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3 April 2020

The Project Foundry Guide to Project Contracting




The Project Foundry began with a simple mantra: Plan. Execute. Deliver. and we aim to keep it simple. We believe that project management doesn’t need to be difficult or complicated. In fact, the power of simplicity is key to project success.

Keeping it simple makes things easier for our customers, so we will continue to espouse it. Simplicity, clarity, and honesty apply to our services, our publications, our people and our company. It’s who we are. To allow us to offer ultimate flexibility we have a flexible workforce, a high percentage of our workforce, work on a contract basis and we work with most of them time and time again.

The Project Foundry has built a community of contractors who work with us, want to work with us or will work with us again in the future so that we ensure the quality of our people matches our values and ethos.

Contracting is now common in nearly all business sectors and provides many benefits to the parties involved. Our clients get access to specialist skills on an as-needed basis while as a contractor you will generally get a far greater financial reward and independence than you would in the traditional employee structure.

There are two main ways of operating as a contractor either through an Umbrella Company or your own Private Limited Company. There are multiple factors to consider when deciding what the right option for you is and we recommend you get advice from a specialist firm or accountants before making a final decision.

The following article is a how-to guide on what you need to get set up as a contractor, the benefits or working for yourself and the financial gains you can expect. We have a high volume of contract positions on an ongoing basis and would love to add you to The Project Foundry Community.

Advantages of Contracting

There are many advantages to contracting and what the biggest advantages are, depends on what is important to the contractor. We have listed a few our top ones below:

Financial Gains

Due to the short-term nature of the work, most employers are prepared to pay higher rates to contractors than to employees. The employer benefits through savings in holiday pay, sick pay, redundancy, etc. and passes these savings on to the Contractor.

Tax Savings

Contractors can benefit from much greater tax planning and pension planning options through running your own business. Also, with tax not being deducted at source from your income, you can earn extra interest income. If you work as a contractor and set up your own limited company there are more tax advantages, although more expensive to initially set up ~€300 it can be advantageous. In addition, tax not being deducted at source from your income, you can earn extra interest income.

Experience and New Challenges

As a contractor, you have the flexibility to change jobs on a regular basis without the formality of notice and without associated stigmas attached ‘job-hopping’. This means you can gain exposure to multiple industries and different and interesting types of projects. Many contractors enjoy this variety as it challenges them continuously.

Working in different companies, and industries with different tools, approaches and, methodologies, increases your skill spectrum and makes you more marketable.

Independence

The satisfaction and independence of being self-employed, in some cases choosing where you work from and the times you work. In some contracts this will mean you can work from remote locations and travel as you work, or if staying at home is important, working from home.

Holidays

As a contractor, you are not fixed to set annual leave as you would be in a permanent role. You have the freedom to take extended holidays between contracts and additional annual leave in contract. You don’t get paid for leave but the higher daily rate allows for this.

 

Disadvantages of Contracting

Like the advantages there are also disadvantages to contracting, what these are again is very much dependent on what is important to an individual. Once you are aware of the ins and outs of contracting, the disadvantages can be offset by the many advantages. We have listed some of the most common ones below:

Administration

Additional paperwork and tracking are required as you are running your own business. This, however, can be easily managed by third parties who provide the setup, maintenance, invoicing and management of your company as a service for a small monthly fee which, great news…. It is also tax-deductible. We are happy to recommend some great companies who provide this service to our teams.

Holiday and Sick Pay

You receive no remuneration for periods when you are sick or on holidays and not working. Annualised salaries for contractors are based on an average working year of 230 days which accounts for holidays and bank holidays taken. Good money management will ensure you have money put aside for these periods.

Future Proofing

It is essential that as a contractor you don’t see a huge non-taxed sum in your account and think of what you can spend it on. Ensuring you have enough money to pay the tax when it falls due and for times when you are looking for your next contract is critical.

Security

As a contractor you don’t have the same rights as permanent employees and are not entitled to the same wage increases, redundancy payments, etc., You are however paid significantly more and if you negotiate your contract will have a notice period that they must give if your contract is finishing earlier.

Career Development

You have fewer opportunities for career development as a contractor and most of the time would need to be a permanent employee to have a clear career path. You can, however, gain huge experience contracting and move into different positions. You can also upskill yourself through courses and qualifications which in some instances are also tax-deductible.

 

Setting Up as a Contractor

This can be completed in a day or two depending on the route you choose to take but is a critical step as you cannot work as a contractor without doing this. You also need to be set up correctly so that you can be paid as a contract. Beware that managing your own taxes can be tricky so it’s a good idea to partner with an umbrella service or at the least, speak to a good accountant so that you have all the information you need.

Umbrella Company

This is generally the starting point for most contractors, and some choose to remain contracting in this way and never set up their own company. It is especially effective for individuals who are on quite a low contracting rate and/or those who are going to contract for a short period of time.

You, ‘ the contractor’, can become an employee of the umbrella company run by a third party (usually an agency). You submit timesheets to the umbrella, and they invoice the end client for completed work. You will then be paid as a PAYE employee through the umbrella, in most cases, there will be a fee for this it and it depends on your contractual agreement. The advantages are that this approach avoids the administration & taxation tasks of running your own Company. The Umbrella Company will ensure all tax obligations are complied with as well as ensuring that you are covered for standard workplace insurances.

