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.

Value Stream Mapping within Project Management

 

Value Stream Mapping within Project Management

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Author:  Mark Davenport, Project Manager, Aspira.  We at Aspira are here to help.  For more information on how Aspira can help with all your project management needs, contact us on contact@aspira-europe.nl.

Ensuring the Line between Disaster and Success is not too Fine

Benjamin Franklin said, “Nothing in this world can be said to be certain, except death and taxes”. For businesses today, there is one more thing on that list; an IT systems outage.

The reliance on IT systems has become so great that even a minor blip can have a detrimental impact on your business, reputation, and customer perception. An ever more important defence against these outcomes is developing and maintaining a Disaster Recovery (DR) Plan.

Why develop a disaster recovery plan?

No business that has any reliance on IT can be considered safe when you regard emerging threats like Spyware, Phishing and Ransomware. Disaster recovery planning is not just for large and enterprise scale businesses, it’s for all businesses.

According to Cybersecurity Ventures, Ransomware damages reached $5 billion in 2017. In 2016, IBM reported that 70% of businesses paid to get their data back from ransomware attackers. Considering more traditional risks of outage, research has shown that the most common are Power, Human Failure and Natural Disaster, with the direct costs of these running to $2.5 billion (IDC) annually. It is fair to say preventative and remedial security measures, such as an effective Disaster Recovery plan, have now become essential.

What is disaster recovery planning?

DR planning is putting in place the measures and actions to be taken, in the event of an IT systems failure, to recover those systems in an acceptable time frame. It is a component part of a company’s security profile, as well as being an essential element of a comprehensive Business Continuity Management (BCM). A DR plan should not be confused with BCM, which is much broader and considers not only IT but also environmental and human impacts on a business’ ability to operate.

Disaster Recovery Challenges

When we look at what is involved in implementing a DR plan, a lot of companies struggle with two main challenges – Budget and Expertise.

A lot of companies don’t have, or want to have, the expertise to plan on delivering and maintaining what could be a complex IT operation. Not to mention that no one wants to spend money on something you hope will never be used!

Defining a Disaster Recovery Budget

Cloud services now make the possibility of an Enterprise-level DR solution at a main-street price a reality for a lot of IT environments. Cloud solutions now mean that for relatively low costs (when compared to investing in hardware and onsite services) any company can have robust DR solution that provides levels of availability that would have previously been beyond reach in terms of cost.

Identifying Disaster Recovery Experts

On the challenge of expertise: Companies can now extend a Cloud service to becoming a Managed Cloud Service for Disaster Recovery. This outsources the setup, operation and maintenance of your entire DR requirement to an expert partner at a completely affordable price point.

What Disaster Recovery Plan do I need?

There are two concepts that you can use to determine what level of DR Plan you might need. You should look at the processes that run your business and at the IT systems that these processes depend on (end to end), and define:

  1. RPO: The Recovery Point Objective for the systems driving your business. Basically, if you must restore or recover and entire system – how old can the data be? This may seem obvious, but it is very important to realise that the gaps between system backup and system failure can be significant. If your system is backed up at 2am, and the server fails at 4pm the following afternoon, all information from 2am to 4pm would be lost. In this example, 2am is the recovery point.
  2. RTO: The Recovery Time Objective for your systems. This defines how long you can be without a system before your business (or the process affected) starts to become seriously impacted. For example: if you have an online ordering system that becomes unavailable, how long can you sustain business with the system offline?

While RTO & RPO are linked, they can have different goals. For instance, you might need a system back online within 2 hours to enable business transactions, but the data needed for these transactions can be recovered offline. Conversely, you might have an RTO of 24 hours, but the data must be no older than 15min!

Kickstarting your Disaster Recovery Plan

All businesses should be considering how a DR plan can form part of a security and business continuity process, and safeguard operations, integrity, and reputation. Managed Cloud services bring the capability of Enterprise DR solutions to all businesses. Once you have defined your reliance on IT through Recovery Point and Time Objectives, you can begin to formulate a plan to protect your IT and your business.

For more information on Disaster Recovery, or to speak to one of our expert team, contact us today.

STEPS FOR SUCCESSFUL SOFTWARE PROJECT DELIVERY

 

Having worked a range of high technology Irish pharmaceutical and Government customers, we know that flexible engagement models, and a wide range of skills and expertise are required for successful software project delivery. Head of Software Development Jim Blair 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. Contact our Head of Software Development, Jim Blair, about your upcoming project, email: jim.blair@aspira-europe.nl

Author: Jim Blair, Head of Software Development, Aspira.

From Russia to Ireland with Love

 

 

Diversity in Dublin

At Aspira, we have a very diverse international team, which we believe is key to our ability to innovate and deliver the best possible solutions for our clients. We work with global companies and work alongside colleagues of many different nationalities.

