SharePoint the ‘evolution’

SharePoint the ‘evolution’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Please contact Aspira if you have any Software Development needs.

Author: Paul Cuthbert, Software Developer, Aspira.

Project Management in the Financial Sector

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Author: Kátia Starck, Project Manager, Aspira

Six Basic Tips to Protect Your Digital Identity

Six Basic Tips to Protect Your Digital Identity

My PayPal account is disabled, my Amazon account is suspended, there has been suspicious activity on my IP address so my router will be barred……… I am either flat broke (and I know I’m not) and can’t pay my bills or there is a problem with the provider, so I must click on this link to see what I need to do to sort it out………

Within the last 10 days I did get each one of these notices, 2 were emails and 1 was actually a phone call to my unlisted landline!  (yes, I still have a landline).

What is a fact is that each one of these was a phishing scam.  Now, I have worked in IT for almost 30 years so you would expect I would be sceptical and wise to these attempts, and I am, but there are many people who are not;  like my 70+ year old next door neighbour that calls me every-time she gets a phishing email and is visibly upset thinking something is actually wrong.

With COVID-19 and a large part of the population working from home, isolation, reliance on home broadband (as opposed to the it being the IT departments problem) and a general sense of nervousness means a lot of people are more open to falling for these scams.  These criminals are psychological experts at placing doubt in your mind, so don’t let them!

But then again, I have anti-virus, a firewall and encryption so I am OK.  Wrong again!  In our now totally connected world, while all of these security measures do offer a level of protection, they are not a silver bullet – a panacea for all security needs.

The fact is quite a lot of security breaches are as a result of an issue between the keyboard and the back of your chair…..  that is You!  Your digital identity is what these criminals ultimately want.  And they will have ingenious ways to try to get it.  However, you can take some basic and simple steps to secure your identity, these include:

  1. Be vigilant. No provider of a service ever asks you to verify anything by email.  You can do two things to set your mind at ease when you receive a phishing mail.  The first is look closely at the sender address to see if it is genuine.  For example, double click it (depending on your mail client) and you might see something like amazonsupport@yahoo.com – you can be pretty sure Amazon don’t use yahoo mail.  Otherwise you could telephone them, or login to your account (not by clicking the mail link you were sent, but by accessing it how you normally would) and verify everything is OK.
  2. Whatever system you are using, Google, Office 365 etc – all of these providers offer “Multi-Factor Authentication”. This is where, in addition to your password, you are required to verify your login with a pin code or automated call to your mobile.  If you have not enabled this service, do it!  This means if a criminal does get your password, they still cannot access your system – as they don’t have your phone.
  3. In addition to Anti-Virus on your device, install specialised anti-malware. Anti-malware service providers provide real-time protection scanning thousands of websites looking for malicious activity, so if you click on a link that may be taking you to a site that could damage or encrypt (with crypto-virus) your machine you will be prevented by the anti-malware.
  4. If you get an email from a colleague looking for account information, a banking transfer etc – unless you expect the mail, don’t do it! Call that person and verify the request.
  5. If you get a phone call asking for information, hang-up and call the provider on their listed number for support. Never give information to someone on the basis of an unsolicited call.
  6. Finally, make sure you have a backup of your data. Google Cloud, OneDrive, whatever is your preference, set it up and set it running.

These are basic steps; they should seem obvious and I hope for most reading this they are.  But for the non-techies out there that do get “hacked” every day, these simple steps should help prevent it happening to you!

Author:  Jason Boyle, Operations Director, Aspira.

Migrating a Node App to the Cloud

Migrating a Node App to the Cloud

I have a Machine Learning (ML) application running on my Laptop and I was looking for ways to improve my application accessibility and performance. My primary investigation was focused on migrating my ML application to the cloud. This blog describes my cloud migration journey, where I’ll highlight some of the main lessons I learned through the ML migration process. I was hoping that by migrating my ML application to the cloud, I’d have expanded performance upgrade options that couldn’t be duplicated with my local machine implementation.