You will still be able to reap financial rewards from this option but not to the same extent a Private Limited Company will allow.

Private Limited Company

A Private Limited Company, also known as a PLC, is the option most career contractors choose as they can build their brand and reputation through their own Limited Company. It is also a great option to get the most out of the tax benefits.

Professional contractors tend to earn significantly more than their permanent peers. Partnering with tax advisors or a specialist contracting service agency who specialise in professional contracting will help you to make your additional earning potential work in the best way possible allowing you to optimise tax efficiencies.

This is the best option for those who want control of their finances, to build revenue in the company and have longer-term gains. For anyone starting out contracting for the first time we usually recommend using an Umbrella Company initially as it is a more simple setup and as you progress your career as a contractor, you can then look to set up a private limited company.

 

Top Tips

Get a Signed Contract

Whether you are going through an agency, professional services firm or directly with a client always make sure you get a signed contract from them after they offer you the position. This is a contract for the provision of services, and you want to know what is agreed, especially if you are leaving a contract with a potential extension pending for another active contract.

Read the Contract

This might seem like common sense but ensure you read the contract from front to back. When you use a contracting service provider, they will generally review the contract and give you advice but you should always read it thoroughly yourself. Make sure you are happy with all the terms you are signing up to, understand the payment terms as companies work differently and if you have queries, raise them before signing.

Keep a Copy

Ensure you and any service provider you use have the most recent and final contracts and keep them on file for reference.

Is Contracting right for you?

If you are excited by having independence and flexibility in when, how and where you work then it is an option you should consider. Most of our contract team have been doing this for most of their careers and wouldn’t choose to be permanent employees, others choose to contract for a couple of years to gain experience faster.

Contracting is an increasingly popular way of working as employees become more focused on work-life balance and increased control in their employment. For others, it gives them new challenges on a more frequent basis keeping them interested and motivated rather than working in a BAU environment.

To help you decide if contracting is a great option for you, we would love to discuss how The Project Foundry supports their contracting team. You will be part of our team should you choose to take a role with us and have senior team members to provide guidance throughout your contract, we hold community events, monthly conference calls for all of us to keep in touch, consistent communication and we love our team to get involved in building our business. We aim to create a community that you will feel part of while having all the benefits of contracting.

 

If you would like to hear more, get in touch today at careers@theprojectfoundry.com or give us a call on 01-4452218

19 March 2020

Transition to Remote Working with The Project Foundry




Contact us today to find out more!

With these options and the assistance of The Project Foundry, read on to see how to combat the challenges of Remote Working as a result of ongoing risks from COVID-19. Our Cloud Consultancy team, led by Mark Carragher are here to help in implementing a range of solutions to enable remote working without the need for large investment or upscaling your infrastructure.

These options include current incentives and discounts while covering more traditional & cloud technologies that can assist your workforce to work remotely quickly and more importantly, securely.

Log Me In

Allows you to deploy remote access agents to your systems via Group Policy, SCCM, or any compatible software distribution method.

Once deployed you can delegate users access to their corporate device, without the need to upscale, one limitation to be aware of is network capacity and your ability to upload the connections.

Users remotely connect to their systems desktop from a remote location, which ensures they maintain the customisations, security, and policies as if they were in the office.

Click here.

 

Zoom Meetings & Chat

Allows anywhere hosting for your meetings and conferences via PSTN, Video, VoIP and Whiteboards form any browser.

Zoom provides a free license that covers 1-on-1 meetings with up to 49 video participants.

Advantages: you don’t need to deploy any software or upscale any infrastructure, there are slight limitations if users overall internet speed is less than an average of 10Mbs to support the full features.

Click here.

 

Microsoft Teams

Teams have a free tier that allows all users to collaborate via Video, Call, IM, and Whiteboarding, while also providing cloud-based file storage.

It must be connected to your on-premise activity directory by a single sync utility.

It’s important to set up security policies before allowing users access. It also has a WebApp so there is no need to deploy the desktop client unless you want the full features.

 

Office 365

Many companies already utilise this platform your users have remote access to their email, Teams, SharePoint, OneDrive and the office suite via Web App versions.

This allows users to remotely work on their files, and collaborate with Teams (or Skype). It’s important that security policies for DLP, 2FA are configured and auditing is set up in advance.

Should you not have a cloud-based solution but use on-premise solutions like Exchange, you can leverage OWA access for email only, or create a hybrid link to a new Office365 tenant to benefit from 30 days of access for free.

 

On Premise VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure)

Can be utilised for remote access if you already have a system in place, it may need to be scaled to support the additional users.

If you have a solution already in place like VMware Horizon, Citrix XenApp or similar you have the basis of a remote access solution available to be scaled for remote access.

It’s important that scaling is measured and addressed before allowing remote access, various calculators exist to assist with this.

 

Citrix Managed Desktop Business Continuity Program

Citrix have been the market leader in remote access technologies and have been offering their solution on the cloud for some time now.

If you have Citrix XenApp/XenDesktop currently this can be scaled to account for your user base and remote access can be configured using NetScaler appliance or other reverse proxy firewall solution.

If you don’t have the technology its available to consume on the cloud, integrate with your on-premise Active Directory, then deploy the desktops either from a pre-configured template, or an image of your corporate desktop.

