Guest blog: Developing an Organisation’s Training Strategy

In any business, the need for a robust company-wide training strategy is an integral part of improving the knowledge and skills of all employees.

In the knowledge economy, the skills and experience of our employees are central to our organizational success. Focused training programmes are key to employees’ development.  By developing a training process that is targeted at meeting the needs of both the individual and of the business, we ensure that standards are maintained and targeted growth is achieved.

Establishing a clear vision of where your company wants to be is a pre-requisite step in order to then identify the training needs and implement a strategy to meet those needs and achieve those longer-term goals.  Well thought-out training programmes will ensure that individual skills are continually improved in areas that align with the company’s strategy. Investment in training increases the employee’s value and productivity and will also be a major contributor to employee motivation, career development and professional satisfaction.

Periodic management reviews should include a Training review, where specific KPIs are monitored to ensure that relevant training is identified, being made available to staff, and actions taken when required.  Staff who understand the on-the-job behaviours and have the knowledge base to succeed are far more motivated and more likely to remain loyal.  This drives greater productivity, efficiency and shorter-ramp-up time for new hires.

Like any educational initiative, training is a long-term investment, and the benefits are sometimes not immediately obvious.  Change will seldom occur overnight, so it’s important that you take time to build and develop a robust flexible training process that can be modified to meet the future needs of the company.

In Hovione, a key aspect of our future growth, encapsulated in our “Strategic Plan FY2020 to FY2024” is our continued investment in Project Management.  PMI Statistics show that while 98% of organizations believe Project Management is crucial to their business success, not everybody invests in a programme to improve the PM capability of their staff.  Not surprisingly, only 34% of low performing organizations make an ongoing investment in PM training.  Conversely, 82% of High Performing organizations make that investment.

Hovione has developed a very positive partnership with Aspira training services, who have put a tailored program in place that allows our staff to gain internationally certified training but also uses case studies and examples directly from our experience.

Aspira helps Hovione by bringing international best practice coupled with local insights – it’s a powerful combination.

Author:  Donnacha Ryan, Training Co-ordinator, Hovione.

Aspira offer a range of training options, which can be found here. If you would like more information on any of our capabilities, get in touch with us at info@aspira.ie

The Importance of Upskilling

 

The Importance of Upskilling

Learning new skills is critical in today’s knowledge and project economy. To ensure your high performing teams consistently deliver on their objectives and realize benefit for your organization, you need to continually invest in their skills.

In today’s rapidly changing world with constant introduction of new technologies and innovative ways of doing things, the option of whether to upskill or not no longer exists. It is imperative for business growth. The competitive edge of your business will be defined by the ability and competence of your team. Many will wonder “what is my return on investment?” after investing time and money into employees’ skills. It comes down to showing value in them, which will lead to considerable generation of:

  1. An engaged workforce.

This is really crucial in any organization as it has a significant impact on how effective and productive your workforce is. Worker engagement is an emotional commitment to the organization and its goals and will be seen daily in both their work ethic and your organization’s overall performance.

  1. Higher Retention & Lower Absenteeism.

When you upskill your team, it will be reciprocated in terms of their loyalty and service to your organization. Empowering and training your team will lead to workplace happiness and thereby increase retention and lower absenteeism.

  1. Happy Customers.

This will ultimately lead to happy customers. The enthusiasm of your workforce will reach your customer base, who will then spread the word and your business will increase.

  1. Increase in your bottom line.

The biggest benefit will be in the overall financial performance of your organization. Sales will soar, productivity will increase and your reputation in the marketplace will grow.

So you see, upskilling your workforce has many positive outcomes. If you haven’t put a training plan together yet for your team, please call Aspira who will help you to put a developmental plan in place.

 

Article by Norma Lynch, Head of Training at Aspira. For more information on how Aspira can help you with all your upskilling needs, contact us on info@aspira.ie or call +353 21 235 2550.

 

 

Four things to never say on a conference call

 

In a globally-connected environment, one of the ways in which we often communicate is via conference call. While there are many advantages to this technology, it can also be the setting for what some might see as less-than-ideal phone etiquette.