The core of my project was a machine learning algorithm written in Python. My application data, on which the machine learning model was trained, was held in a local SQL Database. The application layer was implemented as code in NodeJS server that executed the ML algorithm, written within Python files, and displayed the Machine Learning results in HTML.

For my choice of cloud platforms I considered AWS, Google and Azure, and ultimately settled on Azure because Azure credit that’s offered through Microsoft’s Visual Studio Enterprise Subscription. It meant that I could port my Machine Learning application onto the cloud for no incremental cost!

There were two main tasks involved in porting my Machine Learning application to the Azure cloud:

(1) I had to migrate my ML training database to a Azure cloud DB

(2) Port my NodeJS functionality into a NodeJS environment within the Azure App Service

Microsoft’s developer guides made the experience of (1) porting the Database and (2) porting the NodeJS straightforward. However, I ran into my first significant porting challenge when I realised that the Azure cloud services doesn’t allow the equivalent of the NodeJS Child Process function to execute. I had to find an alternative means of running my Machine Learning python algorithm code!

Fortunately, Azure comes to the rescue through their offering of the Azure “Machine Learning Service”. Using Azure’s Machine Learning Service, I was able to create a Machine Learning Workspace (ML Workspace). The ML Workspace environment enables dataset importation, training ML models on imported datasets and deployment of models. The Azure ML Workspace models are created using Python, so I was able to repurpose my existing Python scripts, effectively eliminating the NodeJS Child Process invocation. Azure supports access to the model outcomes through a RESTful API. The REST API enabled me to query my model for new predictions.

The full support for Machine Learning applications on Azure meant I was then able to re-create my Machine Learning Model, deploy it, and utilise it for predicting new outcomes. I can scale my Azure services, if needed, as my datasets grow. I now have a much more flexible Machine Learning application, all with the help of Azure!

For all your Software Development needs please contact Aspira here.

Author: Alan Lehane, Aspira Software Developer

 

Selenium for Automated Test Development

 

Selenium for Automated Test Development

Test automation is a hugely important part of modern agile software development. In this blog, we are going to focus on just one part of the challenge of testing in software development – building comprehensive software testing for user interfaces (UI).

User interfaces present a challenge for test development because of the complexity of user interaction with the software product. Most application user interfaces have users making choices, for instance, “where to save a file?”, “what to print?”, or “what file(s) to open?”, and these choices grow application pathways that require validation by manual or automated testing. Agile software development typically puts further demands on the software testing because of the requirement to have testing completed within the short agile iteration timeboxes. It is not uncommon for Agile Scrum teams to require their full testing validation to be complete within a two-week Scrum sprint cycle. These time constraints put more pressure on the testing approach and most importantly, the decision for which testing tools to rely on.

This blog illustrates some of our observations during our trial adoption of the automated testing tool Selenium, in our journey to providing automated testing for our Agile software development.

Challenge 1:

Our first challenge in the adoption of automated testing for our software development was to build a system that enabled us to write and run automated tests. Building these tools and test capabilities from scratch is normally way too expensive for software teams, and there is a myriad of automated software testing frameworks available to make the adoption much simpler. We investigated some common choices but settled on building our automation using the Selenium framework. Many of our developers had experience with Selenium automation testing development, and that made the choice of Selenium easy for our team.

 Challenge 2:

Our second challenge for our software testing approach was to ensure that our testing couldaccommodate complex application user interface components, like user prompts and  user dialogs, because all user paths must be validated thoroughly with test cases. Our challenge was to find a test automation tool that made testing of user prompts much easier, and we hoped Selenium would make our automation test development more effective for these UI requirements.

Without a tool like Selenium, we either had to physically monitor our test software, to ensure our test cases didn’t get blocked by a UI prompts, or we had to write extensive test code to deal with the UI prompts automatically, requiring a lot of test case development time. We were relying on Selenium to address these challenges, enabling us to quickly and easily build automated tests, without the need for manual intervention or a large test development cost, for quality product assurance.