This solution can be enabled and presented to users quickly, the time must be taken to build the master corporate image, which can be a clone for a real desktop, and security restrictions for 2FA, auditing should be configured in advance.

One thing to constantly be aware of consuming cloud solution is the potential cost, scaling is a powerful and useful feature of cloud, but the ease of scaling can be offset by the cost if not managed correctly, usage and consumption billing alerts should be configured and actioned.

They are currently offering special offers for their Managed Desktop which offers a turnkey Desktop-as-a-Service (Daas).

Click here.

 

Windows Virtual Desktop

The relatively new kid to the block is a preconfigured solution for what was once RDS (Remote Desktop Services) from Microsoft.

The advantage of this solution is it allows rapid deployment of a virtual desktop solution, within a few hours, more time may be needed if you have to build or close a master image.

Once the master image is configured, you can deploy as many desktops as you need, one of the key benefits and is unique to this solution is it provides Windows 10 Multi-User, whereby users share a Windows 10 desktop.

The other advantage for Office365 users is that it fully supports OneDrive and its index search, this is not available on other platforms (yet). The implementation involves connecting to your on-premise AD, or Azure AD if your cloud-hosted, and defining the basic profile for the number of users and size of the desktop image you need (2core CPU, 8GB RAM, 110Gb disk as an example).

In addition, if you need to use Windows 7as its support ended on Jan 14, 2020, but you get extended security updates for free if you use WVD, although ideally, you should plan to move to Windows 10, this option is available if your LOB apps required Windows 7.

You must have a valid license to support the Windows 10 WVDPage.

Click here. 

 

Cloudfare for Teams

Are providing free 6 months access which allows users secure, fast and stable access to your on-premise resources without the need for a VPN.

The traditional access for remote users doesn’t scale well and can present a bottleneck or performance issues for users.

Providing a single access solution, with security and auditing controls that scale with demand, you can upscale this to provide caching, edge firewalls and reverse proxies when needed.

Click here. 

29 November 2019

The Project Foundry Top 10 Cyber Concerns for 2020




Our Senior Solutions Consultant Mark Carragher takes a look at the Top 10 Cyber Threats & Concerns for the coming year.

SHADOW IT SYSTEMS

Shadow IT is software used within an organisation, but not supported by the company’s central IT system. This has inefficiencies and may be vulnerable to hackers. Organisations need to be aware of the security threat that shadow IT brings.

 

SINGLE FACTOR PASSWORDS

There is a large security risk in use of single-factor passwords as it gives intruders easy access to data. In 2020, organisations need to be more serious with the passwords by starting to use multi-factor authentication.

 

CLOUD ABUSE

Cloud storage is vulnerable to cyber abuse. With inadequate authentication and registration processes, the cloud will be susceptible to spam emails, criminals, and other malicious attacks. An adequate way of monitoring credit card transactions is also needed.

 

DATA BREACH

As cloud data storage is becoming more popular than ever, many organisations are transferring their data to the cloud. This isn’t as safe as it sounds, and organisations need to be picky when it comes to choosing a cloud provider.

 

INSIDER THREATS

Ex-staff are a major threat to cybersecurity, while users in organisations are also a weak link. Thus, organisations need to remedy this problem by educating the staff on cyber, monitoring their activities, and testing.

 

INSECURE API

A cloud service provider’s interface is shared among different users. Thus, the security lies primarily in the hands of the service providers, as breaches could happen starting from the authentication to encryption process.

 

MALWARE ATTACK

Malware attacks can be caused by various reasons, including removable media, file sharing, bundled free software, and the lack of internet security software. To overcome them, organisations need to prepare a strict security mechanism and compliance.

 

LOSS OF DATA

Organisations need to ensure that the available API security is tight to avoid loss of data as it may lead to serious implications on the business. Such a breach can drain the organisation’s finances and cause a loss of customers.

 

HACKING

As the Internet of Things takes over, more weak points are created in the computer systems. Besides administer restrictions towards sharing, organisations also need to ensure that no unauthorised activity takes place.

 

INTERNET OF THINGS

Most devices are connected to the Internet nowadays. As much as the Internet of Things has become useful, its deployment has also brought many concerns, especially in security domain due to inadequate security measures.

19 September 2019

VMWorld 2019 – It’s All About Cloud Solutions




So, it’s done and dusted for another year, VMworld 2019.

And it’s all about Hybrid Cloud!

From my experience to date this has probably been the most feature packed event yet. Vmware and most vendors I spoke with are focused on one thing, and that is: hybrid multi-cloud management. VMware are ahead of the curve in offering a multi stack solution to all elements of cloud management and operations. Just check out their new offerings which I have highlighted further below.

However, this doesn’t mean I am a fanboy of VMware – yes, I like their products, and use various elements of their products on an almost daily basis, but let’s take Nero Burning Software (showing my age) for a comparison. Nero was great at one thing, – CD/DVD copying and burning, just like VMware was great at virtualisation and ‘private cloud’. But like Nero, they have started to diversify their product portfolio to the point you need a matrix to help find a product they offer that fits your needs. While in this case that’s ok, because unlike Nero who diluted their main product with bloatware, the cloud has changed this, and it evolves at such a rapid rate, the only way to stay relevant, or ahead of the curve is to continually adapt and release new solutions and services, and that’s something they are doing, aggressively.

