Agile organisation. It is here that the need for a specific role in owning this adoption is needed and this is usually formed in an Agile Coach.

Some areas that the role covers are:

  • Understanding why an organisation is choosing Agile and Scrum as their preferred methods of delivering projects and ensuring the organisation keep these drivers at the forefront of their implementation.
  • Senior leadership/executive level understanding of what scrum means and how to work with it is paramount to its success. The coach should ensure this level of management are getting and understanding the information they need to run their organisation.
  • Instilling an agile way of thinking in an organisation. Traditional expectations, fundamental ones, for project delivery still need to be met , they just look different in an Agile approach.
  • Identification and development of a scrum master community ensuring a consistent understanding and implementation of scrum across the teams in the organisation

The adoption of agile and scrum is a fundamental change in the way an organisation delivers its projects. Change is never easy and although scrum is a very easy methodology to understand, it can be a very difficult one to implement. Having an Agile Coach as the focal point for this transition can be vital to its success.

Choosing the right person to help in that transition is a crucial decision. An Agile Coach should have a wealth of experience as a Scrum Master, as the roles are very similar in content if not coverage.

Understanding why an organisation wants to be agile is one of its biggest drivers it needs to understand. Bringing an Agile Coach in at the start can save a lot of money and heartache, with regard to ensuring the right drivers are in play from the start.

Often there is only one chance to make a good impression of what scrum is within teams and in an organisation. An Agile Coach can ensure that this impression is a very good one from the start.

If you require an Agile Coach or Scrum Master, please contact Aspira today.

Author:  Aidan Muldoon, Scrum Master, Aspira.

5 Microsoft Project Tips

5 Microsoft Project Tips

  1. Organize Global Template

Did you work  hard customizing one of your project schedules to suit your business needs with custom tables, filters, calendars or fields – just to realise that your next schedule needs the exact same metrics? To avoid the pain and hassle of re-working and re-developing those metrics try this nifty trick the next time you’re stuck.

Open your old schedule with metrics and the new schedule both at once.

In the new schedule go to ‘File’ option and under the ‘Info’ tab you will see an option, ‘Organize Global Template’.

Set the first window to the old schedule (box 1 in image below), then select the metric category you want to copy over (box 2 in image below).

Finally , set the reporting metric you wish to copy from the old schedule (box 3 in image below).

  1. Timeline View

We often underestimate how powerful Microsoft Project is. The different views and reporting templates it provides by default can, in most cases, satisfy the majority of our business needs. One of the most powerful views (in my opinion) is the ‘Timeline View’.

This can be found: ‘View’ tab > ‘Split View’ > Timeline.

The real trick comes in with how creatively you can customize it. After clicking on the Timeline, head over to the ‘Format’ Tab and click on ‘Existing Tasks’ from the ‘Insert’ section.

Here you can select the summary tasks you need for a high-level view of your project. I think this gives a much better overview and more customization than your traditional Gantt Chart.

  1. Task Form View

This is by far the most powerful views that your stock Microsoft Project can offer without any plugins, especially when you’re dealing with schedules in excess of 2000 tasks.

This can be found: ‘View’ tab > ‘Split View’ > Details.

If ‘Task Form’ view isn’t the default setting, you can select it from the drop down beside the ‘Details’ box.

Again, as with any view, the trick comes with how you customize your view to suit business needs. By default Microsoft Project shows resources on the left pane and predecessors on the right pane.. This can be changed to suit your preferences by right-clicking the ‘Task Form’ view.

You can literally control the entire project from here, changing dependencies, changing type of connections (FS,SS,FF,SF), adding or removing lag, editing task name. Everything in a nutshell!

  1. Tasks

Ensure that task relationship dependencies are set up appropriately so that there are no orphan tasks for the scheduling calculation. Avoid start-to-finish relationships, if possible.

  1. Project Comparison

If you have two different correct versions of a project schedule (yes it can happen!) which is well over 2000 tasks, it wouldn’t be a wise idea to scroll down 2000 tasks for each schedule. This is where the Project Comparison tool comes in real handy.

Go to ‘Report’ tab and click on ‘Compare Projects’ after opening both the files.

Once the comparison view is open you can easily see the differences across both the projects by using different filters. I wish I knew this handy tool before!

For all your Project Management needs, please contact Aspira.

Author:  Anuj Agarwal, Project Scheduler and Planner, Aspira.

Project Performance versus Information Management

Project Performance versus Information Management

Project Management has been consolidated as one of the main ways for organisations to successfully deliver their strategic business plans. Nowadays, there is no doubt about the benefits of project management. It significantly improves project results, shortens delivery times, optimises use of resources, reduces project costs, increases productivity and return of investment – just to point out a few benefits.

However, a high number of projects do not achieve success, i.e., do not meet their objectives. Surveys indicate the major cause of this disconnect between intention and results, is communication. Communication involves information management.

Information Management

Information is an important element within project management. On the one hand, projects make use of information in order to reduce uncertainty. On the other hand, they are also major producers of information, as they present an intense flow of information throughout their life-cycle.

All this information needs to be managed in favor of the project – however, most organisations are not prepared for the management of this information. It is estimated that  almost 80% of information and knowledge within an organisation is not shared. This inevitably leads to informational chaos which is then transposed to the project environment.

Differentiating information management within projects 

Due to their unique characteristics, projects require a clearly differentiated information management process. Such management should be focused on the procedures required to ensure that all project information is generated, collected, distributed, stored, retrieved and organised properly, as highlighted in the PMBOK ® Guide (Project Management Body of Knowledge – PMI ®). Furthermore, decisions are always made within the project, and must be supported by accurate and timely information.

Based on my own empirical research within small, medium, and large organisations, it is possible to state that there is a straight correlation between clear communication and project performance. More research needs to be done, but it was clear that organisations with more mature communication processes in place, including information management processes, presented far better project results.

Combining human and automated resources to manage the information in projects can highly improve communications. Among those automated tools, SharePoint sites are popular and we would highly recommend them when managing information within projects.

However, using technology alone is not enough. Here are some tips to guide you however, the support of a project management specialist may also be of benefit to successful project delivery:

  • Engage the team around the use of a clear information management process.
  • Recognise that people learn and work in different ways.
  • Identify the information needs (why users need certain information and how they use it).
  • Use IT resources such SharePoint to better organise, store and facilitate information sharing.
  • Add value to information by focusing on the content and quality of the information.  Is it current, accurate and useful?
  • Clearly define a communications plan, specifying who needs which information, when and how.
  • Disseminate an information culture, including sharing knowledge around projects and throughout the organisation.

To conclude, it is understood that information management should be seen as a systemic action, seeking to understand and meet the information based needs of the project. Certainly, it will contribute to a reduction in costs and the increased success of projects. Consequently this will help companies to thrive in a globalised and highly competitive world where everything is interconnected and interdependent.

For all your Project Management needs, please contact Aspira

Katia Stark, Project Manager, Aspira.

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.

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