Aspira launches free webinar series to support businesses during covid 19 crisis

15 April 2020: Aspira, Project Management consulting and enterprise IT services company,

has today launched a series of free live webinars to support businesses in light of the current Covid-19 public health situation. You can sign up for the webinars at www.aspira.ie/events

The webinars will run for five weeks, with a new one every Wednesday from 8th April to 6th May. Each Wednesday Webinar will last for an hour and will focus on developing and improving skills to help business leaders and their teams work effectively in the ‘new normal’.

The series will cover topics such as kickstarting projects across virtual teams and getting the most out of project management software such as Microsoft Teams. The first webinar, which took place today, looked at leading and managing project teams from a distance, run by Aspira Global Head of Project Training Norma Lynch.

Speaking on the webinars, Aspira’s CEO Pat Lucey said: “Many businesses are currently faced with uncertainty and new working environments. At Aspira, we wanted to share some positivity and useful insights during this difficult time. Running this webinar series gives us the opportunity to share our team’s expertise in the areas of project management and remote working software and supports.”

Aspira is a specialist Project Management and Technology consultancy, focusing on Enterprise IT Solutions, with offices in Dublin, Cork and the Netherlands. Offering Managed IT, Software Development, Testing and Training services internationally, Aspira has been named as one of Deloitte’s Fast 50 for the past six years and was twice listed in the Financial Times Top Thousand companies in Europe.

Full list of upcoming Wednesday Webinar Series

Date: Wednesday 15th April

Time: 12.00 to 13.00 CET

Topic: Working remotely made easier with MS Teams – Stephen McCluskey

Register here: https://aspira.ie/events/working-with-ms-teams/

 

Date: Wednesday 22nd April

Time: 12.00 to 13.00 CET

Topic: Getting to grips with MS Project – Damien Kearns

Register here: https://aspira.ie/events/getting-to-grips-with-ms-project/

 

Date: Wednesday 29th April

Time: 12.00 to 13.00 CET

Topic: Leveraging Agile in a Virtual Environment – Thomas McGrath

Register here: https://aspira.ie/events/leveraging-agile-in-a-virtual-environment/

 

Date: Wednesday 6th May

Time: 12.00 to 13.00 CET

Topic: Kickstarting a Project in a Virtual Team – Gillian Whelan

Register here: https://aspira.ie/events/kick-starting-a-project-in-a-virtual-team/

 

For further information, or to arrange an interview with Pat Lucey please contact:

Peter Ryan, Managing Director, Aspira Europe.

contact@aspira-europe.nl

Our CEO Pat Lucey shares his perspective on remote working and facing the challenges ahead

I am lucky enough to have a job I really enjoy. As CEO of Aspira I get to meet with many different customers in a variety of sectors. I get to travel to different locations to work directly with colleagues. I get asked to speak at conventions and conferences all over the world.  And then Covid-19 happens and suddenly I’m doing none of those things.

I realise that I am one of the fortunate people who has not been struck down by the virus and who still has a job. I have good internet allowing me to work remotely and have commandeered the room formerly used as the kids’ playroom.  So in the greater scheme of things I am aware that my struggles with remote working are at the very minor end of the scale. I would categorize them under three headings:

People

My primary concern as CEO is the health and safety of our team.  Because most of our roles can be done remotely, we made the decision early on to test our remote working capability, to ensure everyone could connect and work remotely, and then to execute that plan proactively.  Because some of our clients provide essential services, we must also be ready to support those clients should they need on-site emergency work.  We quickly put in place practices and policies to prioritise the safety of our team and the people we deal with, and we are monitoring this on a daily basis.  We needed to setup regular communication with each employee to understand if they had any specific issues or concerns and to ensure we kept communication lines open.  My monthly email to all staff became a weekly email to reflect the fast-pace of change going on around us and let people know how the company is responding to that change.  We set up a weekly “pointless meeting” open to all staff at lunchtime on Fridays, with no agenda, and where no ‘work talk’ is allowed – the idea is to let people stay connected through regular informal chit-chat.

Business Continuity

The next step was to do some contingency planning – for each key role, we needed to line up a backup person and a backup to that backup, and get those people trained up in the event that anyone should become unavailable to work.  Our strategy has been that all our IT systems are based in the cloud, so that makes us very portable and not tied to our physical buildings.  We diverted our office phones and ensured everybody could access their business phone via their laptop.  We also had to look at our international operations and see how local authorities were responding to the pandemic, as each country is taking a subtly different approach.

