Roundtable Digital Transformation Demystified

Digital Transformation Demystified

Every business seems to be jumping on the band wagon of some form of technology adoption and labeling it digital transformation. But, in many cases it is no more than dabbling in a new technology without necessarily transforming the core of their business. Digital Transformation must be a company-wide decision to truly Transform at least one of their Product Offerings, their Customer Experience or their Business Model.

Aspira are delighted to announce their Digital Transformation Demystified article has featured in Round Table Insights Annual magazine.  Aspira CTO Colum Horgan leads the Technology practice of Aspira which offers clients digital advisory and consulting services to numerous fortune 500 clients. Read Colum’s article here.

Please see full report here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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.

 

Emotional Intelligence – 50 shades of black and white…. (Part 1 of 2)

It can be tempting to interpret things as simply black or white, good or bad, wrong or right. But the reality is that there are always different degrees of black or white, and while it can be difficult to discern them, it is important to tune your mindset to figure out how to identify which of the many shades of grey may be in front of you.

Throughout my life, I’ve always been looking to improve and develop, both in my personal and professional life. One area I have found where I can always improve is the area of EQ – Emotional Quotient -, which is based on the idea of IQ but looks at emotional maturity rather than raw brainpower.

Generally, I like to dissect where I can do better and one area I have found for improvement is how I relate to people and deal with situations. Sometimes it’s easy to react too quickly to a situation, only to overreact and regret that response later.

So, with that in mind, I’ve highlighted three areas of Emotional Intelligence where I try to put extra focus when dealing with difficult situations or people:

  • Empathy
  • Self-awareness
  • Self-regulation

Empathy

In truth, we experience life and work from our own frame of reference, and if a view is expressed which conflicts with our picture of the world, we can treat that view as simply wrong.   This is a mistake, as by treating it as wrong, we make no effort to understand another’s person reasoning for disagreeing with us and we do not try to tune into their frame of reference.

Empathy is being able to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within their frame of reference. In other words, it’s the ability to put yourself in the other person’s position and look at the issue from their point of view.

It’s about trying to look at a situation using their perspective with a view to understanding their reasoning. I now try to take some time to understand the why of a person’s stance and try to place myself in their shoes.   I find that 99% of the time they have valid reasoning for their stance and it just takes some time and effort for me to understand it.  Sometimes that understanding helps me to change my opinion.  There are also times when understanding their viewpoint helps me to change their mind by explaining my argument in a way that will resonate with them.

Tune in to Part 2 of my blog next week when I share what I’ve learned about self-awareness and self-regulation, and how you can channel negative emotions into a constructive force.

www.aspira-europe.nl

Author: Damien Kearns, Senior Consultant, Aspira.

Breaking Up with Folders

Breaking up with Folders

One of the most minor but regular annoyances within SharePoint is this:checkbox

This is an option being set to “Yes” by default is normally the cause of a lot of misery for anyone managing a SharePoint site.There are a million and one blogs written about why you shouldn’t use folders in SharePoint, outlining a lot of valid points. While I’m not sure I completely agree with removing them entirely, it’s worth understanding why you should or should not use them.

Why do people use folders?

People use folders because they have always used them. The concept of a folder structure is easy to understand. In the words of a former coworker, “you don’t have to think about it, you can just drag and drop”.

Why are they a bad idea?

Of course, you “don’t have to think about” the funny sound your car is making… right up until your engine explodes.

There are plenty of lists online that give specific technical reasons to avoid lists, so I’m going to stick to why they cause problems for an end user.

Folders should be used to group files, not categorise them. However, the majority of the time they are used for both.

Here’s an example that I have seen of this: a company stores all of their documents related to projects in a single document library. It has the following folder structure (excuse the terrible drawings, graphics are not my strong point):

filestruct

In this we see a great example of a bad folder and a potentially good (well, “okay”) folder.

