Guest blog: A sneak peek into choosing an Independent Consultants Life

We invited Niamh Kelly to write this guest opinion piece about her personal experiences as an independent consultant.

A job for life… career stability… security… these mantras are often bandied about as the holy grail of #careergoals. I disagree with all of these largely because they don’t exist. Job security, predictable income, Ts & Cs and the ability to plan far into the future based on holding on to a job is a mirage which is long gone. Teachers, lawyers & the current nurses strike are hard proof examples.

I noticed the trend toward moving away from a Job for Life in the early noughties fresh out of university and jumped on board as an early adopter of skill survival but it has taken many years and a huge recession for the penny to drop for many others. Some unfortunately are still in denial.

The term job-hopping is used in a negative way to describe people who move from company to company. There is a huge problem with subscribing to this mind-set for you, the employee, as you will get stuck, you will operate from fear and you will make decisions based on external opinions instead of listening to your gut and trusting yourself. As an independent consultant, I job-hop for a living although I prefer the term client-hop and once you move past all of this external noise you will find that it is easier to design your life and carve out your career in a way that works for you. This is a day, a week, several months in my life.

When the last recession hit in 2008, by 2009, I experienced my first redundancy, it was devastating but an extremely well disguised gift. There were some huge life lessons I learned quickly and brutally:

1. Life gets in the way and even if you do everything right, the worst can still happen. It’s not you it’s them.

2. Always be prepared financially for the rug to get pulled from under you.

3. Be prepared to mobilise quickly in all types of economies – hone your skills, diversify if necessary and be flexible to change. If you are not flexible you will break like a stubborn tree in a hurricane.

Another redundancy came a few years after that in my favourite company to date with our Dublin HQ closure and that was almost more brutal than the first as I was emotionally invested in the company and my team. The grief was different this time; I mourned what was lost but I was not afraid of surviving the future. I knew I had what it took, I‘d done it before and this time I had even more skills, more experience and higher resilience. I felt secure in knowing that I had cleverly branched out into the technology sector which was thriving and changing the working landscape. Instinctively, I did not put roots down in my next permanent position, I saw an opportunity to expand my skillset even further in Tech Project Management and start-up environments and sought out a way to step outside my comfort zone deliberately. I took on difficult tasks whether I liked them or not as a way to stretch my professional legs. I don’t like spreadsheets but I became highly Excel competent, not a fan of public speaking but workshopped more ideas, improvements and knowledge sharing than I can count and while I’m no Mathematician if you put a € in front of anything I can negotiate, manage and track it to the nearest cent even with a moderately bad hangover. I can plan, strategise and forecast with the best of them although I always liked doing that so it doesn’t count.

As I was outgrowing my last permanent job the feeling of being stuck was gnawing at me but I had now become a little too comfortable and wasn’t feeling under pressure to make any swift decisions. The universe had other plans, it threw up an opportunity for me to buy a very unique and special home which was meant for me, I already owned a property and initially I didn’t think it would be possible. I somehow made it happen within nine days and when I came up for air on day 10, incredulous that I pulled this off, I suddenly realised the scale of financial responsibility I now had to bear which hadn’t even entered my thoughts two weeks previously. This could have been overwhelming but I went along with it.

Several months later, I left the permanent job after being there for a few years, it was time, and I took the leap and branched out as an Independent Consultant and so far it has been a great move for me. I work when I decide or when the right contract lands and I take time to travel in between. I am also a landlord and while I employ a company to manage the property, I often find myself managing them. I am designing my life. In the last two years, I have visited eight countries on four different continents and have three more pencilled in later this year. Consulting gives me flexibility I would not get in a permanent role and I have upskilled with every contract and stretched myself professionally in a way that I was hindered from doing in permanent employment. Best of all, I have increased my income exponentially which allows me the freedom to travel, pick good contracts and live my best life. I rely heavily on my network to connect me with good clients and you have to be prepared to walk in somewhere on day one and instantly take the reins to keep the show on the road. You also need to have the ability to propose frameworks for improvements and change. I have recently coupled up with Aspira through an old network contact of mine who I worked with several years ago. I sent him a speculative email on a sunny afternoon last summer and we met for a coffee within days to chat and see if we could do some business together and now we are. While I remain independent, working with our latest client running a huge internal hardware and software migration for 700 users has been fantastic and I now have the support of the Aspira family behind me to help me with any challenges I may come up against. They are a valuable support system for me and also act as knowledge pool that I can tap into at any time to help me to help our client, it’s a win/win/win.