Looking forward – surviving and sustaining 

We are lucky in that Aspira delivers services across a broad range of industry sectors.  Some of those have taken a big hit – for example our clients in the airline sector are obviously heavily impacted and that quickly feeds through to us.  Clients in the banking, food production and medical device sectors are under extreme pressure and if anything, demand has increased.  But overall we expect a significant hit on companies and economies over the next six months so we must be innovative in transforming our services and developing new services that will be of value to clients.

Through all this time the key thing is to communicate, communicate, communicate – to employees, to suppliers, to clients.  Lack of communication causes anxiety and fear – by communicating honestly and regularly, people will know where they stand and what they can expect.

Here’s to collectively standing together and embracing whatever positives may come from our ‘new normal’.

Author:  Pat Lucey, CEO, Aspira.

How to run a project team meeting online

More than ever within the unsettled and remote world we find ourselves living in today, face-to-face meetings are fast becoming the exception rather than the norm.

At Aspira, we have embraced “project team meetings” or “virtual meetings” as I’ll refer to them, as a means to maintain the status quo with our clients as well as with each other. As with everything in life, there are pros & cons to the methods of our interactions.

  • Virtual meetings offer the ability to invite more people; potentially happier people, since attending meetings remotely is usually more convenient than doing so in person; and there is no travel time, which breeds efficiency and helps the environment.
  • Of course, these virtual meetings also pose challenges: distracting noises; side-tracked participants who multitask or tune out; and technology glitches.

As such, meeting facilitators really need to be organised to overcome these challenges and keep people engaged. Here are some tips for overcoming these hurdles and keeping virtual meetings running smoothly based on my own learnings more recently…

  1. Early Login. Make it a habit to dial-in a few minutes early when facilitating the meeting, so you can be ready and welcome your colleagues as they arrive …it’s also professional in my opinion for the facilitator to be present before everyone else, as it would be for a face-to-face meeting…or maybe that’s just me!
  2. Ground Rules / Distractions. Participants should agree on the ground rules, especially if the group meets regularly. For example: Everyone must attend, be on time, stick to a timeline, read the agenda, stay on task. Remind participants to use their mute button, if necessary. Distractions can really ruin a call whether it’s a vibrating mobile phone or a kango hammer outside your window!
  3. The Invitees. It’s difficult to hold a virtual meeting with a very large number of participants, due sometimes to the capabilities of the technology and everyone’s ability to contribute to the conversation. If a participant has nothing to gain or contribute you should really consider why they are involved in the first place?
  4. Socialise. Don’t miss a chance to connect with your colleagues (before starting the meeting or at the end) now more than ever. We are all under stresses due to the current unprecedented situation that is COVID-19, so simply connecting on a personal level can do more than you might realise for some people. I find the pre-meeting chit-chat helps me stay connected and sharing our observations, funny stories or woes can also be very therapeutic!
  5. Face-time. I feel way more engaged when I can see you! Encourage participants to show their faces online (if only when speaking) and by association get them out of their PJ’s and into their casuals!
  6. Objective & Agenda. Always prepare a clear meeting objective and associated agenda. If appropriate, distribute the agenda and other materials to attendees in advance, and explain if/why they need to review them prior to meeting. Be as conscious about people’s time for virtual meetings as you would for face-to face meetings.
  7. Encourage Participation. Asking directly for input really helps team members feel engaged. Seek out those who may not be as vocal but avoid putting them on the spot.
  8. Avoid Back-to-Back Meetings. It is important that you give yourself sometime between meetings…a chance to catch breath, consider the outcomes and actions and to reset your mind for the next virtual meeting. Meeting burn-out is as probable for virtual meetings as it is for face-to-face meetings.
  9. Try to be engaging. This does not mean attempting a stand-up comedy routine, but simply try to make it interesting with lively interaction and even to be conscious of your tone…again, the use of your video will help here as suggested earlier.
  10. Check out action items are in progress. It’s vital in virtual meeting forums that we get clear and actionable outcomes for participants. Remind those who participated the main points of the meeting and the follow-up actions, owners and due dates agreed etc. Everyone needs to know that commitments are being tracked to completion.

The biggest challenge of virtual meetings is to keep people interested and engaged. The suggestions listed are not all encompassing…employ what works for your own team situation and dynamic and adapt as you proceed. Take feedback from your colleagues and make it everyone’s meeting. On look back, many of the suggestions outlined apply to traditional face-to-face meetings also, so the adoption of a virtual working world should not be so difficult, in theory!