Bad Folders

The “Project Phase” level of folders is everything that is wrong with using folders in SharePoint. There are 4 folders at this level (Not Started, In Progress, Complete, On Hold). Obviously, this will change through the lifecycle of a project. This means that everytime the phase of a project changes, you need to move the project folder out of one Phase folder and into another. This causes a number of problems:

  1. It changes the URL of the documents, breaking any links currently being used.
  2. It is awkward. Because folders aren’t designed for moving data in this way, there is no easy way to do it, forcing you to cut and paste or click and drag across different file explorer windows.
  3. It is slow. Moving a folder full of files can take a long time depending on file size and connection speed.

“Okay” Folders

While many people would probably debate this with me, I think the folder for each Project is acceptable in this type of structure:

filestructnew

Now, these may be better suited to an individual document library for each project, the folder is still doing what it is meant to; grouping files. It is unlikely that a file would be moved from one project to another. The only major issue you would see here is that permissions may become hard to manage if each project has different people accessing files. But if that isn’t a concern then this setup isn’t too bad.

Improving things with Site Content Types

So you like the idea of using an “okay” folder, but you still want to categorise your data. What’s the solution?

Probably the quickest and easiest way is to have a metadata column called “Phase” on each file. This way, you can bulk edit the value when the phase and you’re done. No need to click and drag, move files or wait around for a file transfer. It would also allow you to sort and filter on a specific, something that is lost with folders.

However, this doesn’t really make sense. The document itself doesn’t have a phase, the folder it belongs to does, so really it should be the folder storing this info. Well… that’s where Site Content Types become useful.

Site content types are incredibly underused in SharePoint. Many people spend a lot of time and energy trying to fix a problem that has already been handled by simply using a different content type.

The one to look at here is the Document Set content type. This content type is great for the above example. By default, when you create a document set, you give it a name and description.

docset

You will then be given a much cleaner view to handle documents in the set, along with a new “Manage” ribbon that lets you control permissions and edit properties.

docview

What we can do now is either copy this content type or modify the existing document set content type to allow for Project Phase. This is basically the same as editing any other custom list column. Go to Site Settings -> Document Set -> Add from new site column. You can then update the column to include whatever data you need.

docphase2

Now when you open each document set and edit the properties, you have the option to edit the phase of each set.

docphase

So before you rush to create a folder ask yourself: does it accomplish what it needs to? Put some thought into this and I guarantee you it will save you a lot of headaches in the future.

Author: Ian Jones, Software Developer, Aspira.

The Most Accurate Technology Prediction – Fifty Years On

The most accurate prediction in the field of computing was made in 1965 by Gordon Moore, then of Fairchild Semiconductor and later a founder of Intel.  He made the audacious suggestion that the density of transistors on integrated circuits would double every 18 months. Amazingly, device physicists and process engineers have managed to make good on Moore’s prediction over the past 50 years.

This exponential rate of progress – the fact that everything about computing continues to double at fixed intervals, is what makes it so difficult to predict the future of computing technology. There’s nothing else like this, in any other field. If transportation technology had improved at the same rate as information technology over the past 30 years, then a car would be the size of a mobile phone, cost €100, go 100,000 miles per hour, and travel 150,000 miles on a tank of fuel. A Boeing 747 would cost hundreds of dollars today, rather than hundreds of millions. Ridiculous? Not in computing, where today’s €500 laptop personal computer is vastly more capable than the $3 million building-sized institutional computer of just a few decades ago.

So what do we expect will happen over the next 2-5 years?  I believe Big Data will continue to drive consumer behavior and technology evolution.  The ability to manage, manipulate and interpret massive quantities of raw data in real-time, converting data into information, and Information into intelligence, is where our focus will need to be.

Data Storage, Encryption & Backup Services

Your data is the lifeblood of your business. Regardless of industry, data is the key ingredient for  your business’s strategy, marketing, financial analysis and more; in all likelihood your business has invested heavily in information and technical architecture to optimise your data management.

Therefore, any IT manager or CIO can appreciate the absolute necessity for stable and secure data storage, encryption and backup services. To lose access to your data – even temporarily, can have huge costs both in financial terms and in terms of the company’s reputation. And, in this age of instant broadcast via social media, any perceived loss of customer or billing data, any operational hiccups, or worse –  any compromise on the security of the data –  would be a PR nightmare to manage for any company.