So what about company loyalty, I hear you wonder, she hasn’t mentioned that at all, isn’t that important? I know that loyalty and longevity are two completely different animals. I still have huge loyalty to the Senior Management teams and Founders of the two companies I mention above. I continue to be friends with and mentored by these individuals, many years on, and I believe that many of us will work together again in the future – lads if you’re reading this you know who you are. I have huge respect and admiration for these people and have learned so much from how they handled the challenges as well as the successes. I have remained longer in other companies where we didn’t quite fit but I had a purpose, I delivered it and moved on. Relationships and positive networking are hugely important if you are taking this path, as the old saying goes, it’s all about who you know – but then to stay doing this and make a good living from it you have to be good at what you do.

Will I remain independent forever? Who knows, but right now I am incrementally maximising my skills & income level and pushing myself to achieve what I envision for myself, in the shortest amount of time – patience has never been my virtue. If I create a good solid design now then I should be able to withstand whatever the economy throws up at me in the future and it’s exciting and comforting for me to know that Aspira are part of this journey.

Author: Niamh Kelly

Why you need a Disaster Recovery plan

Aspira - Disaster Recovery

Aspira- Disaster Recovery

Why you need a Disaster Recovery plan?

Benjamin Franklin said, “Nothing in this world can be said to be certain, except death and taxes”.
When we consider the reliance of a business on IT systems, we can also say with certainty that, along with death and taxes, should a major IT systems outage occur, it can have a detrimental impact on your business, reputation and your customers perception. A mitigation against the potential impact of an outage is to develop and maintain a Disaster Recovery (DR) Plan.

Why develop a disaster recovery plan?

When you consider emerging phenomena such as Spyware, Phishing and Ransomware then no business that has any reliance on IT can be considered safe. Disaster recovery planning is not just for large and enterprise scale businesses, it’s for all businesses.
According to Cybersecurity Ventures, Ransomware damages reached $5 billion in 2017 and IBM reported that 70% of businesses paid to get their data back from ransomware attackers in 2016. In the case of traditional risks, research has shown that the most common causes of IT outages are Power, Human Failure and Natural Disaster with the direct costs annually running to 2.5BN dollars (IDC). It is fair to say preventative and remedial security measures such as an effective Disaster Recovery plan have now become essential.

What is disaster recovery planning?

DR planning is putting in place the measures and actions to be taken in the event of an IT systems failure to recovery those systems to an acceptable state in an acceptable timeframe. It is a component part of a company’s security profile, as well as being an essential element of a comprehensive Business Continuity Management (BCM). However, a DR plan should not be confused with BCM, which is much broader and considers not only IT but environmental as well has human impacts on a business’s ability to operate.

Disaster Recovery Challenges

When we look at what is involved in implementing a DR plan, a lot of companies struggle with two main challenges – Budget and Expertise.
No one wants to spend money on something you hope will never be used, and a lot of companies don’t have, or want to have, the expertise to plan the detail on delivering and maintain what could be a complex IT operation…….. that no one wants to ever use!

Defining a Disaster Recovery Budget

Cloud services now make the possibility of an Enterprise level DR solution at an main street price a reality for a lot of IT environments. Cloud solutions now mean that for relatively low costs (when compared to investing in hardware and onsite services) any company can have robust DR solution that provides levels of availability that would have previously been beyond reach in terms of cost.
Identifying Disaster Recovery Experts

On the challenge of expertise: Companies can now extend a Cloud service to becoming a Managed Cloud Service for Disaster Recovery. Outsourcing the setup, operation and maintenance of your entire DR requirement to an expert partner but doing it at a completely affordable price point.

What Disaster Recovery Plan do I need?

