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 visit us here.

Author: Kátia Starck, Project Manager, 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.

‘Are we there yet? Secrets to sustainable business success’

Aspira teach people the importance of carrying out a Lessons Learned exercise at the end of each project, to make sure you learn from your lessons when starting the next project. Tune into talk radio on any given day and you’ll hear the Irish economy is bouncing back into full on recovery. We’re on the up and up again, but how exactly has that recovery come about… and have we really learned any lessons from the recent past?

The construction sector is visibly improving with planning permission notices for new housing littering the countryside. New road development projects and the rejuvenation of our city docklands area is on the horizon – multiple cranes can once again be seen on our skyline and ‘breakfast roll man’ is making a comeback, albeit with muesli and a skinny Latte instead of the full Irish breakfast.

Can we have any confidence that things will be different this time?

We hope that part of our recovery is based upon more mindful spending on the part of the consumer, more reasonable pay on the part of the employers and more prudent savings on everyone’s part.

But it’s not enough to expect consumers to self-regulate. We also need stronger banking regulations and enforcement of compliance. Recent headlines and court cases have exposed some nefarious practices in the world of high finance. We need a change of mind-set so that ‘wheeling and dealing’ practices are not seen as clever or admirable – instead we need to return to valuing good old fashioned principles such as honesty and integrity.

There are some warning signs that the recovery of the economy may soon start simmering over. We see that the property bubble is expanding again as demand far exceeds supply, with house prices back up to pre-crash levels. It makes alarm bells ring out when we hear mortgage providers advertising their “cash back” options – the kind of options guaranteed to encourage reckless borrowing.

The other major source of uncertainty is Brexit. What exactly will it mean for the economies of Europe? I don’t know. Perhaps I should refer to the architects of the Brexit deal – but it turns out that they have no clue either how it will affect either the UK economy or the wider EU economy. The only thing we know for sure is that it will be harmful, and that uncertainty will continue. And it is uncertainty that makes markets jittery and could precipitate another crash.

But rather than focus on the negative, let’s remind ourselves that current economic indicators say that the economy is right back where we were in 2008, we are back to effectively full employment and we anticipate unprecedented levels of employment growth, with jobs in the technology sector leading the way. Aspira has been named as one of Europe’s Fastest Growing Technology companies by the Financial Times for the second year in a row, so there is every reason to be hopeful for continued success. Remember – a pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity, but an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.

Check us out at www.aspira-europe.nl

Author: Paula Good, Accounts Dept., 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-europe.nl or contact us on 021-2352550 or 01-5175777.

 

Ireland Chapter of Project Management Institute appoints new President

 

 

01 December 2017: The Ireland Chapter of Project Management Institute (PMI) has appointed Pat Lucey as President at the association’s Annual General Meeting last night (Thursday).

 

The Cork-based businessman succeeds out-going Ireland Chapter of PMI President, Niall Murphy, in the two-year voluntary role.

 

Pat has been on the Board of the Chapter since 2011, with responsibility for membership and sponsorship. CEO of consulting and enterprise IT services company, Aspira, Pat has more than 20 years’ experience in managing large-scale enterprise projects. He has also provided project management consultancy internationally to Fortune 500 companies and public bodies.

 

Speaking about his new role, Pat said: “I am honoured to be elected President of the Ireland Chapter of PMI. Thank you to Niall for his commitment and dedication to the Chapter over recent years. He has built a strong foundation that has seen our membership grow by 26% in the past 12 months. I now hope to build upon his legacy.

 

“We are also lucky to have a group of committed volunteers, without whom the Chapter would simply not exist. I look forward to working with them, and our new Board, to further strengthen project management within Ireland.

 

“There is no doubt that the role of project management will inevitably become more valuable in the coming years, ensuring the effective management and delivery of new projects coming into Ireland as a result of Brexit. The Chapter knows the importance of supporting these professionals in the times ahead. We are always focused on development opportunities and industry insight.”

 

New Principal Officers also appointed at the AGM include Jackie Glynn as Vice President and Clive Carroll as Membership Officer.

 

There are currently over 50,000 employed in project management across Ireland, in sectors such as IT, public sector, construction, pharmaceuticals, professional services, financial services and manufacturing.

 

For more information on the Ireland Chapter of Project Management Institute see www.pmi-ireland.org.

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.

From Eritrea to Aspira with Love!

Sami Habtemariam was 18 when he was forced to leave his home country. He was halfway through his second year studying computer science and had hoped to pursue a career in technology, when in 2008 he decided the time had come to join the hundreds of thousands of Eritreans fleeing their homes seeking safety abroad.

His mother had already arrived in Ireland in 2003, followed by his two sisters. It took Habtemariam two years of travel via Sudan and Uganda before he was able to join his family in their new home in Cork city.

Determined to go back to his studies, Habtemariam enrolled in a computer science course at Cork’s College of Commerce four months after arriving in Ireland.