About Selenium:

Selenium is an opensource framework for test automation. Selenium is commonly used for test automation for web-based applications. Selenium has built in methods that allow selection of buttons or prompts. Selenium specifically enables web development test coverage because it provides good solutions for supporting UI prompts and buttons. Selenium is equally effective supporting the testing of dropdown menus, checkboxes and various other UI components. Selenium has definitely made our automation testing more effective, and that has led to better quality software, and a better user experience.

In addition, Selenium’s browser support and OS support further enhances the scope and coverage of automation testing build on Selenium, so the investment in test development goes much further than just the initial platform the tests were built on. This reduces the time for creation and maintenance of an automation testing system.

In summary, Selenium is designed to dramatically improve the effectiveness of automation testing for complex web-based apps. In the next blog we’ll look at the benefits of Selenium for code at the infrastructure or data level, because Selenium is not just a user interface automation support tool.

For more information, please contact our Software Development Team at contact@aspira.ie

Author:  James Harrison, Software Developer, Aspira.

Covid 19 is eating Strategy for Breakfast

 

Covid 19 is eating Strategy for Breakfast

 

As 2020 began, we never realised that this global pandemic would be on the menu, invading both our lives and livelihood. As we try to process the implications of living and working under the shadow of Covid 19, we are all trying to rethink and reframe how we do business whilst at the same time safeguarding our lives. We are going through unprecedented change.

What is required is rapid innovation and time is of the essence. In the absence of a crystal ball, we have to consider all the possible scenarios and lead through strategic ambiguity. Success depends on moving the organisation forward precisely at times when the path ahead is hazy. We need to take pragmatic action in order to survive in this period of strategic uncertainty. We need to lead through change.

Communication is critical and leaders need to be visible and maintain frequent dialogue. It must be open and honest to maintain credibility. Even though leaders don’t have all the answers, communication is important to put everyone’s mind at ease and provide hope for the future. We need to communicate through change.

Please join us for our webinar, which explores how to navigate your way through the crisis and ensure your survival. We leverage change management principles and explore:

  • The five Stages of Disruption Denial
  • The Burning Platform
  • Successful Innovation
  • Decisive Action
  • Leading the new Strategic Direction

Please register here for this webinar.

Author:  Norma Lynch, Training Manager, Aspira.

The Importance of collaborative delivery

 

 

The Importance of collaborative delivery

Doing a good job makes humans feel good. Helping others makes us feel good. We take great satisfaction in being able to solve problems for people. A 2011 study on altruism confirmed the theory that we feel good by helping others, not because we are trying to avoid negative circumstances, but because behaviours like fairness, cooperation, and reciprocity are intrinsically rewarding (2011, Jamil Zaki and Jason Mitchell).  This ‘dopamine high’ is what we tap into when we encourage collaboration amongst teams – the belief that they will all feel a great sense of satisfaction and accomplishment at a job well done, when the desired results are achieved.

Great collaboration is key to the success of any organisation when delivering projects or change.  Fostering and cultivating positive working relationships between business stakeholders and product delivery teams is vital because the pace of change is faster than ever. In many organisations, these two ‘factions’ often suffer from having a poor working relationship, to the detriment of a project and its objectives. It can be ‘us’ versus ‘them’ and may seem as though they have opposing goals. Resolving this conflict and breaking down those barriers to identify common and shared objectives will ensure both teams align to a common goal and work collaboratively to achieve it. The whole team will then share a great sense of accomplishment when an outcome is achieved, and they will use that experience to propel them forward to the next goal.

Creating and cultivating these team and people dynamics is gold to any organisation. It requires considerable expertise in developing rapport across multiple cross-functional stakeholders.

This ‘Collaborative Delivery’ is valued at Aspira and we are proud that many of our experienced talent can bring this skill to our clients, thereby helping them to deliver successful projects through growing effective relationships and creating collaborative environments and approaches to project teams.