I know this is heavy reading – but bear with me, and read between the lines.

Here are some of the product announcements alone:

  • VMware Cloud on Dell EMC: VMware claims its VMware Cloud on Dell EMC provides simple, more secure and scalable infrastructure delivered as-a-service to customers’ on-premises data centre and edge locations. This co-engineered offering from VMware and Dell Technologies is now available in the U.S. VMware Cloud on Dell EMC is core to the Dell Technologies Cloud Data Centre-as-a-Service solution. VMware Cloud on Dell EMC consists of VMware’s high-performance compute, storage and networking software powered by VMware vSphere, vSAN and NSX tightly integrated with Dell EMC VxRail hyperconverged infrastructure, and delivered as a service. The cloud service is fully managed by VMware and combines public cloud simplicity, agility and economics with the security, control and performance of on-premises infrastructure.

 

  • VMware Cloud on AWS: VMware describes VMware Cloud on AWS is a jointly engineered service that brings VMware’s enterprise-class Software-Defined Data Centre to the AWS Cloud, delivered as an on-demand service with optimised access to AWS services, enabling IT teams to use the best of both worlds. This release focuses on migrating and modernising workloads. New VMware HCX capabilities enable push-button migration and interconnectivity between VMware Cloud on AWS SDDCs running in different AWS Regions and new Elastic vSAN support further improves storage scaling. Once applications are migrated, customers can extend the capabilities of applications through integration of native AWS Services. In the future, through innovative technology, such as Bitfusion and partnerships with industry leaders such as NVIDIA, users will be able to enrich existing applications and power new modern enterprise applications, including AI, machine learning and data analytics workflows, through high-end GPU acceleration services.

 

  • VMware Tanzu: This new portfolio of products and services is designed to transform the way enterprises build software on Kubernetes. The first offering in the VMware Tanzu portfolio will be VMware Tanzu Mission Control. A tech preview, Tanzu Mission Control, will enable customers to manage their Kubernetes footprint across environments with complete consistency. VMware also announced a tech preview of Project Pacific, which is focused on transforming VMware vSphere into a Kubernetes native platform in a future release. This will enable enterprises to accelerate development and operation of modern apps on vSphere while continuing to take advantage of existing investments in technology, tools and skillsets.

 

  • Foundation for the Hybrid Cloud: VMware vSphere and vSAN are building blocks of VMware Cloud Foundation—a new-gen solution for hybrid cloud that expands the definition of HCI by unifying the essential cloud infrastructure capabilities of compute, storage, networking and integrated cloud management. VMware recently made available new releases of vSphere and vSAN, which together power the company’s hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) solutions.

 

Aiming at Consistent Hybrid Cloud Operations

VMware Hybrid Cloud Operations simplify the way customers manage systems and applications through automation, cost management, compliance, resource governance, security and visibility. New advancements in VMware Hybrid Cloud Operations include:

 

  • Self-Driving Operations: As users deploy applications across hybrid clouds, critical operational tasks such as capacity planning, performance management, troubleshooting and enabling compliance become challenging. VMware vRealize Operations 8.0 is optimised for the new world of hybrid cloud operations. It will deliver new and enhanced capabilities for self-driving hybrid cloud and hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) operations as well as multi-cloud monitoring. The latest release will deliver Intent-Driven continuous performance optimisation, more efficient capacity management, intelligent remediation and integrated compliance and configuration. These capabilities will enable customers to manage multiple cloud resources and applications with the same software that they use to manage their datacenter. VMware vRealize Operations Cloud, a SaaS offering, is now in Tech Preview.

 

  • Hybrid Cloud Automation: VMware vRealize Automation 8.0 will enable IT and DevOps to automate the self-service deployment and day 2 operations of complex applications, VMs and containers on any cloud. The solution will enhance operational agility and developer productivity through a series of new capabilities that will improve ease of use, user experience and multi-cloud readiness, with broad extensibility across VMware Cloud on AWS and all major public clouds, and enhanced ServiceNow, Terraform and Git integrations. The solution will be built upon a container-based microservices architecture that is easier and simpler to install, with improved performance and high availability. These services will also be available as part of VMware vRealize Automation Cloud, previously known as Cloud Automation Services.

 

  • Complete Cloud Management Platform: VMware vRealize Suite 2019 software will integrate vRealize Automation 8.0 and vRealize Operations 8.0 to deliver advanced closed loop optimisation capabilities that enable continuous performance optimisation, simplify IT operations, and lower IT costs. The addition of VMware vCloud Suite 2019 Platinum in vRealize Suite 2019 will enable IT Operations teams to gain visibility into application context and behavior to accurately identify and eliminate legitimate threats in real time, while continuously hardening and protecting workloads.

 

  • Hybrid Cloud Cost and Compliance: CloudHealth is a leading multi-cloud management platform for managing cloud costs, enabling governance and enforcing business policy. CloudHealth manages more than $8 billion dollars of public cloud spend at more than 5,000 customers. CloudHealth Hybrid is a new service that will extend the same rich cost optimisation, migration assessment governance and security functionality that CloudHealth delivers to public cloud environments, to VMware hybrid cloud environments. Customers will be able to eliminate wasted cloud spend and provide users with reports on actual cloud spend (showback) through visibility into all cloud costs with cost/usage/performance data. CloudHealth Hybrid will enable organisations to accelerate migrations and optimise cloud infrastructure for each workload based on cost/performance. With the ability to create policies for proper hybrid cloud resource usage, and trigger notifications when policies are violated, customers will gain flexibility with guardrails to better prevent unauthorised services and security vulnerabilities.