With that in mind, here are four things to never say when you’re on such a call – whether with colleagues or customers!

  • I was on mute – can you repeat that”

This usually happens when you are asked a question but you haven’t been paying full attention.  Being on mute means others cannot hear you – but you can still hear them!  Saying this is an admission you were ‘multi-tasking’ and not paying attention.

  • “I know you cannot see this diagram and this spreadsheet, so I will describe them…”

If you need to discuss a spreadsheet or presentation over an audio conference, make sure you share the said file with participants in advance of the call, by email, if need be. Aspira can also advise you on conference call software that will allow real-time screen and file sharing so you can work together more efficiently.

  • “I need to move the next call to 3am on your local public holiday”.

Be sensitive to the location and timezone of your participants – try to restrict calls to a time that is reasonable and be aware of local public holidays.

  • “I’ll just put you on hold as I’ve another call coming in”

Remember  – when you put people on hold they will hear pips, or tones, or even music.  Don’t subject the rest of the conference call attendees to these unwanted noises while you take another call.  If the incoming call is important, drop off the conference bridge and then join back in later.

 Aspira has delivered Consulting and Technology solutions into 24 countries – we know what it’s like to conference!  Talk to us if you have technology project needs at www.aspira.ie.

How Santa demonstrates the need for Effective Change Control

How Santa demonstrates the need for Effective Change Control

Most parents know the feeling. Your darling child has decided what they want from Santa. In many cases, they want the latest almost-impossible-to-get toy (I still have the scars from Buzz Lightyear supply unavailability!).

But Santa’s elves are magical and so they eventually source/steal/build the required gift, and all is ready for Christmas. Until your beloved child announces at the last minute that they’ve changed their mind and now want something completely different – but equally elusive – from Santa. And now disaster beckons…

Welcome to the world of the Project Manager where you have just been hit by ineffective change control!

So, here’s how Project Managers prevent this from happening – three simple steps to Change Control your Santa list.

  1. Set a date to approve the content/scope/list

Requirements will change as more information is consumed so we have to agree a milestone where the list is signed off. The natural milestone here is when the letter to Santa is posted. Because of the volume of requests, it is advisable to get that letter in early.

  1. Agree a process to accept changes to the list

Let your child know that due to global supply chain issues and new regulatory restrictions covering elf work practices, it may be desirable to make some amendments to the Santa list.

These amendments can be sent by email, from the parent’s email account.  This gives some flexibility for change as Santa operates an Agile process.  However, Santa may not be able to accommodate all requests as he is only able to grant your child a late request if another child has changed their mind in the ‘opposite’ direction. So, no guarantees.

  1. Explain that Santa knows best.

Sometimes Santa may decide to give a child a ‘free upgrade’.  So instead of bringing the present the child asked for, he’ll bring an even better present. What a great surprise!

And because Santa knows each child so well, he’ll know exactly what kind of surprise they deserve.

So, this Christmas, put the Change Control process in place and enjoy the sweet scent of satisfied stakeholders upon delivery on Christmas morning.

Article by Pat Lucey, Aspira CEO.

 The team at Aspira would like to wish all our clients, partners and friends a merry Christmas and we look forward to working with you in 2020. For more information on how we can work together, email info@aspira.ie

Part 2 – Common issues project teams face – and how to overcome them

In the second of our two-part series, we look at some other challenges facing project managers and how best to manage conflict and change. By confronting these issues – and therefore improving project outcomes – you can boost your own performance, and benefit other team members in enhancing their own career development.