The next time you are considering a project, think about the human side and build the people first. Get the mix right, give them the tools they need and the ongoing reinforcement, resources and learning to continually improve every aspect of themselves and the project. If it’s done well, perhaps they can all then share in the collective ‘high’ when it is successfully delivered.

We at Aspira are here to help, For more information on how Aspira can help you with all your project management needs, contact us on info@aspira.ie or call +353 21 235 2550.

Author:  Maria King, Project Manager, Aspira.

Leveraging and Managing The Potential of Your New Remote Workforce

 

Leveraging and Managing The Potential of Your New Remote Workforce

Event Details

A positive planning session, highlighting the opportunities and benefits of exploring the hidden talents of your current and future remote workforce.

This webinar will discuss how our newly remote workforce and our future hires can have a significant positive influence on your P&L statement:

  • Assessment advice on the maturity of your existing workforce and how they will adapt to remote working in the future
  • Planning a safe and healthy environment for your office’s future prosperity
  • Selection and recruitment strategies for growth
  • Leveraging new geographies, “project resources, sans frontiers”

 

Paints on a board

 

If paradise now arises in hell, it’s because in the suspension of the usual order and the failure of most systems, we are free to live and act another way.” ~ Rebecca Solnit

During my tenure at BASF in Germany, I had the good fortune to work with many different technical people from all over the world and the interplay, exchange  and collaboration has always stayed with me.

When I reflect on the great unifying experiences of culture and sports like the Eurovision, Soccer World Cups, Rugby World Cups, and contrast them with the struggles of all nations in today’s crisis, it occurs to me that we now must approach project resourcing very differently.

In short, ‘resourcing sans frontiers’.

 

The travel bug bites many of us and we experience other cultures and enjoy leisure adventures to the point where we are familiar with communicating freely with many different nationalities socially and at work.

We are all working remotely, where possible and as you will hear in our Webinar, we are also trying to facilitate people who need to be physically in an office, factory or outdoors.

Now as we recruit for new roles, in the new normal, it’s a critical requirement that candidates can be productive, secure and are both willing and able to work from home. Does that limit us?

I think not!

 

I see a world of resourcing sans frontiers.

Now, if we need a highly skilled worker with specialist domain experience, or niche industry skills, they can deliver that service from anywhere.

Our talent pool has opened up considerably, but so has everyone else’s. We need the tools, strategies and networks to compete in the new global markets, and unlock the potential of this new remote workforce.

At Aspira we have developed a toolkit that includes; recruitment assessment, technical tests, online validation, QA controls, and interview techniques that enable us to provide an effective virtual selection process on behalf of our clients and our own internal needs.

We will present case studies in our webinar about some of the remote resourcing assignments that we have worked on recently.

 

It is both a pleasure and a privilege to engage with professionals in IT & Project Management throughout Europe, the Middles East & Africa.  We have the same passion and enthusiasm to re-start, our economies and societies again.

This is true also with our clients, who enjoy working with our offices in Cork, Dublin, Amsterdam, UK, or the UAE, but are aware of the benefits in recruiting skilled resources from the multiple locations in EMEA.

Knowledge of the EMEA countries, culture, food or industry, makes for better conversations, quicker connections and valuable cultural contribution evaluations for our candidates and clients.

We have great tools to make connections, and our own application tracking systems (ATS) enables quick and easy processing of applications, tracking screening and security. We continue working with candidates and clients through project kick starts to delivery deadlines.

 

We tend to seek the positive aspects of life, and some of us loathe the disruption that change brings, but we recognise that we can rise to meet this challenge.…

Part of that change means that our borders and barriers to successful project delivery, have changed also. Resourcing sans Frontiers… is all about adapting to change.

Register for our webinar here.

Author:   Russell Moore, Head of Resourcing Advisory at Aspira.