 

  • Enterprise Observability: Wavefront by VMware delivers integrated, full-stack enterprise observability from application to infrastructure across any cloud, empowering DevOps, Kubernetes and container operations, and development teams to troubleshoot application workloads and get to root cause faster. With a new enterprise-wide dashboard UX, Wavefront simplifies troubleshooting and reduces incident remediation times through automation triggered by fine-grained alerts. Kubernetes monitoring is enhanced with automatic service discovery for Kubernetes environments, including the discovery of application and infrastructure components allowing the setup of default dashboards. Wavefront can observe and help enable operation of more than 200,000 concurrently running containers. Wavefront is also strengthening applications observability with the addition of trace logs to distributed tracing offering. This provides instant insights into the health and performance of Kubernetes, containerised applications and microservices at scale.

 

  • VMware Cloud Marketplace, powered by Bitnami: VMware Cloud Marketplace enables customers to discover and deploy validated, third-party solutions for VMware platforms, across public, private and hybrid cloud environments. The marketplace is now available for VMware Cloud on AWS and VMware Cloud Provider Partners. From the entire catalog – which also includes hundreds of opensource solutions packaged by Bitnami – customers can browse, filter and select the specialised tools that are right for them. For vendors, it offers a way to easily publish solutions for VMware customers globally, and for multiple VMware platforms. Currently, VMware Cloud Marketplace meets a variety of common use-case requirements such as back-up and security, through third-party ISV solutions and popular open-source options.

 

  • Cloud Migration: VMware HCX is the leading application mobility platform that enables cloud mobility and migration for a variety of on-prem to on-prem, on-prem to cloud, or cloud to on-prem scenarios. Cloud Migration Services, built on VMware HCX, simplifies the complex tasks associated with identifying, planning and migrating workloads to any hybrid cloud. A new Cloud Migration experience is available on VMware Cloud on AWS today through the Cloud Console, and over time other workflows are planned to be available on VMware Cloud on AWS as well as other platforms such as VMware Cloud on AWS Outposts and VMware Cloud on Dell EMC.

 

  • Disaster Recovery as-a-Service and Data Protection: VMware is partnering with Dell EMC across multiple areas to bring customers greater choice in Disaster Recovery as-a-Service and Data Protection solutions. Initially the companies will collaborate on a new DRaaS solution using AWS S3 for VMware Cloud on AWS. VMware and Dell EMC will also collaborate to enable Dell EMC to offer best in class data protection solutions for VMware workloads running at the edge, core and cloud.

 

  • Proactive Support: VMware Skyline, developed by VMware Global Services, is a proactive support technology available to customers with an active Production Support or Premier Services contract. Skyline automatically and more securely collects, aggregates and analyses customer-specific product usage data to proactively identify potential issues and improve time-to-resolution. Skyline has added new proactive support enhancements including automated software compatibility checks, automated log bundle upload for Horizon 7.10 and above via Log Assist, and integration with Dell EMC Support Assist, enabling a richer proactive support experience for customers running VMware and Dell. VMware Skyline is included with a user’s Production and Premier Support subscriptions. Premier Support customers will have access to advanced reporting features and remediation support from dedicated support representatives.

 

And look at some of their acquisitions

Pivotal, digital transformation technology and services provider and sister company under the Dell EMC umbrella, (Aug. 22 for $2.7 billion);

Carbon Black, new-gen security provider (Aug. 22 for $2.1 billion);

Intrinsic, application security startup (Aug. 20, no acquisition price announced);

Veriflow, continuous network verification provider (Aug. 16, no acquisition price announced);

Uhana, application and network optimiser (July 25, no acquisition price announced);

Bitfusion.io, hardware acceleration provider (July 16, no acquisition price announced);

Avi Networks, automation intelligence provider (June 14, no acquisition price announced);

Bitnami, web application optimiser (May 15, no acquisition price announced); and

AetherPal, smart remote control maker (Feb. 5, no acquisition price announced).

 

And so you can see the trend; it really is all about hybrid cloud and multi cloud management. It is what they see as the future, and I agree. Each vendor has their own tools, and there are some solutions out there that work, such as Terraform – although in a limited way and for certain cloud solutions. But this is the gap that VMware seem eager to address, they want to be everything to everyone, and while that is great it is also risky. My hope for them after my trip to VMWorld is that it will it pay off, and if anyone can manage this I do think it could be them. And with that, we (the industry) need these solutions, and fast.

In short: VMware wants to be the full-service shop for anything to do with enterprise hybrid-cloud infrastructure—and on any cloud you can name. To do this, it’s incorporating its own versions of new-gen IT that include containers, microservices, Kubernetes orchestration and some new home-grown and acquired platforms to manage the job.

 

But this isn’t what VMworld is about, it’s not just about products or vendor promotions, although that’s all you may see, but looking beyond this, you start to see the trends that are developing, the direction the industry is going, and the next “big thing”. This for me is why it’s a unique event. Being able to get a glimpse into that ever-developing future that always makes it worth the trip.

As always feel free to reach out with any questions or comments.