Tanya Gainutdinova is from Russia and is a technical resource specialist who started working in our Dublin office this year. Tanya shares her some insights into life at Aspira, and compares and contrasts Dublin with her hometown of Kazan, Russia.

If you’re considering a career with us, see all available positions on our https://www.aspira-europe.nl/work-with-aspira/

I am living in my new home in Dublin for one year now, working for Aspira, and because I enjoy sharing new perspectives and learning new ways of working myself, I thought it might be interesting to share my perspective of living and working in Dublin compared to my home town of Kazan.

Old and New

Dublin has a similar feel to my hometown in Russia – both were founded over one thousand years ago and have many historical buildings to be admired. But there are also lots of new high-tech locations such as Aspira’s Dublin office, which is in a great location in the Silicon Docklands.

Working at Aspira:

It’s been interesting to learn how business processes in Irish companies differs to Russia. My experience is that the atmosphere in Irish companies is very positive, with colleagues always willing and ready to give a helping hand. Our management team are always open to new ideas and encourage us to make suggestions.

One thing I see that the Irish and Russians have in common is the sense of humour, and wiliness not to take ourselves too seriously – having fun and a laugh with the ‘boss’ in is welcomed and typical for both countries (as long as you are getting your work done!).

Universal Interests – Food and Football

In Russia, my region is famous for its Tatar Cuisine – hearty pies, delicious baked goods and very sweet desserts are very popular.

I’ve enjoyed trying some Irish favourites and was pleasantly surprised by the quality of lamb compared to the mutton we have at home. I have now learned what ‘mutton dressed as lamb’ means! The variety of cheeses is astonishing in Ireland – Dairy products and seafood are really standout here.

Kazan hosted some matches during the recent World Cup and we all like keeping up to date with the football results. My team in Russia is Rubin Kazan although my Cork-based Aspira colleagues tell me there’s only one football team to follow:

It is great working and living in an international environment. Kazan and Dublin are very different, but we have much in common. Diversity and collaboration in the workplace helps to achieve synergy and I’m delighted to be part of the team at Aspira.

Author: Tanya Gainutdinova, Technical Resource Specialist, Aspira

 

Aspira Internship

 

Tadhg had heard great things about Aspira before starting his internship, but never could have imagined just how nurturing an environment it would prove to be.

 

What are you studying in college?
I’m studying Computer Science in University College Cork. It’s a four year course, with work placement taking place in third year.

What drew you to Aspira when you were seeking an internship?
I had heard of Aspira through the UCC careers service, and after researching about them online I thought it would be a fantastic place to work. They have a history of hiring UCC students for graduate and intern positions, and I saw that they had some really interesting clients, so it was a no brainer really!

What expectations did you have before you began your internship?
I had heard from past Interns that at Aspira, you’re given a lot of responsibilities right from the beginning of your placement. A lot is expected from you, in terms of being an active employee and engaging with your co-workers. Aspira has a friendly and social environment that I was really excited to be a part of. I was also excited to put my skills to the test and see how well equipped I was to work in the industry.

What duties and responsibilities were you given initially?
I was given immense responsibility right off the bat, which I thought was fantastic. I was given charge of a project which involved finishing the development of a Web Application by myself. At first, it seemed like an incredibly daunting task, but my Manager Mary and all of my co-workers were always there in support if I ever had a question. The project involved eliciting requirements from the Client, and working with a programming language I had never used before. However, I never felt like I was in over my head with such a supportive group behind me!

Did the scope of your work change as the internship progressed?
As my internship went on, I had the opportunity to work on several other development projects, along with other areas of Aspira also. I got to work in teams with many different employees, attending meetings and tackling problems in a fast paced environment. I also got to work off site, working directly with clients in a business analysis role for a time!

Can you describe a typical day in your role?

Typically, the day would begin by emptying the dishwasher if it was your turn and putting on a pot of coffee! After greeting everyone in the office, I would settle down to work on whatever project I was currently tasked with. During the first few weeks while working on the Web Application, I would have daily meetings with my Manager, discussing what I had completed, what I was currently working on, and whatever issues I was encountering or foresaw. I would also be in contact with the Client, tailoring the application to their needs and working on any issues or bugs that had arisen.

What key things have you learned during this internship?
Good communication skills from speaking with clients and managers, along with enhancing my development skills, and realising that there is something new to be learned every day.

Has this internship made you feel as though you’re on the right career path?
Certainly! I found the work incredibly fulfilling. Finishing a project always brought immense pride and camaraderie. At times during my studies, I had doubts if I was pursuing the right career, but after working at Aspira I’m positive I chose the right path.