Work smart, Stay safe.

Author:  Thomas McGrath, Senior Project Manager, Aspira

How to manage an unplanned virtual team

The advantages and disadvantage of working remotely are well documented.  Some people love to work remotely, and some people really do not like it at all.  But in the current climate it’s a pointless debate – everyone has to do it.  So how can we overcome the challenges when it comes to building a virtual project team when thrust into this unplanned remote working environment?

Solutions to these challenges include:

  • Communication – Project Managers should lead by example by providing regular updates to the team and holding one-to-one meetings using technology that supports video conferencing. Project team members are more likely to follow the good example set by their Project Manager.
  • Trust – Trust may already exist in an unplanned virtual project team as the project team will have already had time to work together face-to-face.  But distance can cause trust to diminish fast, so it is imperative that Project Managers take the necessary steps to maintain trust among the team. Holding daily virtual team meetings where each project team member have an opportunity to provide an update to their team on their progress can help maintain trust.  Project Managers should look for opportunities to showcase project team member’s work and give public feedback on a job well done.
  • Using an on-line team task tracker where all team members can record their progress and review their colleague’s progress.  This keeps progress visible and keeps people motivated.
  • Combat isolation – nurture a strong one-to-one relationship between the Project Manager and project team member, with frequent short video conference calls.  These can help reduce feelings of isolation. Giving project team members tasks to work on together can also foster a feeling of being part of a project team.
  • Training is a great way to bring project teams together and maintain team spirit while they work apart. Aspira offer a range of 2-hour online instructor led industry certified training courses which provide a welcome variety to people working from home. https://www.aspira-europe.nl/training/

Adapting to an unplanned switch from a co-located project team to a virtual project team will require effort in order for the team to adapt. Technology, such as Microsoft Teams, facilitate a smoother and quicker transition, but Project Managers will need to be patient with their teams and themselves.  Show kindness to your colleagues and help each other stay on track.

Author:  Gillian Whelan, Senior Consultant, Aspira

Cabin Fever? Inject some productive distraction into your day.

Cabin Fever? Inject some productive distraction into your day.

 

Pre Covid-19, my mother who is the same age as the Queen, punctuated her days with early morning mass, swimming at noon and her tri-weekly game of bridge. This added structure to her day, physical activity and social interaction.

Now all that is gone. So, what can she do to inject productive distraction into her day?

She has decided, due to this temporary ‘inconvenience’ as she calls it, that she is going to take up knitting again and is starting with knitting cardigans for her great grandchildren.

If I ever need some inspiration, I look towards my mother; no excuses are allowed.

Now that a lot of us are working from home due to the ‘inconvenience’, how can we deal with the challenges of cabin fever and how can we re-imagine our ‘new normal’?  In addition to taking regular breaks and getting healthy exercise, another option is to inject productive distraction into our day.

One of the best ways we can generate productive distraction is by upskilling ourselves.  Maybe you have been putting off progressing in your own career path and maybe, just maybe, the ‘new normal’ presents you with an opportunity to acquire new skills and re-imagine how you can do better what you have always done.

Aspira Training has also been re-imagining how we do better what we have always done. And so we have taken our Project Management, Agile, Scrum and Business Analyst training course and adapted them to the virtual classroom.

The training is delivered ‘virtually live’ in blocks of two hours, by qualified international trainers, using industry leading collaborative software. There is engaging and interactive assignments to tackle, before, during and after each session.

The training will prepare you to sit the formal certification exams, enabling you to become a formally certified Project Manager, Scrum Master, Agile Practitioner or Business Analyst, and you will have seized this ‘inconvenience’ and realised your ambitions in this ‘new normal’.

Email training@aspira.ie to find out more and start injecting productive distraction into your day.

 

Guest Blog: A Sneak Peak into Choosing an Independant Consultant’s Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Author: Niamh Kelly, Aspira Consultant

Contact Peter Ryan about your if you are interested in Aspira Project Services or would like to join our growing team, email: Contact@Aspira-Europe.nl

 

Steps for Successful Software Delivery

Having worked a range of Software projects, we know that flexible engagement models, and a wide range of skills and expertise are required for successful software project delivery. Jim Blair, Director of Software Development, has put together his top tips for your software project success.