Mark Carragher, Senior Solutions Consultant

10 May 2017

Zen and the art of Project Management




Zen, as a practice, emphasises rigorous self-control, insight into the self and environment around you, and the personal expression of insight, especially for the benefit of others. Zen is not a goal, but a way to experience the journey.

So how do you run a project with a Zen-like comfort and assurance in both the process, and the outcome?

We suggest you call The Project Foundry, now!

zen frogWe take all of the stress and uncertainty out of managing projects, from the most complex enterprise-level portfolios, to the most straightforward business projects. We have the expertise, experience and the right people to deliver top-class results every time. Managing projects is what we do and what we know. We repeatedly and consistently deliver outstanding results, and in only two years, we have already amassed an enviable roster of satisfied clients, such as Applegreen, Tesco Mobile, Corvil, Dixon’s Carphone, Virgin Media, Datalex, SMBC, Goshawk Aircraft Leasing, and Bank of Ireland, to name just a few.

Our promise to you is the guarantee of project success. And that isn’t an idle catch-phrase. When you engage a project manager from The Project Foundry, you don’t get a single resource, who also becomes a single point-of-failure. You gain the insight and deep knowledge of our extensive team of hugely experienced project and programme managers, who are ready to help in any situation. They have seen it before, and no situation is new for them.

What we excel at is the maintenance of a bird’s eye view of the project landscape, never getting bogged down in the weeds. And when an issue arises, one of our team is guaranteed to have dealt with it before, immediately taking the worry and uncertainty out of your hands, and ensuring the quickest and most efficient route past even the most awkward project road-blocks.

The Project Foundry stands for quality, and integrity in the execution of projects, every time. We only hire the most qualified and competent project resources in Ireland, and we provide flexible and pragmatic solutions for every business we engage with. Do you want to sleep well at night, feel better about yourself and your business, and ensure that your projects are delivered on-time, on-budget, and executed in the most professional manner possible?

You need The Project Foundry.

 

 

2 May 2017

Yes to saying No




Often, ‘yes’ is the easiest word in the world to say. Saying ‘no’ takes resilience and strength of character, but it should be in the top drawer of any project manager’s toolkit, and you should never feel bad about saying it!

just-say-no‘Strength of character’- It’s an overused phrase, but for a project manager to succeed, it’s an absolute must. This article serves to remind you of those situations where project managers have struggled to say no, to the detriment of themselves and their projects.

Most projects are genuinely valuable, and begin with the best of intentions. In fact, most projects will provide long-term value if they are properly chosen, and executed correctly. However, project managers must use their knowledge and experience to flag red lights early in a project, when they first see them. Sometimes this will mean pulling the plug altogether. It’s a tough call to make, but which is worse: saying ‘no’ and forfeiting a contract, or failing so badly that your long-term reputation is damaged?

It is always easy to say ‘yes’ to a project that seems straightforward, easy to complete and resource-light. However, beware the poisoned apple! These ‘’no-brainer’ projects often end up running way over time and cost, simply because they look easy, and get the least attention. Complacency is a huge danger. It is always better to complete one project successfully, than struggle to finish two projects late and over-budget.

Projects that seem quick and easy on the surface are most often the ones that are the exact opposite.

Projects that seem quick and easy on the surface are most often the ones that are the exact opposite. When it comes to execution, too often you will under-estimate the time and resources needed. Project work almost inevitably leads to more project work, and it’s too late to say ‘no’ when the scope has crept to a dangerous point. Evaluate every project with an independent eye, and as an independent entity. Say no, and keep your blood pressure low!

Projects also tend to have a certain air of inertia surrounding them, where they take up more and more time, but less and less is really being achieved. Often, projects managers allow themselves to get wrapped up in particularly non-constructive work-flows. It takes enormous strength of character to stick your head above the parapet, and stop the inertia there. This is particularly hard when a project is a key part of an overall programme, and particularly in a bigger project which is growing and growing, but it is always better to be brave than meek.

When we surveyed a group of project managers recently, most initially said they were always (or nearly always) able to see the ‘big picture’ on a project, and avoid getting stuck in the weeds. However, this confidence was not borne out with greater inspection of the facts. Project managers are too often inherently obsessed with inputs and outputs, correct methodologies and the pursuit of efficiency, and unable to see how all of the above fit into the overall grand plan. Sometimes, it can be hard for them to see the wood for the Gantt chart.

Saying ‘no’ at a time where it might cause problems is a brave thing to do, but with hindsight, it can often save huge project lag, avoid a squeeze on resources, and save damage to the reputation of the project manager in the long-term.

 

 

 

12 April 2017

X-Factor to Success? Emotional Intelligence




Understanding your emotional intelligence and being able to read others is the x-factor to success.

But what if you didn’t even know it exists? Up until last year I would be lying if I said otherwise. A successful project manager, I was busily working away with my PMP in one hand and my copy of Microsoft Project in the other. Projects were on time and within budget and the people did not seem to be the problem.
Or were they? Or was I?

Emotional IntelligenceI had a friend return from the U.S and mention his level of EI. I thought he had applied to Enterprise Ireland and my first question was “How much did you get?”! I soon realised the error of my ways and did my homework.
Essentially, emotional intelligence (EI) is about knowing oneself and possessing good social skills. But what exactly are these skills and pre-requisites for a high EI? Some people are lucky enough to be born with them, gifted in true ‘sleeping-beauty’ style, enveloped by their family’s support and structure.