  • Project managers have to see beyond daily priorities, business as usual or personal glory. They need to deliver positive change for the entire organization that they are working for and consider how all parts of the project fit together. They also need to understand that project team members may have their own day jobs. For a project team, this means being able to think beyond your own area, about how you fit into the wider change programme or project and how you impact the end client’s or key stakeholders experience. This is about business sustainability and long-term success. Everyone is busy, but just being busy is not enough. Long-term project success requires long-term thinking.
  • Change is constant and unless carefully managed, it can be detrimental to teamwork and results. Change starts and ends with communication. Whenever you think you’ve communicated enough, you need to communicate some more – and it needs to be interactive: listen, talk and involve. Be aware of the change curve, or the four predictable stages of change: denial/resistance, emotional, hopeful, commitment. Each stage is needed, but how long someone stays at each stage can be managed and kept to a minimum.
  • Silo working is a reality for many project teams. Team members may sit side by side but not really work together. A great project team can be like the three musketeers – all for one and one for all. So if you are in a team, you may as well really be in it. Working together in earnest is about making the most of the fact that you are a team. Honour your time and efforts by seeing yourself as a full-time member of the team, not just an individual contributor. Imagine how great it would feel to be part of a team where everyone is thinking of the team and not just themselves – make that project a success by working together.
  • Conflict or a difference of opinion can be healthy and, if carefully managed, can trigger useful debates. It can make people think differently, expanding knowledge and insight; innovation can happen and results flourish. Different opinions are not a bad thing. It’s how we handle the conflict that makes a difference. Conflict should be seen as an opportunity, and a sign that people genuinely care about the outcome of the project.
  • A project team has a brand, an image and a reputation created by the actions and behaviours of the team members. A large part of the perception is driven by how well the team delivers on expectations and promises made. As a project team, you need to make sure that everyone understands and takes responsibility for their roles in creating the perception of the team. This includes both what is delivered on the project and how it is delivered. The brand should also reflect personal job satisfaction and a sense of mutual achievement in delivering a successful outcome.

 

Article: Russell Moore, Head of Resourcing  For further information please contact russell.moore@aspira.ie

 

4 Reasons to work for 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 among 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
You 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 company wide 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. 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://aspira.ie/work-with-aspira/

Author:  Russell Moore, HR & Resourcing Manager, Aspira

Lean in and become a ScrumMaster

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

• Build up your capability to deliver early prototypes and projects

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

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

Professional ScrumMaster course 

Cork on 24th & 25th September 2019

Are your project management practices questionable?

 

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

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

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

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

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

How to manage your organisation’s digital security in the age of the cloud

Internet based technology and cloud is now central in everything we do, shaping growth, disrupting industry landscapes and providing the catalyst for transformation. Digital Transformation can be considered as the next industrial revolution. We now have a digital landscape where there are no defined borders and data is the new commodity to be bought, sold or stolen. The Internet is there to connect, not protect so it is inevitable that, as data is now king, securing it is a huge challenge.

Before the cloud, we could rest assured that our data was protected sitting in a data centre behind our firewall.  Our security challenges were simple – how do I secure my network and prevent intrusions.  We secured internal user access to resources locally, and we had a known security perimeter.

Today, with the internet and the cloud, the user can choose applications at random, store data anywhere, applications are increasingly external, and IT departments have limited visibility to provide protection.

So how do we enable the benefits of cloud while still being assured that our data is protected in a world where even organisations with enormous security budgets and elite security analysts are struggling to address modern threats?

To start, you need to change your perspective and work from the assumption that your security will be compromised. Plan for the eventuality by adopting an approach that focuses on protection, detection and response.  Adopt a security posture that is:

  • Comprehensive in terms of understanding your environment and weaknesses;
  • Well-informed in terms of what the modern security challenges are;
  • Prescriptive in terms of what steps to take to protect your environment and respond to security events.

To begin to develop your security posture, it will help if you separate your environment into:

  • The devices you use, how and where they are used, from data centre to end user;
  • The applications you use, where there are located and how they are accessed;
  • The data that is updated and manipulated by applications:
  • The users who access the data, through the applications, that is stored on the devices.

Then develop your plans and strategies for each layer.  Make sure you address your specific needs keeping in mind any internal, regulatory or legal requirements that affect your business directly.  And remember, when developing your plans always keeping in mind, what do you do if you are compromised.

Author: Jason Boyle, Operations Director, Aspira

Are you the next Shane Lowry or Tiger Woods?

Are you the next Shane Lowry or Tiger Woods?

The career of a professional golfer is similar to that of a project manager in many ways, and not just in its longevity.  Let’s explore three ways that will help PMs to be as successful as Tiger – or Shane Lowry, our popular recent winner of the British Open.