There are two concepts that you can use to determine what level of DR Plan you might need. You should look at the business processes that run your business, then look at the IT systems that these processes depend on (end to end), and define:

1. RPO: The Recovery Point Objective for the systems driving your business. Basically, if you must restore or recover and entire system – how old can the data be? This may seem obvious, but it is very important to realise that if you have a backup at 2am in the morning, what is on your backup is all your data up to 2am. If the server fails at 4pm the following afternoon and you must recover from backup, what you get back is all the data to 2am that morning. i.e. all information from then to 4pm is lost. In this example, 2am is the recovery point.
2. RTO: The Recovery Time Objective for your systems, is how long can you be without a system before your business (or the process affected) starts to become seriously impacted. For example, if you have an online ordering system and it becomes unavailable, how long can you sustain business without the system being online?
While RTO & RPO are linked, they can have different goals. i.e. you might need a system back online within 2 hours to enable business transactions, but the data can be a day old, or recovered offline as it is not urgent. Conversely, you might have an RTO of 24 hours, but the data must be no older than 15min!

Kickstarting your Disaster Recovery Plan

All businesses should now be, if not already, considering how a DR plan can form part of a security and business continuity process to safeguard operations, integrity and reputation. Managed Cloud services bring the capability of Enterprise DR solutions to all business’s. Once you have defined your reliance on IT, through a simple process of defining Recovery Point and Time Objectives, you can begin to formulate a plan to protect your IT and your business.

For more information on Disaster Recovery, or to speak to one of our expert team, contact us today.

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.

Do you need to be a Mentalist to be a Project Manager?

Last night I went to see the English hypnotist and mentalist Derren Brown perform an amazing show, where he performed uncanny acts of mind-reading and influencing through the power of suggestion.

As Derren asked his audience to promise not to reveal the contents of the show, I will stick with that promise – no spoilers – but I did think afterwards about the importance of influencing skills for Project Managers.

I don’t think Project Managers will ever need to be able to influence people to choose a particular card from a pack, but they will need to get people to select their project when making a priority call, or get people to put in some extra work over the weekend, or encourage people to get their action items closed out in time.

So what tips can we learn from Mr Brown? I learned three tips last night:

  1. The power of story telling. While delivering his show, Derren doesn’t say “and for my next trick…”, instead he tells us a story about himself, his childhood, his personal experience. He then draws from that experience an underlying lesson – a deeper truth.

It’s a compelling performance. His story captivates us, we are drawn in and we engage with what he is telling us.  A Project Manager could benefit so much by using that technique to influence stakeholders.  You win hearts and minds not by saying “this project will reduce the cost of goods sold for this medicine by 2%” but instead by showing how the efficiencies that can be delivered by this project will reduce the cost of medicine, making it accessible to thousands of more people in the world whose lives will be transformed.  A very different message.

  1. Use of metaphor and analogy. Derren uses language very effectively to tie together concepts and generate emotional responses from us. By deeply connecting emotions and anchoring those emotions with his influencing messages, he is able to effectively connect with people’s emotions.

This approach is exactly how advertising companies operate, and it can be just as effective too for you dealing with your project stakeholders. If you need to win the minds of your management team to invest in new technology or processes, get them to recall how it felt last year when the technology let them down, and they had to work long hours and miss vacation just to compensate.  Then show how this new technology will solve the problem.  I feel supportive already!

  1. The importance of body language. He reads people like a book. A very open book.  Not many of us can do it to his level of skill, but if you do take the time to focus on people’s body language, you will often become aware of how they really feel.

You will sense when they don’t agree, giving you an opportunity to re-phrase your argument. You will sense when they don’t understand, letting you try to approach it from a new angle.  Or you might sense that you have had enough and simply want to walk away, in which case you should simply stop, regroup and ask for a follow up meeting.

Aspira Project Management training courses will help you identify and engage your project stakeholders – check us out at www.aspira.ie

You don’t need to be a mentalist to be a Project Manager – but it sure can help.

Author: Pat Lucey, CEO, Aspira

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.

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.