“The toughest thing was definitely the Cork accent. Even though I had studied English for 12 years before coming here, nothing prepared me for understanding the speed of the Cork accent. When I tried to speak in English I had to think in my own language first and translate. I couldn’t understand what the teachers were saying. Spoken and written English are two very different things.”

He was very grateful when an Irish classmate made the effort to show him around Cork. “When I first started my classes I felt like the new one and didn’t feel comfortable. But there was this guy next to me who was supportive and asked where I was from.

“He gave me hope. He told me about Cork and in his spare time he took me out to see the city. He is the best person ever and we’re still good friends.”

I’d go to Belfast at midnight on a Thursday to be in time for class on Friday morning

He also struggled to adjust to the Irish climate. “Where I grew up we would have four months of rain, but then it would be completely dry for the next eight months. In Ireland, I don’t think the phrase ‘completely dry’ even exists!”

 Job and Postgrad

Once he completed his computer course, he was able to transfer to second year at Cork Institute of Technology, where he completed a degree in software development and networking. After graduation he was offered a spot on a graduate programme connected to the consulting company Aspira IT and began working part time while studying a postgraduate diploma in business and management two days a week at Queen’s University Belfast.

“I’d go to Belfast at midnight on a Thursday to be in time for class on Friday morning. I’d take the Aircoach from Cork to Dublin, wait for about two hours at the train station and then take the 6.45am train to Belfast. Then I’d take the bus to Queen’s 

“The Intertrade Fusion programme gave me the chance to work with experienced people, and the guys on the team were good enough to give me help and point me in the right direction.”

Despite the long hours between work on Little Island in Cork and classes in Belfast, the year-long project really boosted his confidence both professionally and personally. After 12 months on the programme, he was offered a full-time job with Aspira, where he now works as a web developer and software developer. As far as he is aware, he is one of only two Eritreans in Ireland working in software development.

Privilege of citizenship

Around the same time he began his new job, he travelled to Dublin to attend a ceremony where he was sworn in as an Irish citizen.

“Naturalisation is a great honour for me. I feel it gives me benefits but also responsibilities. I have the responsibility to serve this country as a national and transfer knowledge to others.

“I thank God every single day for the privilege of citizenship here. It is an incredible thing to live in a place where the rule of law not only protects our rights but ensures that anything is possible.”

“In Eritrea you couldn’t even move from one county to another without permission. But in Ireland you can go everywhere, day or night. I can now move freely around Europe as a citizen and have equal rights as a citizen.”

I have heard about racism in Ireland but it’s never happened to me

He has never experienced racism during his seven years in Ireland and says his friends, colleagues and neighbours have always been friendly and considerate.

“I have heard about racism in Ireland but it’s never happened to me. Maybe I’m lucky, but I can honestly say that I always find people welcoming. My classmates and my teachers were always very supportive.”

In December 2016, Habtemariam was finally reunited with his wife Winta, whom he has known since childhood. She was accepted to come to Ireland as a refugee after travelling from Eritrea to Ethiopia. “If you want to bring family here you have to have an income and be able to support the person. I couldn’t apply for her at the beginning and had to wait until I had a job. I don’t have that stress anymore. She’s here with me now, so no more worries.”

Cancer system

Around the same time as his wife’s arrival, he learned that he was to receive an award for his involvement in developing a system used to analyse the incidence and prevalence of cancer in Ireland. In January he travelled to Carton House hotel in Kildare to receive his award alongside the chief executive of Aspira.

He is now taking evening classes after work to continue his training in software development.

Sometimes it’s hard to believe how far I have come since moving here

“I like taking classes and I like learning. In technology you have to keep learning. It’s moving fast, so you have to go faster.”

“I have been in Ireland for seven years now, and in that time I have completed my education, entered the workforce in a high-tech role and managed to deliver an award-winning project. Sometimes it’s hard to believe how far I have come since moving here.”

He misses his family back home but reiterates how grateful he is to his friends, teachers and colleagues for their guidance and friendship over the past seven years.

“My message to other people arriving in Ireland with an uncertain path ahead of them is to seek out education opportunities, to work hard and you will be given the chance to achieve success.”

Sami Habtemeriam, Software Developer, Aspira

The Advantages of Professional Certification for Career Starters and For Maintaining Employability through Your Career

In the modern workplace, an interplay of several factors is essential to achieving success. Of course, you need the right qualifications to make your way into the system in the first place, and then you need to develop several skills in order to maintain productivity and be of true value to your organization.

The question of certification can be confusing. One might wonder just how important it is to get professional certification. Probably you’ve heard of people who are skilled and can do very well in a particular field but for some reasons, they are not certified? Therefore, you might ask yourself if you really do need professional certifications. The answer is yes. Professional certification speaks volumes of what an organization expects of you. It makes a clear statement about what your capabilities are to the employer and what potential impact you will have within the business. Professional certification also determines how much you will earn from a job and the value of certification cannot be underestimated. Being an accredited certified project manager as opposed to being a manager of projects will ensure you earn more and give you the opportunity to advance your career.