INCREMENTAL DELIVERY IN SOFTWARE ENGINEERING

There are almost unlimited ways to build a customer software solution which means that Software projects in particular, can be very complex to deliver. It is for this reason that builders lean towards incremental value delivery. Using Customer Development suggests that software teams should plan incremental deliveries to the customer. Teams can use feedback from the deployments to tailor subsequent deliveries, with short turn-around time periods. This approach ensures that the subsequent solutions are built on top of software that has been tailored for customer value.

AGILE SOFTWARE DEVELOPMENT

Incremental value deliveries are ideal for getting feedback that can tune the solution value. The Agile software development process is specifically geared to supporting incremental customer deliveries. Scrum, which is one of the most popular Agile frameworks (there are over 40 different Agile frameworks!), defines an iteration as a “Sprint”. Common Sprint iteration cycles are two to three weeks. Scrum also defines an explicit process for planning each Sprint and planning the higher-level scope for a chain of Sprints. The success of each Sprint is proportional to the planning effort put into each Sprint plan. So, although the Agile principle of “Working software over comprehensive documentation” puts emphasis on getting working software, the principle doesn’t imply that planning can be omitted.

From Database architecture, through to complex business application infrastructure, to the world’s most advanced client applications developed for popular phone and tablet platforms, to web agnostic and Microsoft specific technology solutions, Aspira offers full-stack development experience that matches most needs enterprise development teams reach out for. Our development team size supports most enterprise-class development and we have a proven development track record. We also work to deliver small projects or can provide your company with onsite contract development staff to help you deliver your software projects successfully.

Author: Jim Blair, Director of Software Development

Contact Peter Ryan about your upcoming project, email: Peter.Ryan@Aspira-Europe.nl

 

Top Tips to Create an Agile Plan

Technology is moving at a fast pace, disrupting organisations and the ways in which we have worked for decades. When paired with other organisational challenges that are encountered in daily working life, it is increasingly more difficult to drive your organisation to change to meet these needs and challenges as they arise. One way in which we can prepare for change and equip our teams with the skills they need to thrive and adapt are with agile training.

An Agile team can evolve and react more rapidly, meaning that challenges are more easily overcome and projects are delivered more successfully on an ongoing basis. Head of Training Norma Lynch shares her top three tips to create agile working teams:

1. Focus on results

Placing emphasis on the outcome and not the process drives your team to work smarter, rather than adhering to processes that may not work for the project for the sake of procedure. It also empowers your team to make their own decisions and work more efficiently to achieve their objectives.

2. Feedback

Collecting and curating feedback throughout a project ensures that you have a constant flow of communication. This helps your team to identify issues at an early stage, enabling your teams to react and change paths if required, reducing time spent and increasing team optimisation.

3. Training

If your team are lacking the basic knowledge they need to work in an agile environment, this will cause problems for projects. It’s absolutely vital that team members have knowledge of the framework and that training is provided on an ongoing basis to allow teams to develop their various skill-sets within that, particularly team leads and those in senior and management roles.

At Aspira, we work to create bespoke training packages to meet all of your training requirements. From once-off group training to ongoing coaching options, we cover a variety of topics, from general project management introduction to advanced examination preparation courses. We work with manufacturers, pharmaceutical, telecoms, transport, services, and technology companies to deliver PM, business analysis, Scrum Master, Lean Six Sigma training and more.

Contact Peter Ryan to see how we can meet your training requirements for 2020, email: Peter.Ryan@Aspira-Europe.nl

Three Tips to Influencing Without Authority

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.
Contact Norma Lynch – Head of Training – to see how we can meet your training requirements for 2020, email: Contact@Aspira-Europe.NL

 

Bringing sexy back to Project Management

I was recently lined up to do a live radio interview on a national broadcaster business show. As he was introducing my interview segment, the show host said, “And next we’ll talk to Pat Lucey, the man who’ll explain what makes Project Management sexy”.

And for the next couple of minutes as the ad-break ran, my mind was in a whirl.  Is Project Management a sexy career?  If so why?  What can I talk about…

Thankfully, when the interview started the discussion went down other avenues, as I talked about Aspira’s consulting and technology business; how we help organisations deliver their technology projects so that they can reap the benefits of digital transformation, and have confidence that their Aspira colleagues will ensure their projects get delivered.

Afterwards I reflected… what is the sexiest career?  I have to admit that for me the answer is to be an astronaut!  Since I was a small kid, I fantasised about that career and when Norah Patten – Ireland’s prospective first astronaut – spoke at the Ireland Project Management Conference in 2018, I was a total fan-boy.