  • Dedication

Tiger famously started golf as a toddler, appearing on TV as a two year old.  Even though that was an extreme example, to become successful a golfer needs to have the dedication to work at their game.  And when success comes, they have to work even harder.  That means hour after hour of practice, investment in the best tools and equipment, and the obsessive desire to improve.

Project Managers have a similar challenge.  Many people are asked to lead a project without being given the training or tools they need – it can be a ‘sink or swim’ experience for many first-time PMs.  However, by dedicating some time to understand what project management is about, and by investing time to understand what proven tools and techniques are out there, a PM can ensure they are set up for success.

  • Support

No professional golfer gets there by himself/herself.  From their early days they need to enlist a good coach, someone who will invest time with them to provide positive and negative constructive advice and guidance to help them develop.  They need a reliable caddy, someone to put in the hard yards and be there to lean on when crunch time comes in a tournament.  They will need a supportive sponsor to give them the backing they need to establish themselves as a member of the elite.

Project Managers must also build a support team.  The support and backing of a Project Sponsor is critical.  Advice and guidance from a mentor is invaluable when trying to figure out how best to deal with a tricky situation.  And success will only come if the project team is willing to put in the effort and respond to the leadership of the PM.

  • Resilience

While any of us can hole a putt from 6 feet, how many of us could do it under the gaze of millions of people, and do it knowing that to miss the putt would mean losing your livelihood?  That is the kind of mental fortitude that elite golfers must demonstrate.  Many of them build up an entourage of physical trainers, dieticians, and psychologists purely to give them that resilience – give them an edge by having the confidence that are perfectly prepared for this moment.

Project managers also need resilience.  Every project involves risk, meaning every project will see things go wrong.  Should the Project Manager retreat into a bunker, blaming themselves for everything?  Of course not!  The PM needs to learn from mistakes and accept that not every decision made – even made the be best available information – will deliver the desired result.  After every bunker shot the PM needs to aim to chip back onto the green

So – maybe you project managers have more in common with Pro Golfers than you thought?  The next thing we need to do is secure some TV commentator roles for PMs who are ready to hang up their schedules?

Aspira delivers training to help Project Managers, Sponsors and Project Team members to get into the swing of things and make success par for the course!  https://aspira.ie/training/

 

Let’s talk Transformation

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

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

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

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

To register email:  philip.mcgillycuddy@aspira.ie

Three Tips To Influencing Without Authority

PMI EMEA Congress 2019

PMI EMEA Congress 2019

 

The 2019 PMI EMEA Congress kicks off in Dublin next week, where I will deliver an interactive session on the crucial project management skill of influencing without authority, alongside my colleague and Aspira CEO, Pat Lucey.

Getting things done on time, on budget and not leaving a trail of dead bodies while doing so is always a bonus!

The old style of command and control hierarchy is gone and project managers have to manage by influence, especially in a matrix environment. Often as a project manager you are managing people who don’t typically report to you and may have never worked with you, who are in separate locations and are likely to be at least working on more than one project.

Therefore, to deliver your project successfully, you need to manage by influence.

Make a good first impression

From the start of your project, you need to assume everyone is a potential ally and that the uncooperative will cooperate. You must suspend judgement and be curious about their world.

This is also your time to establish yourself as a credible leader by speaking about your experience of leading similar projects and highlighting your skills.

Your ability to influence is at its highest point at the start of the project, so this is a crucial time to impress your stakeholders.

Communicate the right messages

Begin by communicating what you are trying to achieve and help each person understand the vision and mission of the project and how they are connected to it.

Each person whether down the corridor or across the ocean needs to know, believe in and feel connected to the project story.

Understand your stakeholders

It is important to schedule time with each of your stakeholders to understand their priorities, concerns and objectives.

This will allow you to see the project through their eyes. You will learn how they are rewarded and measured, what is important to them, what keeps them awake at night and what they are passionate about. It will also give you insights into their preferred working styles and methods of communication.

This information will allow you to build rapport and communicate in a way that resonates with them, mapping project benefits to their needs.

If you would like to learn more about how you can influence without authority, click here for an insight to our dedicated training course.

 

Author: Norma Lynch, Head of Training, Aspira