Do you feel more prepared for working life following your internship?
Absolutely. From knowing what will be expected of me, to knowing simple skills like teamwork and communication, and even having a proper work-life balance. I feel like I now have my head screwed on and I’m going into Industry prepared next year.

Why should someone take up an internship at this company?
Aspira is a fantastic place to intern at because you’ll learn an immense amount, all the while being in a friendly and social environment. They give you plenty of responsibilities, and match it with great support. I’m very grateful to have had the opportunity to spend 6 months there and to have learned so much.

4 Reasons to consider a Career at Aspira

 

1. You’ll never stop learning
At Aspira, training and development provision is one of our key services. We are renowned globally for excellence in Project Management and Business Analysis Training. We constantly reiterate the need for companies to train up their staff, develop new skillsets amongst their teams and empower their employees through learning. We are no exception to that rule. At Aspira, we have a company-wide focus on personal development and career enhancement through on site, internal and formal training programmes. All Aspira staff benefit from this approach.

2. Work with a connected community
will benefit from the support of your colleagues – a team of experts across a range of areas such as Development, Cloud Deployment, Senior Project Management and Business Analysis. Our collaborative approach to work is further bolstered by the opportunity to work in multi-experienced teams to help deliver exceptional projects for our clients.

We have a very present management team who are always nearby to point you in the right direction and offer their advice and support. Aspira staff also have a hands-on approach to companywide matters, having their say in a number of broader business aspects. The only limits at Aspira are the ones you set for yourself!

3. Flexibility and rewards
Our diversity means that we work with a new way of thinking. Our teams enjoy flexible working to allow for personal circumstances and family. Working for aspira also means flexibility in the clients you work with. We work with some of the best organisations in the country across both the private and public sector, in the country. The work is always exciting and never boring!

Our staff are also offered a number of other benefits such as pension, healthcare, training allowance, and paid holidays. Not to mention that our team is considered by many to be a family of sorts.

4. Diversity
Aspira is a diverse, international company. We have people from over 15 different nationalities building their careers with Aspira and we work with global leaders around the world. We offer opportunities to work globally and work on international assignments, so if you’re looking for a new challenge, Aspira might just be the place for you.

Want to work with us? See all current career opportunities on our website here https://www.aspira-europe.nl/work-with-aspira/

Author:  Russell Moore, HR & Resourcing 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.

 

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

 

In Part 1 of my blog,  I spoke about the importance of Empathy – and making the effort to see things from the other person’s point of view.  Today I want to share two other ways I have learned to improve my level of EQ, or Emotional Intelligence:

Self-Awareness and Self-Regulation

To have self-awareness is the ability to recognize your own emotions, recognize the effect that emotions have on you physiologically, and recognize the effects they have both on your behaviours and how others will behave towards you.

Socrates (the philosopher, not the footballer) said “Know thyself” in order to understand the workings of the world. When dealing with people you have to be aware of how your own reactions and emotions can affect others and their view of us.

You need to be aware of our emotions in real time – as they happen. You will often have little control over when you experience emotions, especially negative ones such as nervousness, loss of motivation or anger.  However, you can regulate how you process the emotion and for how long you will feel that emotion.

I genuinely can feel a lot of anger very quickly, which has not always worked well for me at times in the past. Unless you’ve just won an Oscar, it is generally not advisable to communicate when in an overly-emotional state.  Whether you feel angry, upset or fearful, you can do lasting damage to relationships if you communicate when you’re not in control.

So when you feel a negative emotion kicking in, recognise it and know it will pass. Don’t let the emotion control your behaviour – instead you manage the emotion.  Consider what the behaviour was that triggered the issue, then identify what impact that behaviour has had on you to give rise to how you feel.  Armed with these three pieces of knowledge – Behaviour, Impact, Feeling, also known as BIF – you now have the tools to give constructive and effective feedback.  Give a BIF.

By communicating to the other person what their behaviour was, how it had an impact, and how that has made you feel; you have proactively managed the situation. Rather than sitting there seething in anger, or wallowing in self-pity, you have analysed the situation and have channelled your emotions to provide constructive feedback to tackle the problem at source.  As as a result, you have self-regulated your emotions and are in control of the situation.

In my role as a Senior Project Consultant with Aspira, I am sometimes required to take on Recovery Projects – projects that have gone wrong, and where I come in as a Recovery PM to get things back on track. In this scenario, relationships can be fraught as people will feel nervous and vulnerable.  This makes it absolutely critical that I maintain self-control and give calm, objective feedback to the project team members throughout.  By acting in a firm yet professional manner, the team can see that there’s a ‘new sheriff in town’ and will raise their own level of performance.

To conclude, one of the key strengths I look for in a great Project Manager is emotional intelligence, and the ability to see there can be 50 shades of black and white…

Author: Damien Kearns, Aspira.

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.