Not all storage and security services are the same. It is essential that you entrust your data to a source that has the capability to deliver real business value by understanding the stakes and the business maturity to protect your brand and market share while ensuring the highest calibre service for your operational efficiency.

Aspira has the breadth of infrastructure, the technical expertise and the ability to offer true scalability for Enterprise grade data storage, encryption and backup services.

Aspira ensures you remain fully compliant with European data protection legislation with our advanced data storage and encryption methodologies, so you don’t need to constantly keep abreast of changing regulations. All the hassle is outsourced to us.

We offer total end-to-end encryption using a first-rate industry algorithms and the highest level SSL standard providing total protection and security across the data lifecycle. You can be confident in your data encryption security even while that data is in transit.

Where Aspira truly adds value is in our ability to deliver your precise set of requirements. Our security analysts and data architects will work with you to identify the optimum design for your business.

We will work with you to:

  • Specify your required data location
  • 30 days, month, quarter, annual data retention requirements
  • Identify key European data protection regulations that may specifically impact you apart from the top level directives.
  • Provide the right level of encryption for your business’s data.
  • Define your data storage requirements in terms of volume and the frequency of data transfer.
  • Scale the solution to your budget and your needs, both currently and including your forecasted growth.
  • Enable your own unique customised encryption key.
  • Provide online and offline data access supported across multiple clients.
  • Determine the required identity management and user role configuration specific to you
  • Activate and provide audit logs for full traceability on CRUD changes or backup restores.
  • Configure your required backup schedule.

…and much more.

 

Aspira delivers time and again our customised, streamlined Enterprise grade data storage, encryption and backup service, which has proven it itself and its value time after time as a true safety net for businesses across all sectors.

Contact Aspira today to discuss your particular set of requirements and see what benefits our service can deliver for you.

IT Estate by Design

The reality of business means that companies often either begin with less-than-optimal solution and system architectures as they face financial pressures, inherit end-of-life or entirely customised systems through business acquisitions and mergers, or, as often happens, the goals and business model changes as the company grows and the architecture that once enabled is now constraining.

Greenfield sites (such as start-ups and young enterprises) can save considerable time, effort and cost over the long run by investing in Aspira’s Systems Architecture Design Service and implementing the right architecture from the ground up. Brownfield sites (such as businesses with an architectural estate already built) can also benefit by availing of Aspira’s Systems Architecture Design Service when the time comes to implement new or upgrade existing systems, or to plan a parallel architecture and data migration.

“Delivering advanced architectural excellence requires a team of highly experienced and knowledgeable professionals.”

Tangible benefits include a reduction in hardware redundancy, the retirement of appropriate hardware, identification of opportunities to move to cloud or virtual hosting as well as selection of the best fit COTS applications or PAAS (Platform as a service) solutions – all leading to a tighter and more streamlined IT stack.

When it comes to application architecture, the business architecture and the data architecture of an enterprise must be factored in before the application architecture can be successfully completed. Aspira works with clients to develop a target application architecture that realises the business architecture and the architecture vision.

During Aspira’s System Architecture Design Service, we can:
• Develop baseline business, data and application architecture descriptions
• Perform gap analysis
• Define Roadmap components
• Review Application Interoperability
• Apply your or create new Application Principles
• Create or apply your System Governance Model
• Confirm readiness and risk for business transformation
• Formulate Implementation and Migration Strategy
• Identify the Transition Architecture (if required)
• Guide you on Service Level Agreements
• Update your Architecture Vision/Roadmap

Aspira understands that companies today need system architecture that has a low cost of ownership, a fast return on investment, is flexible, modular and with a focus on configuration and not customization (to keep costs down). Not only this but the systems themselves must do more than meet current needs – it must be scaled for growth, performance, changing business requirements and meet company KPIs.

Delivering advanced architectural excellence requires a team of highly experienced and knowledgeable professionals. Aspira’s team of architects have experience across a diverse range of industry sectors including healthcare, human resources, insurance and telecoms. Your entire stack can be optimally designed and delivered using Microsoft and other technologies, depending on your needs.