You know the type. You step inside their lives and instantly feel at ease. They are the Jedis, leaders; in control of themselves and others around them. They get stuff done or even better, empower others to do it and they don’t even want the credit.
But those blessed with emotional intelligence go beyond good manners and extend to kind words, thoughtful gestures and heart-felt enquiries. They possess that ‘likability’ factor and breed success wherever they go.

Daniel Goleman wrote a book in 1995 which broke new ground, from psychologists to businesses, everyone listened and realised there was something to it. High in demand and now held with a higher regard than IQ, Emotional Intelligence is not just expected but evaluated, searched for and cultivated in employees, potential partners and offspring.

But what’s most intriguing about this intelligence is that it’s free to all. Readily accessible, within one’s reach and of real value to each and every one of us. There is no need for extra grinds, private tuition fees, high points or any of the above to secure high attainment rates. It’s not who you know but what you know about yourself and others.

All the same it was a highly-paid consultant who introduced me to the themes and concepts. Or at least they charged a half-day rate and recommended the reading list, and I have taken it from there. But this possibly just confirms how important and beneficial it is to businesses and society at large. Schools are beginning to recognise its value and trying to raise awareness and status within education policy and through teaching methodologies.

EI is broken into many areas but the ones which spoke directly to me were

  • Self-awareness or managing our emotions;
  • Our regard for and awareness of others;
  • Motivating oneself;
  • Emotional resiliance;
  • Handling relationships.

Ultimately, emotional intelligence is about self-regard for oneself and others. How well you treat yourself and others is paramount. It is not a once-off, self-indulgent, exhibitionist display of one’s better self. Instead, it is a slow, steady, silent and consistent pattern of equality in terms of the respect, treatment, time and attention given to oneself and others which defines this virtue.

These are basic human qualities held in high esteem but sometimes forgotten and taken for granted, emotional intelligence is not only difficult to attain but also retain. It cannot be checked off a list or crammed into a late-night study session. Moreover, once achieved and recognised, it is through practise and living with ourselves and others that it is found and where it should always remain.

1 April 2017

Waste – How the 7 wastes of Lean apply to software development




Waste. It’s always bad, and particularly in business, and even more so in project management. A great deal of project management is geared towards avoiding waste, and this is where ‘Lean’ processes come in.

seven wastes of LEANThe seven wastes of lean are well known, but on paper they appear to apply to manufacturing processes. With a little helpful translation, however, they adapt beautifully to the process of software development, and can be a very useful framework from which to examine the project management of software development, as outlined below:

1)    ‘In-process inventory’ translates to ‘Partially done work’

This is often seen as the most damaging of all wastes, which can de-rail any software project quickly. It includes finished, but un-checked code, undocumented code, untested code, code which is not yet in production, and code which is commented out.

2)    ‘Over-Production’ – translates to ‘Extra Features’

It is a broadly accepted statistic that almost two thirds of the functionality and features in any software application are rarely (or never) used. When you think about this, it means that two thirds of the effort put into building and maintaining software is largely a wasted effort. There are both direct and in-direct wastes here also – the time taken to build the unused software features is a direct waste, but the indirect waste is the maintenance of that code and functionality over time, into the future.

3)    ‘Extra Processing’ translates to ‘Re-learning’

Continuous learning, or the avoidance of re-learning the same information, is one of the key facets of good project management methodology. Re-learning is particularly wasteful in a software development environment. Failing to learn from mistakes is uniformly costly, and somewhat unforgivable.  Within software development, this includes poor quality and weak planning, switching tasks, bad communications within and without the software development team, and the dangers of undocumented code.

4)    ‘Transportation’ translates to ‘Handoffs’

Instead of the transportation of physical material, in software development this waste is virtual, but equally important to avoid. It can include the transfer of code from one developer to another, the handoff of software from developer to tester, and the movement from development to deployment. Strong, documented communications between all of the above are critical to avoid serious waste in time and resources.

5)    ‘Motion’ translates to ‘Task Switching’

This is where a software development team member transfers from one specific task to another, without completing the first one, thereby interrupting the on-going flow. It also applies to a shared team is working on more than one project at a time, and often occurs when there is a lack of proper coordination between the product owner and the development team.

6)    ‘Waiting’ translates to ‘Delays’

This refers to anything which delays time in the delivery of a component of the software in question. This could be anything from a lack of capable resources, a myriad of items in-progress, external and uncontrollable dependencies, a lack of understanding of what really adds ‘value’, or any number of unwanted and unnecessary processes that should be called out.

7)    ‘Over-Production’ translates to ‘Defects’

In manufacturing, over-production can be a safety net from faulty or unreliable manufacturing processes. In software development, this can be distilled down to software defects. These can have a broad range of causes, but all can be avoided. Defects often arise from a lack of understanding of the story, a lack of efficient engineering processes, missing acceptance criteria, a lack of technical skill among team members, or the late involvement of testers in the process, with inattention to automated testing.

20 March 2017

Victory: Sun Tzu and the art of Project Management




the art of warThe Art of War, a 13-chapter masterwork written in the fifth century BC, is referred to even now, two-and-a-half millennia later, as one of the definitive texts on military tactics and strategy. Some things never change…. Sun Tzu, its author, may not even have existed, or may be a composite of different strategic geniuses, but ‘he’ remains an exalted figure, and reading it today, as a project manager, it’s easy to see why.