Transition in style to the new PMBOK6

In case you missed it, the PMBOK5 is changing to the PMBOK6 on the 25th March 2018. The following are the main changes:

  • There is new information on project and development lifecycles, phases and phase gates.
  • Additional key project documents are also introduced including the Business Case and the Benefits Management Plan.
  • Both the internal and external environments are explored in detail.
  • The role of the project manager is discussed in terms of The PMI Talent Triangle. The talent triangle focuses on three skill sets, namely technical project management, leadership and strategic business management.
  • Each of the knowledge areas highlights key concepts, trends and emerging practices, tailoring considerations and considerations for agile/adaptive environments. The latter reflects the increasing adoption of agile techniques in Project Management.
  • Two knowledge areas have been renamed – Project Time Management is now Project Schedule Management and Project Human Resource Management is now Project Resource Management (not just human but all resources on the project).
  • There are now 49 processes – 1 removed, 3 added and 1 moved.
  • Tools and techniques can be categorised into Data Gathering, Data Analysis, Data Representation, Decision Making, Communication and Interpersonal & Team Skills
  • The word Control has been replaced with the word Monitor in some instances where people are involved.
  • No changes in Project Scope Management & Project Cost Management
  • Project Integration Management – Manage Project Knowledge has been added which is concerned with both tacit and explicit knowledge for two purposes including using existing knowledge and creating new knowledge.
  • Project Schedule Management – Estimate Activity Resources has been moved to Project Resource Management
  • Project Quality Management – Perform Quality Assurance has been renamed to Manage Quality and many of the tools and techniques have been streamlined.
  • Project Resource Management – Since this knowledge area now focuses on all resources, the process names in this area have been changed to reflect this. They include Plan Resource Management, Estimate Activity Resources (the one that was moved from schedule), Acquire Resources, Develop Team, Manage Team and Control Resources (the one that was added).
  • Project Communication Management – Control Communication has been renamed to Manage Communication.
  • Project Risk Management – Control Risk has been renamed to Monitor Risk. Implement Risk Responses has been added. A new risk response strategy has been introduced, namely Escalate.
  • Project Procurement Management – The content has been updated to reflect global practices. Administer Procurement has been renamed to Control Procurement. Close Procurement has been removed.
  • Project Stakeholder Management – Plan Stakeholder Management has been renamed to Plan Stakeholder Engagement and Control Stakeholder Engagement has been renamed to Monitor Stakeholder Engagement.

 

Woah – quite a lot! Don’t panic we have designed a one-day transition course from PMBOK5 to PMBPOK6 with exam questions. So, email us now on training@www.aspira.ie or call Norma Lynch on 021-2352550 for more information and make sure you visit our training page at https://www.aspira.ie/training.

 

Author: Norma Lynch, Head of Training, Aspira.

The Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK) is a registered trademark of the Project Management Institute, Inc.

What is GDPR?

 

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into force on the 25th May 2018. It is now vital that businesses review how they handle and manage personal data that they collect.

What is GDPR?

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) outlines the rights and responsibilities that a business has when collecting, using and protecting personal data. For any business that collects personal data it puts focus on the need for transparency, security and accountability by data controllers. The regulation also gives more power to an EU citizen by:

  • Providing a “right to be forgotten”.
  • Allowing easier access to any data of theirs a business may have.
  • Requiring explicit permission whenever the business processes their data.
  • Requiring a business to inform them of any data breach within 24 hours.

The recommendation is to take a “Privacy by Design” and “Privacy by Default” approach to data to reduce potential problems with this regulation in the future.

Privacy by Design

This term is used to describe an approach to designing a system that takes privacy into account at every point of the process. It is not about protecting the data as much as it is about designing the system in such a way that the data doesn’t need protection.

Privacy by Default

This term is used to describe the idea of using the strictest privacy settings by default for a user. This will be more noticeable in areas such as social media and marketing email lists, where a business is storing or publishing additional data that is not needed to sign up to the service.

How Does this Impact your Business?

Preparing your Business

The first step is to review their data for any Personal Identifiable Information (PII) they may be storing.

Personal Identifiable Information

This term refers to data that could be used to identify, locate or contact an EU citizen. This can range from date and place of birth to financial or medical information.

It is vital that a business takes inventory of any PII within their business. This review should take into account questions such as:

  • How did you obtain the data?
  • Was the user notified that this data would be stored?
  • Is there any clearly defined reason for this data to still be stored?
  • How long do you plan to store the data?
  • Is there a retention policy on this data to ensure it removed when the retention period expires?
  • Who has access to the data?
  • Do third parties outside your business have access to this data?