So, could Project Management compete on the sexiness scale of careers.  Over to my Google search page to seek the definition of sexiness.  Once I got past some inappropriate options, I found a nice definition – to be sexy something must be exciting, appealing and attractive.  So let’s apply the test:

What could be more exciting than turning ideas into reality?  It is the Project Manager that takes a notion, a vision, a dream, and finds a way to make that dream come true.  Overcoming obstacles, thwarting opponents, and delivering the treasure at the end – the Project Manager is a modern day Prince/Princess Charming.  10/10 for excitement.

Is Project Management an appealing career?  One measure is just how much in demand are Project Managers today.  Aspira provide Project Management consultants to our clients internationally and we can say without fear of contradiction that the market is crying out for good Project Managers.  In some market regions, the demand is 7:1 – in other words for every Project Manager there are seven roles vying for his/her attention.  10/10 for appealing.

Are Project Managers attractive?  In order to be a Project Manager you must be an optimist – you must see the power of the possible, and you must have deep faith in the character of people.  These are really positive and attractive qualities in any individual.  Throw in the fact that all Project Managers are really handsome and good looking people, and you have to award 10/10 for attractiveness.

So there we have it.  After a deeply scientific analysis, I have proven that Project Management is indeed a very sexy career choice.  In fact I bet there are some astronauts who are now looking to switch to join us PM types…

Article by Pat Lucey, CEO of Aspira. For more information on how Aspira can help you with all your project management needs or to find out more about a career in project management, contact info@aspira.ie.

Getting the Fundamentals of Project Management Right

“How do I get the fundamentals of project management right?” is an interesting question clients often pose. In our experience, to get the fundamentals right, businesses need to address three things – people, processes and technology.

 People 

All project stakeholders need to have an understanding of what the fundamentals of project management are, and specifically the role and responsibilities they each have in delivering projects. A project manager will need an in-depth technical knowledge of the 10 PMBOK knowledge areas, Integration, Scope, Schedule, Cost, Quality, Resource, Communications, Risk, Procurement, and Stakeholder Management, whilst also having strong leadership skills, and a good knowledge of, and expertise in the industry and organisation of the performing project. Training, formal classroom based, and on-going on the job training, is required to address the need for technical project management skills.

A project sponsor or steering group member will need to make sure that only the right projects – those most closely aligned with strategic objectives – get the green light to proceed. They need to ensure that the benefits a project is expected to deliver are understood by the project manager and team from the start, and drive the project manager and team onwards always in the pursuit of harvesting as many benefits as possible. They also play a key role in governing a project, with primary focus on the four corner stones of all projects; Scope, Schedule, Cost and Quality. Perhaps most importantly for a project manager and project team, the sponsor must also offer, and be available to support, the project team when required.

The project team are responsible for the duties assigned to them by the project manager, for following the agreed upon project management processes, for producing quality deliverables within the constraints of the project, and for identifying risks and opportunities to improve project management processes.

Aspira offer industry recognised and accredited project management training to project managers, project team members and sponsors.

Processes

Processes for delivering projects, from concept through to delivery need to be defined, documented, understood and agreed upon by all key project stakeholders. Top-down management agreement and support of these processes is vital to ensure the successful embedding of any process. Once the end-to-end project delivery processes have been defined and agreed, a strong governance framework is required to ensure the processes are consistently being followed by project stakeholders. Often businesses struggle to identify what the right end-to-end project delivery processes and supporting governance framework is for them. The consulting team in Aspira can help in this regard. We work with clients to identify end-to-end project delivery processes and supporting governance frameworks that make sense for their business, and assist in the roll out of these processes.

Technology 

Technology is often the first thing that a business will look at as a solution to getting the fundamentals of project management right, and although technology advances have seen incredibly smart portfolio, program and project management tools enter the market, technology will only be fully effective and embraced in a business when the people and process gaps above have been addressed first. Technology advances have resulted in the introduction of tools that can now make decision making, planning, executing, monitoring and controlling and closing projects much easier. With so many companies offering cutting edge technology to streamline and improve how projects are delivered, it can be challenging for a business to know what is the best fit for them. Aspira has worked with many clients to help them identify the technology solution that best suits their needs. We capture clients requirements, identify suitable technology and vendors, evaluate and provide recommendations on the technology solutions that best suit our customer’s needs.

Article by Gillian Whelan, Project Manager at Aspira. To find out more about how Aspira can improve your team’s project management, contact contact@aspira-europe.nl

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