Whether you have your development teams in-house or outsourced, whether your stack is in your own data centre or you are using SAAS or simply are starting out from scratch, click here and talk to us today about how we can transform or create your IT estate.]

Secret of Scheduling Success

Take advantage of Aspira’s sharp scheduling consultants and get your project firmly established with the very best chance of success.  Our skilled and savvy team will assimilate your project data and investigate your ‘unknowns’ to draw together a realistic and achievable schedule.

Whether your project is large and complex or small and straightforward, our significant expertise in scheduling will ensure you protect your project against delays.

We take the hassle out of scheduling by taking control of its organisation. We conduct insightful workshops and interviews with key project stakeholders, project team members  and subject matter experts. We then feed this data along with critical information such as resource estimates, key dependencies and risks and project milestones to document a detailed project schedule.

Our Scheduling Package delivers:

• A complete and thorough Work Breakdown Structure which itemizes deliverable-oriented components of the project scope which are manageable and achievable in the timeframe allotted.
• A Critical Path which will highlight those key work components whose schedule absolutely must be met in order for the plan to stay on schedule, giving you clear milestones to meet and powerful insight to work with.
• A Key Milestone list, which empowers you to identify the most important deliverables to keep the project on track.
• Resource Estimates which will trim out over-staffing costs but ensure there is peak productivity with sufficient resources
• A RAID matrix: Risks, Assumptions, Issues and Dependencies which may all affect the completed plan.
• A Detailed Schedule which incorporates all the project data and allows you to track the target progress easily.

 

Aspira’s Scheduling has resulted in our clients being able to:
• Breakdown complex scope into manageable work components
• Create efficiency across the project ensuring resources are utilised to their max potential
• Protect projects against delay be ensuring key milestones are met.
• Allow Project Managers to see where parallel work items can be inserted into the schedule.
• Plan for resources to have all the assets and inputs they need to start their work components on time.
• Identify possible threats and risks to the project
• View impacts of any necessary change in project timeline or scope.
• Experiment with ‘what if’ scenarios to identify possible workarounds if project issues arise

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. Click here to talk about your Professional Scrum Master (PSM) certification.

Professional ScrumMaster courses – Earlybird price is €750 and includes exam fee

• Cork on 13th & 14th September 2016
• Dublin on 25th & 26th October 2016

Building a Solid Foundation for your New SharePoint Farm

Building a Solid Foundation for your New SharePoint Farm
SharePoint can be a powerful tool for any business. With on premises, Office 365 and hybrid options available, now is a great time to look into implementing this in your organisation. However, if you don’t start off on the right foot you can wind up in the all too common position of spending time and money on a system that your employees fail to see the value in. Here are 5 points to help avoid this:

Take the Time to Plan
The root cause of any failed or underwhelming SharePoint implementation generally stems from one place; a failure to take the necessary time to plan. This mistake is usually a result of budget limitations and time constraints. The focus is too often on getting SharePoint implemented as quickly and cheaply as possible. However, this approach will usually result in poor user adoption. This point is crucial as it greatly reduces the complexity of the following steps.

Don’t Deploy and Walk Away
With how easy a basic SharePoint install is now, there can be a temptation to take the out of the box setup and leave it at that. This is never a good idea. The business needs will change over time and require SharePoint to change with it. Even with a small, well planned solution, SharePoint will still require care and attention when given to the end user to ensure they can get the best of the features provided.

Start Small
SharePoint can be an extremely useful tool in many different ways. It can be used to help collaboration between team members, provide workflows for common tasks and processes, manage and control content and provide powerful Business Intelligence and Project Management tools. All of this can be customised to suit exactly what a business needs. However, all of these advantages can quickly cause headaches when not properly managed. Your focus in the beginning should be a solution that is small, simple and allows team members to see the benefit or the system. Don’t try to throw everything and the kitchen sink at them right away, expand after team members have a basic understanding and feel comfortable with it.