Reviewing these questions with a GDPR consultant will give you an overview of the issues to be resolved.

Planning for the Future

Your business may need to have tighter controls on some data in order to avoid potential data protection issues going forward. These may include:

  • Appointing a data protection officer
  • Setting out clear processes for accessing personal data
  • Strict policies for deleting, sharing and transferring data
  • A process in place to handle data breaches

It is vital that these processes and policies are clearly defined from the outset.

Managing GDPR Going Forward

Monitoring and reporting will be integral to dealing with these changes within your business. For companies currently using SharePoint and reporting tools such as Power BI or SQL Server Reporting Services, these can be leveraged to provide your business with:

  • Effective tracking and reporting of data breaches
  • Approval workflows to manage data access requests
  • Team sites to store documentation on data policies

Microsoft have provided an Activity Hub as a starting point for this here. Consulting with a SharePoint architect who is well versed in GDPR can provide additional changes to better fit your companies needs.

GDPR is a big change for any business dealing with personal data. It is vital that you take a proactive approach to dealing with it. Investing time and effort now into the processes and policies you implement will ensure they are robust and maintainable going forward.

Author: Ian Jones, Software Developer, Aspira

 

What is SharePoint?

 

 

SharePoint is a web-based, collaborative platform that enables Businesses to improve their Business processes, increase productivity and improve teamwork between their staff. 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 to store, organize, share, and access information from any device, from a desktop PC, to smart phones and tablets.

SharePoint is available as a hosted service provided by Microsoft or on Premise, where the server technologies required to support SharePoint are hosted on the client’s infrastructure and maintained by the client, or a hybrid of on premise and hosted.

There are currently 3 editions of SharePoint; Foundation which is free and provides simple collaboration using team sites, blogs and apps, Standard adds to this with Intranets, portals, extranets, search, and My Site social networking and Enterprise which adds business intelligence and office integration services. To see the full list of differences between the editions, please follow this link SharePoint editions. With the release of SharePoint 2016 Foundation is no longer available. In addition to these offerings of SharePoint we also now have SharePoint Online, which is a cloud hosted service as part of Office 365, however it can be purchased as SharePoint hosted only without the Office 365 offerings should you wish. This version of SharePoint is hosted and maintained by Microsoft.

 

  • 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.

 

  • Visualization 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.

 

Aspira currently offer SharePoint Consulting, Customization, Business System Solutions and Support. Our team of experts have accomplished numerous of 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. Feel free to contact us for a free consultation on your SharePoint project.

Author:  Paul Cuthbert, SharePoint Developer, Aspira.

Top 10 traits I most admire in a Manager

 

I have worked for a variety of managers to date and have met many more along the way!  As a result, I have experienced many traits I admire and some traits I dislike.  These are the Top ten traits that I most like in a people manager.

  1. Give credit in public – acknowledge your staff’s contribution and don’t pretend you do all the work!
  2. Promote people with potential – you should look out for the high performers and help them become the leaders of the future.
  3. Be honest about people’s performance – give constructive feedback – both negative and positive and don’t make false promises about salary increases that will never happen.
  4. Create a co-operative and collaborative environment where peers help each other rather – avoid “warring tribes” syndrome.
  5. Don’t ask your people to do something that you’re unwilling to do yourself.
  6. Be respectful towards individuals.  People respond positively when treated with dignity and respect.
  7. Take the time to build team spirit.  Hold team meetings and build in time for team members to meet each other face-to-face.  This will dramatically improve their working relationship.
  8. Be supportive when your people make mistakes.  It’s easy to be nice when everything is going well, but great managers give support to their team members when things are going wrong.
  9. Trust your team to do their job – give clear direction and review progress, but don’t disempower your staff by micromanaging their hourly activities.
  10. Build relationships – work is about more than getting the task done, it’s also about building relationships with colleagues and stakeholders.  Great managers make an effort to connect on a personal level with their team members, helping to understand what makes them tick. And if they like Bruce Springsteen then that is a great start!

How many of these traits do you already exhibit?  At Aspira we do our best to demonstrate these traits, as I believe it is a key factor in any successful company.

I find this quote really good to guide my thinking and behaviours “People do not leave a company, they leave a manager”

Author: Mary Dwyer, Operations Manager, Aspira.