Agile Project management- the practicalities & benefits of gaining Agile Certification

Agile Project Management

 

Agile Project Management- The Practicalities & Benefits of Gaining Agile Certification

 

I am a long-time practitioner of the predictive approach to managing projects, and in the past few years have been exposed to more Agile approaches.  I wish I had done so much earlier in my career such are the benefits.

The Agile approach has huge relevance in today’s project delivery environment and delivers a lot of advantages.  These include closer business collaboration, more frequent product releases and the ability to embrace change for strategic customer benefit.  All together these benefits provide a greater level of flexibility to meet & deliver on customer expectations.

To supplement my experience in the adaptive approach I chose to pursue the PMI’s Agile Certified Practitioner Certification (PMI-ACP) to further recognise my experience as an Agile practitioner. The PMI-ACP serves as a formal recognition of my understanding and skills of Agile principles and techniques. It allows my employers, peers, and stakeholders to know the credibility of my agile capabilities and denotes both knowledge and experience, as both are needed to obtain this certification.

It is seen as a complement to one’s experience and is an industry-recognised ‘stamp of approval’.

With the growing adoption of Agile by organisations to align with the demands of markets & competitors, there is an ever-increasing demand for PMI-ACP certification and Disciplined Agile (DA) practises.  The PMI-ACP certification covers Kanban, Scrum, Extreme Programming (XP), Test-Driven Development (TDD) and Lean.  All of these have enhanced my levels of flexibility and capability in my day to day working environment.

To obtain PMI-ACP certification, I had to first complete an application via the PMI.org website. This was a straightforward process where I detailed my experience and education as there are criteria that must be met to obtain this cert. Once my application was approved, I was able to schedule my PMI-ACP exam for a day and time that suited me. The exam itself contains 120 questions with multiple choice answers and gave me 3 hours to answer all the questions.  The required mark to pass the exam is in the region of 70-75% though the PMI never share the exact number.

With my PMI-ACP certification, I have increased my value as an agile team member, through increased agile adoption, increased productivity and competitive advantages for my client organisations. The certification within the agile environment can potentially develop into multiple role options to pursue such as Agile PM, Agile Coach, Scrum Master or Product Owner.

To maintain my Agile certificate, I need to earn at least 30 Professional Development Units (PDUs) every 3 years.  This I fully intend to do as having the agile traits definitely makes me a more rounded and better-prepared project manager. Regardless of my project, client or environment, having that appreciation & understanding of Agile serves to enhance my capabilities.

Aspira are a PMI Registered Education Provider and Aspira’s CEO Pat Lucey will be delivering a virtual classroom PMI-ACP training course on 9th,12th,16th,19th,23rd,26th June.  Places are limited so to register for the course please contact training@aspira.ie  with a request about Agile Certification.  For more information click here.

Author:  Thomas McGrath, Senior Project Manager, Aspira.

Value Stream Mapping within Project Management

Value Stream Mapping within Project Management

Is Value Stream Mapping (VSM) a tool that can be used within Project Management?

Working both as a Project Manager and a Lean Sigma Black Belt I have seen the advantages of using Value Stream Mapping within the management of projects.

Traditionally Value Stream Mapping is used within manufacturing to improve products for the customer, mapping all the actions required to deliver the product to the customer, visualising the waste, and highlighting where improvements can be made.

In Project Management the processes can be treated as a virtual product and also mapped throughout. The waste to be identified is any excess process time. There may be an area within the project which has a current process with a duration that is on the critical path. As a Project Manager you may believe that the process could be shortened but you need to have confirmation – often your stakeholders are telling you the process can’t be improved!

Utilising the theory of Value Stream Mapping the process can be seen as a product with a value stream, and mapping the process will realise where potential time savings can be made.

Value Stream Mapping differs from tools such as process mapping or layout diagrams because it includes information flow as well as material flow – this enables you to get a complete view of the process.