Training
Poor training for a new system results in poor user adoption for that system. That is a fact. If the first experience a user has is one of confusion and there’s no clear reference to reduce this confusion, they will resent the system. They may be able to use the system, but not to its full potential. There are three main points to prevent this:
1. Organise small training sessions of no more than 15 people per session. Keep the sessions under two hours.
2. Create short videos for the main features of the site and share these with users.
3. Provide a digital manual and share this with the users.
This may seem like overkill but it allows users a choice of how they learn about the system, letting them choose the one they prefer and ultimately being more willing to accept the system.

SharePoint Team Leads
Having an enthusiastic member in each team to act as a power user in your SharePoint solution is a useful way to ensure your transition to SharePoint runs smoothly. Giving these users one to one training and having them act almost as administrators for the system will prevent frequent repeated questions to the IT department as well provide a certain amount of visibility into the system. With these users included in the process people will be more understanding if you run into issues implementing the system. Without this your users can quickly change from supportive to disinterested in the solution.
SharePoint is the ultimate example of getting back what you put in. Rushed setups will leave users with a negative image that you will struggle to recover from. But, through clear planning, a willingness to listen to your users and communicate with them effectively you can provide a very effective tool for your organisation.

For more information on SharePoint solutions and other services Aspira provide, you can contact a member on the team on: info@aspira-europe.nl

Security advantages and disadvantages of Private and Public Clouds

Cloud computing is a disruptive technology. It can be instantly deployed, scaled, metered and made easily available. According to estimates, by 2018, the global cloud equipment market will reach $79.1 billion. Already a massive market, in 2015 end users spent more than $180 billion on cloud services.

So what exactly is Cloud Computing?

It’s where a third party service provider can deliver your software and hardware requirements through the internet and you in turn then pay for the services depending on usage of the products. Today, a staggering 93% of organisations are running applications on cloud and 82% of them have saved money by moving to the cloud
In using the cloud, organisations can avail of the ‘online service’ or store and also use it to access data. The space where the data and applications are stored is known as ‘Cloud’. Before the availability of cloud, organisations would have owned servers, datacenters and other infrastructure elements required to operate the platform. Now many use the cloud.

There are two distinct types of cloud:

Private Cloud
Private cloud is a cloud which is owned by a specific organisation. The biggest advantage of using a private cloud is data security. According to recent surveys, approximately 66% of organisations are using public clouds.
Some of the security advantages of using private cloud are as follows:
• Data is protected behind firewalls.
• The datacenter can be completely isolated from the rest of the world.
• You can customize the access to data for individual employees.
• You don’t live on whims and fancies of your cloud vendor.

• Employees have physical access to sensitive data.
• Vulnerability to attack is less but not nil. In the case of a security attack, you are all alone to defend yourselves.
• Nature can spoil almost anything without notice.
• There are multiple external factors such as possible power failure, extreme weather conditions etc. that can impact your access to this data

Public Cloud
This is the kind of a service that can be offered to anyone. Google Drive and Amazon Web Services are examples of public cloud that are delivered via the internet. The computing processor and storage offered are owned by service providers or the third party cloud infrastructure providers. According to recent surveys, 88% of organisations use public clouds.
Security advantages of Public Cloud
• Your data is protected by an enterprise class firewall and multiple levels of physical security.
• There is no risk from disgruntled employees as long as passwords are changed regularly.
• The Security Expertise of your vendor may be beneficial while protecting your data from attacks.
• Security from Hardware failures.

Security Disadvantages of Public Cloud

• Your data travels all over the internet and is vulnerable to multiple types of attacks.
• You are at the mercy of just a user id and password – that’s all that is required to access your data from anywhere in the world.
• Your site may be physically accessed by other tenants.
• You are totally dependent on the whims of the cloud vendor.

Conclusion

Having evaluated your business needs and your desired level of security, you will decide on the right type of cloud computing for your organisation. However, you need not necessarily have to choose only one option. Perhaps you can take advantage of the best of both worlds. Hybrid cloud combines private cloud with public cloud and takes advantage of what each has to offer.

 

For more information regarding Aspira’s cloud solutions contact us on: info@aspira-europe.nl