You may think that this is a strange book to reference in the pursuit of better project management. But what project manager can honestly say that at times, getting to the goal of a completed project doesn’t sometimes feel like a battle at best, if not at times like a war.

Countless books have been written on the parallels that can be drawn between this work and business management, but none have examined project management specifically. To save you reading 200 pages, we have narrowed the key points down to the six below. Sun Tzu says: read on.

 

1.
“In war, the best policy is to take a state intact; to ruin it is inferior to this…. To win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the acme of skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill.”

 

How to win over everybody, without even fighting? Happy stakeholders mean a happy project, and in turn make you look better. Equally, leading by force, and alienating people in the process may lead to a positive outcome, but the damage done to yourself and the project in the mean-time is destructive. Leadership takes many forms, but project managers need to focus on the non-hierarchical leadership needed to win people over, without them realising they’ve been led. Let’s distil this down to the timeless adage: ‘more carrot, less stick’.

2.
“Know the enemy and know yourself; in a hundred battles you will never be in peril.”

 

Too often, project managers pay too much attention to the project and problems facing them, and too little time taking a long, hard look at themselves. Self-understanding, and an appreciation of their own emotional intelligence (or blind spots therein) are what sets great project managers apart from average ones. If you understand yourself, you understand how people will react to you, and you’re already one step ahead of the game.

3.
“He will win who knows how to handle both superior and inferior forces.”

Stakeholders, anyone? It’s not just about impressing the senior ones. Often, it’s the guys on the front lines who need the most encouragement, and you need them to trust you. Don’t focus on impressing your paymasters. You may not get paid if you alienate the troops!

4.
“To rely on rustics and not prepare is the greatest of crimes; to be prepared beforehand for any contingency is the greatest of virtues. Those skilled in war bring the enemy to the field of battle and are not brought there by him.”

Risk – ignore it at your peril! Know what’s coming down the track and be prepared for every eventuality. If you know intimately every risk you face, then you can deal with them before they arise, or at least be the first to deal with them, before you lose control.

5.
“When you surround an army, leave an outlet free. Do not press a desperate foe too hard.”

Change is difficult, and when tasked with implementing huge change, you must leave just enough room for manoeuvre. When you box people in completely, they are much more likely to take the ‘nuclear’ option, and you are more likely to fail, or at least end up with egg on your face. Change is inevitable, but always give people the room to take the right path by their own volition.

6.
“When one treats people with benevolence, justice and righteousness, and reposes confidence in them, the army will be united in mind and all will be happy to serve their leaders. Treat your men as you would your own beloved sons. And they will follow you into the deepest valley.”

Leadership – how to run a project when you can’t pull rank over anyone? Understanding, trust and graciousness are the answers. The better you treat people, the better they will treat you, and the more they will want to work with and for you. Never, ever, stop listening. Sometimes, letting people have their say is more valuable to you than talking. You may not agree with them, but once you’ve given them the chance to talk while you listen, your currency rises.

8 March 2017

Uncertainty – why it shouldn’t be a bad word to a project manager




Embracing uncertainty can lead to all kinds of positive changes.

Nothing in life is more reliable than the constant of uncertainty. It’s inevitable.

uncertaintyAnd in managing projects, even the most brilliant project managers struggle with uncertainty. We use milestones to anticipate outcomes, and risk management to prevent disasters, but what about those unseen, unknown issues we can’t manage until they land on our plate?

We need to start to understand the complexity and uncertainty of a project in order to control and manage it.

Project managers have two main functions: managing tasks and managing relationships. However, all the focus is too often placed on the formalised areas of management, planning and task management, and not enough on the softer relationship-management side, and this softer side is generally where the uncertainty lies.

‘Critical path’ is too often our God. But critical path only makes sense in a perfect world, and critical path thinking can make the uncertainties that exist into more of an issue than they need to be. Strictly enforcing the discipline inherent in critical path thinking can all too often lead to issues, which would be less damaging if we instead adapted to a more ‘conditional’ style of management. Different projects call for very different approaches. Uncertainty is all around us, and sometimes the uniqueness of a situation is just that – unique. We need to embrace it, rather than mitigate against it.

Not all methodologies work for all projects, not all tools are universally suited, and individual project characteristics need to be carefully considered. Too often we decide to place an ill-fitting framework on a project, hoping it will order things, and too often this fails – how often do projects overrun, miss budgets, specifications and schedules?

While uncertainty is sometimes a bad word to a project manager, it doesn’t need to be. Embracing the uncertainty can lead to all kinds of positive changes. Sometimes, the best way to run a project is just not the ‘critical path’ way. Deviation from this way of thinking can sometimes reap real rewards. Remember that every situation is unique, every project is unique, and each brings its own particular brand of complexity and uncertainty.

Wouldn’t it be interesting to do things a little differently when planning a project? How about taking the time to determine the uncertainty profile of the project first, before assigning tasks and timelines?

By doing this, we embrace the uncertainty a little bit more. And that isn’t a bad thing. Remember the words of Eleanor Roosevelt:

‘If life were predictable it would cease to be life, and be without flavour’.

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