A value stream mapping activity engages the team members, and is helpful in providing a unified view for the Project Manager, stakeholders and team members. Some examples of where it could be used is the procurement stage of the project, user acceptance testing of a system and Software development.

I would recommend a publication by the Lean Enterprise Institute “Learning to See” (Mike Rother & John Shook) as a starting point if you are interested in using this tool, it gives a great example of Value Stream Mapping from start to finish.

Author:  Mark Davenport, Project Manager, Aspira.  We at Aspira are here to help.  For more information on how Aspira can help with all your project management needs, contact us on info@aspira.ie or call +353 21 2352550.

Unfreeze your Resources, Unlock your Projects – Delivery in the ‘New Normal’

Unfreeze your Resources, Unlock your Projects

Delivery in the ‘New Normal’

On the 13th of May, Aspira’s weekly webinar series features an engaging discussion into Project Resourcing. We provide insights and agile approaches that can help ensure projects are successfully delivered in the current climate.

This webinar will explore:

  • What is happening in the marketplace currently and how we see it trending over the coming year.
  • How companies can take back control of their project(s) destiny via optimised Project Resourcing Techniques.
  • How high performing companies are adapting to be successful today!
  • Practical and realistic steps to help companies / projects proactively build Project Resource capacity.

As a preamble to this engaging event, Russell Moore – Co-Presenter of this Webinar – provides his personal story that aligns with the themes to come on the 13th of May. We hope you enjoy the read and will see you at the Webinar.

When I was younger, I lived in a blissfully free existence of mind, largely down to the successful way that my parents protected and nurtured us through the minefield of growing up and completing our secondary education. Undoubtably, traumatic economic, financial and external forces were challenging our family, maybe not as dramatic as where we find ourselves today, but certainly significant enough to cause my parents to have the same sleepless nights that we are all having now.

As I see my own children now have their happiness and well-being challenged, I realise that we all need basic principles and sound decision making to ensure that we have the tools required to cope in our professional and personal lives. At Aspira I am part of the management team; I recognize that colleagues and staff look to me and others to provide security and comfort when all around seems desperate and chaotic. There was something about my own father that provided that level of reassurance throughout most of life.

Life goes on, and we will recover, because as human beings we have an enormous amount of resilience and the ability to change, adapt and rebuild. Earthquakes in Indonesia, China or Haiti, WW2, 9/11 or the Spanish Flu Epidemic to name but a few. In the business world, we have to adapt the same fighting spirit and plan our way out of the chaos, and put a firm and concrete foundation for recovery in place. A major component of this is people, your staff, your resources, whatever we call ourselves, we are the building blocks for the creation of new beginnings.

When I left home to go to University, the initial attraction was the fact that my newfound freedom allowed for a much greater appetite for risk taking. This took on many different forms, ranging from missing important Lectures, standard student pranks, unscheduled road trips, poor relationship choices and a cavalier approach to sport and personal injury. It was around this time that my father told me that I will ultimately have to rely on the Four Cornerstones of Life, as and when he might not be around to guide and stabilise my personal and professional progression in adulthood.

At the time, I worked out that Finance, Family & Friends, Health and Education were forming a foundation for me to thrive and prosper as a person. I was lucky that I had a firm footing; corner stones that created a framework for me to complete my degree, in England, France & Germany. Even when I lost a foothold on one of my cornerstones, the other three would support me and enable me to rebuild the other. But of course, later in life the inevitable happens, and you lose two or three cornerstones at the same time………..

For some, that is what it feels like, right here, right now. The familiarity of your workplace, the financial comfort of your job, your friends and family are all taken away at the same time. There is a huge imbalance in your life, and we find ourselves clinging to one or two cornerstones. Your family and home have become a massively important support, and at the moment, the foundation for your finances and professional performance. At Aspira, as a company, we have quickly had to understand and accept how this has all come about, and become the new normal for us all. Like many companies, we have had to mobilise rapidly and adapt, reestablish our cornerstones and create a framework for a different kind of future.