The concept of employability is critical for any worker. It refers to the ability to remain relevant in the workplace and retain high levels of marketability. Maintaining employability has to be the goal of any employee and it is only achievable if  you focus on keeping your skills current to allow you to adapt to the constantly changing workplace.. However, for someone who paid attention to employability, there will always be a source of hope lingering somewhere. What most people don’t understand is that it doesn’t take so much effort to be employable. It just needs adapting some habits like learning new things over a period of time and honing your skills. Taking a part time course is such a great addition and above all, updating your resume will help you a great deal.

Aspira wins again at Deloitte Fast 50

It’s a welcome double for the Aspira Consulting and IT Services team, featuring in the Deloitte Technology Fast 50 for the second year in a row and achieving accelerated growth in 2015. AspiraCon was established in Cork in 2007 and opened its new Dublin office in the past 12 months to cater for the rapidly expanding client base in the region. The company is now rebranding its range of services as Aspira and will be moving to a new state-of-the-art Headquarters in Cork before the end of 2015.

Announcing the winners of the Deloitte Technology Fast 50 programme, Joan O’Connor, Partner, Deloitte said: “The awards showcase the agility, innovation and strength of the industry. The winners epitomise these characteristics.”

“It is an exciting time for the Aspira team and we are delighted to be recognised again by the Deloitte award for our sustained growth in a competitive environment”, says Pat Lucey, co-founder and CEO, “As an Irish company that delivers Project Management Consultancy, Software Solution Development, Project Resourcing and IT Services to enterprise clients, we are competing with major international organisations and we need our team to continue to out-perform those competitors and form strong partnerships with our clients.”

The company is regarded as an industry leader in provision of these services, being the only company in Ireland certified by both the PMI®and the IIBA® International Professional Bodies. Emma Daly, Director of Project Services, emphasises “Aspira Consulting provide the IT solutions and People that businesses need to deliver their projects. As our clients have enjoyed their own success and growth, they’ve required us to expand and scale up our range of services on offer. This has created its own momentum, bringing a lot more clients on board and driving our strategy to invest in future growth.”

“It is an exciting time for the Aspira team and we are delighted to be recognised again by the Deloitte award for our sustained growth in a competitive environment” Pat Lucey, CEO Aspira

One noteworthy aspect of Aspira’s growth is their impressive list of clients across different industry sectors, Pat Lucey explains, “A huge advantage of Project Management expertise is that it allows us to deliver value to different sectors that face similar project challenges Whether it is IT, Utilities, Financial Services, Medical Devices or Pharma, the challenges of managing resources and risk and being efficient and organized are all Project management challenges. We use those skills to manage our deliveries to clients – we have to practice what we preach.”

Lucey elaborates “In this way we have helped a wide selection of enterprise clients, from indigenous companies, Fortune 100 Multinationals to major Governmental and Semi-State organisations. By meeting their IT and Project Resourcing needs in a professional, flexible manner, clients quickly become comfortable dealing with us. A guiding principle since 2007 has been that if we commit to doing something – it gets done. This makes a refreshing change for organisations who just don’t have the time to micro-manage their suppliers”

It’s a principle that is working for Aspira Consulting and IT Services.

AspiraCon win at the Deloitte Fast 50

AspiraCon are proud to announce that it ranked number 11 in the 2014 Deloitte Technology Fast 50, a ranking of the 50 fastest growing technology companies in Ireland. Rankings are based on average percentage revenue growth over five years.

The Fast 50 programme, now in its fifteenth year in Ireland, ranks the fastest growing technology companies in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. This year, there are 13 companies from Northern Ireland in the ranking. The average growth rate of the Fast 50 companies named in this year’s ranking is 276%.

AspiraCon’s CEO, Pat Lucey, credits innovative services and unwavering customer focus with the company’s growth over the past five years. He said, “I am delighted with this recognition of our team’s success over the past five years. As our first time in the Deloitte Fast 50, coming in at number 11 is a great achievement, and we are accelerating our growth with the opening of our expanded Dublin office and expansion of our range of service offerings.”

Announcing the winners of the Deloitte Technology Fast 50 programme, Richard Howard, Partner with Deloitte, Dublin said: “I am continually enthused by the hunger, drive and capacity to innovate that the winning companies, as demonstrated by the close competition in this year’s ranking. The Fast 50 awards really do demonstrate the very best of this important sector, and we are delighted to be able to recognise them with these awards.”

The Deloitte Technology Industry Awards took place in Dublin on 7 November 2014. Keynote speakers on the night included Eric Openshaw, Deloitte Global Sector Leader for Technology and Chris Watt, Partner, ECI VC. Media sponsors included the Sunday Business Post and Ulster Business.