As the storm settles, and we see a calmer, more positive environment forming around us, we find ourselves re-routing to a new exciting vision. The measures we have taken to re-invent our offerings to online delivery, the support of our staff through technology and remote communications, the engagement with our customers and suppliers, and the cross-training of our staff is starting to create opportunities to stabilize and grow our teams and revenues again. At Aspira, we have Advisory services that can help our customers assess their current resource portfolio including staff capability, capacity and approach.  From this we can provide recommendations in terms of sizing of teams, optimal competencies required, appropriate ways to address future demands of a Remote/Office based workforce, and so forth. We also have the tools and systems to assess, test, evaluate and ultimately, select your new project team members. We hope that you will continue to enjoy our Webinar series.

Please register for our Webinar here

Auther:  Russell Moore, Account Manager, Aspira.

How remote working boosts morale & efficiency

Every cloud has a silver lining… and the Covid-19 crisis has just injected a huge shot in the arm to acceptance of remote working.  Before lockdown we had heard about the Gig Economy, which promotes remote working as a key element.   That has now been accelerated hugely and instead of talking about remote working becoming a norm in the future, we are now living in a world where remote working is the norm.

What does this change mean?   Should we embrace it as a benefit, or see it as a necessary evil we are forced to accept?   As someone that enjoys change, let me share my positive thoughts on how remote working really does work:

Trust

It all starts with Trust. We will not embrace any change without Trust.  Do managers and team members trust each other enough to move away from outmoded supervisory methods?  Do managers have the ability to move away from equating ‘presenteeism’ with productivity?  Will team members maintain their work ethic if their manager no longer has the ability to drop by the desk to check what they are doing?  Critically, leaders and team members must listen to each other and refine together their plan to make it do-able. Do-ability is key, so here they should look at it from both a soft side (person/teaming approach) and from a technical side (e.g. provide the tools necessary to work well from home).

Efficiency – I like to call it Gross Domestic* Product!

66% of professionals think they would be more efficient while working remotely than in a traditional solely office-based way.

So what are some of the factors that increase Efficiency?

  • Reduced commuting time.
  • Reduced travel cost.
  • Higher flexibility in hours worked, as when employees see companies being flexible they reciprocate and become more flexible with their time.
  • Less distractions and interruptions, so the employee can switch off from random interruptions more easily by agreeing to go ‘offline’ to get an important task complete.
  • Lower office rent & energy costs, as companies that embrace remote working can have a smaller office footprint.
  • More efficient use of the planet’s resources.

*Pun Intended

Morale – I like to call it Gross Domestic* Happiness!

50% of the global workforce already works remotely; part or full-time. While Covid-19 has seen that number rise dramatically, it has been driven by the fact that the option to work flexibly (including a mix of remote/home and work locations) is more important to millennials than salary.

So what are some of the factors that increase Morale?

  • Productivity/Efficiency is higher, due to the elimination of wasted time.
  • Remove the stress of the commute.
  • Ability to have bespoke/more comfortable working environment.
  • More family friendly; we can pop out of our home office to see our loved ones more easily.
  • Globally dispersed teams or teams in large organisations feel more equalised and close when all/many work remotely. The New York Times reported that employees who spend three to four days working off-site feel the most engaged with their teams.
  • The personal touch. Seeing your colleagues in their home environment can show their personal side more and reduce formal barriers.

In summary, remote working boosts morale & efficiency when both managers and team members embrace the change positively, construct the plan together, put in place the necessary soft and hard (technical) necessities, realise the perceived or real power/accountability shift and be brave so that when things do not work perfectly, the lessons can be learned rather than going backwards to old practices.

So go forth and take the leap together. Move away from the traditional 100% office-based working and instead provide the option for yourself and your team to work remotely where it makes sense for both…. then, see your morale, efficiency and productivity rise.

Please check out our new webinar series here

Author:  Peter Ryan, Managing Director, Aspira, The Netherlands.