Becoming Nimble the Agile Project Management Way

In dictionary terms, ?agile? means ?able to move quickly and easily?. In project management terms, the definition is ?project management characterized by division of tasks into short work phases called ?sprints?, with frequent reassessments and adaptation of plans?. This technique is popular in software development but is also useful when rolling out other projects.

Managing the Seven Agile Development Phases

  • Stage 1: Vision. Define the software product in terms of how it will support the company vision and strategy, and what value it will provide the user. Customer satisfaction is of paramount value including accommodating user requirement changes.
  • Stage 2: Product Roadmap. Appoint a product owner responsible for liaising with the customer, business stakeholders and the development team. Task the owner with writing a high-level product description, creating a loose time frame and estimating effort for each phase.
  • Stage 3: Release Plan. Agile always looks ahead towards the benefits that will flow. Once agreed, the Product Road-map becomes the target deadline for delivery. With Vision, Road Map and Release Plan in place the next stage is to divide the project into manageable chunks, which may be parallel or serial.
  • Stage 4: Sprint Plans. Manage each of these phases as individual ?sprints?, with emphasis on speed and meeting targets. Before the development team starts working, make sure it agrees a common goal, identifies requirements and lists the tasks it will perform.
  • Stage 5: Daily Meetings. Meet with the development team each morning for a 15-minute review. Discuss what happened yesterday, identify and celebrate progress, and find a way to resolve or work around roadblocks. The goal is to get to alpha phase quickly. Nice-to-haves can be part of subsequent upgrades.
  • Stage 6: Sprint Review. When the phase of the project is complete, facilitate a sprint review with the team to confirm this. Invite the customer, business stakeholders and development team to a presentation where you demonstrate the project/ project phase that is implemented.
  • Stage 7: Sprint Retrospective. Call the team together again (the next day if possible) for a project review to discuss lessons learned. Focus on achievements and how to do even better next time. Document and implement process changes.

The Seven Agile Development Phases ? Conclusions and Thoughts

The Agile method is an excellent way of motivating project teams, achieving goals and building result-based communities. It is however, not a static system. The product owner must conduct regular, separate reviews with the customer too.

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EU Energy Efficiency Directive & UK?s ESOS

In 2012 the European Union passed its EU Energy Efficiency Directive (EED) into law. This aims to reduce overall energy consumption by 20% by 2020. It placed an obligation on member states to pass back-to-back local legislation by June 2014.

EED Guidelines

The EED provides specific guidelines it expects member nations to address. The list is long and here are a few excerpts from it:

  • Large companies must use energy audits to identify ways to cut their energy consumption
  • Small and medium companies must be incentivised to voluntarily take similar steps
  • Public sector bodies must purchase energy-efficient buildings, products and services
  • Private energy-consumers must be empowered with information to help manage demand
  • Energy distributors / resellers must cut their own consumption by 1.5% annually
  • Legislators are free to substitute green building technology e.g. through better insulation
  • Every year, European governments must audit 3% of the buildings they own

Definition of Energy Audit

An energy-consumption audit is a question of measuring demand throughout a supply grid, with particular attention to individual modules and high demand equipment. While this could be an exercise repeated every four years to satisfy ESOS, it makes more sense to incorporate it into the monthly energy billing cycle.

Because energy use is not consistent but varies according to production cycle, this can produce reams of printouts designed to frustrate busy managers. ecoVaro offers an inexpensive, cloud-based analytic service that effortlessly accepts client data and returns it in the form of high-level graphic summaries.

Potential ESOS Beneficiaries

As many as 9,000 UK companies are obligated to do energy audits because they employ more than 250 employees, have a balance sheet total over ?36.5m or an annual turnover in excess of ?42m. Any smaller enterprise that finds energy a significant input cost, should also consider enlisting Ecovaro to help it to:

  • Obtain a better understanding of the energy side of their business
  • Achieve energy savings and share in a estimated ?3bn bonanza to 2030
  • Reduce carbon emissions to help meet their CRC commitments

More About ecoVaro

We offer web-based energy management software that helps you measure and manage energy costs. This strips data from your meters and generates personalised reports on a dashboard you control. This information helps you accurately zoom in on worthwhile opportunities. With Ecovaro on your side, ESOS truly becomes an Energy Saving OPPORTUNITY Scheme.

Top 3 reasons to get into Multi-Channel Retail

Multi-channel retail, which nowadays understandably includes online channels, is something you just have to do this year. Every single day you put off doing it, the competition gobbles up market share that should have been yours. There are a number of reasons why even successful retailers are now going into multi-channel retailing. Here?s three of the most important ones.

1. You’ll get a BIG jump in sales

Not counting this year, which could be getting a big boost from major activities like the Queen?s Diamond Jubilee and the 2012 Olympics, sales of UK retailers have been experiencing tremendous growth particularly from their online channels. Already two years ago (2010), a number of UK retailers boasted significant increases in sales as a result of multi-channel retail initiatives. These retailers included:

  • Argos, which got a whopping ?1.9bn from multichannel sales back then;
  • House of Fraser, which reported a 150% jump in its online sales in just 6 months; and
  • Debenhams, whose profits rose by 20%

There were many others. Now, the reason I?m showing you 2010 figures is because online retail sales increased by 14% in 2011 and those same businesses still added to that growth. So, if only you had enough foresight and started expanding your business to the Web two years ago, you could just imagine what your sales would have been today.

The good news is that, it’s not yet too late if you start now. Here?s why…

2. Those numbers are going to keep on growing

We’re getting all sorts of predictions from leading researchers regarding the possible growth of the Internet economy. All these predictions have one thing in common. They all have a positive outlook. The Boston Consulting Group (BCG), for instance, predicts an average growth of no less than 10% per year in the G-20 nations.

3. Most online retailers aren’t doing it right yet

Although many retailers have already started bringing their business to the Web, most of them are doing it the wrong way. For example, many of them fail to integrate their offline and online channels. This is a serious shortcoming because it leads to customer dissatisfaction.

When a customer goes to your website and sees something he likes, you wouldn’t want him to drive all the way to your store only to find out that the item isn’t available there or, if the item is there, that it isn’t priced as he expected. The lack of multi-channel integration is very common among multi-channel retailers.

These inadequacies are actually good news because it means there are still many areas you can improve on. After improving on them, you can then highlight those areas as your key differentiators.

If you’re still looking for more reasons on why you should go into multi-channel retailing, read this post:

5 Numbers Showing Why the Time to Invest on eCommerce in the UK is Now

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Why Predictive Maintenance is More Profitable than Reactive Maintenance

Regular maintenance is needed to keep the equipment in your facility operating normally. All machinery has a design lifespan, and your goal is to extend this as long as possible, while maintaining optimal production levels. How you go about the maintenance matters, from routine checks to repairing the damaged component parts?all before the whole unit needs to be tossed away and a new one purchased and installed. Here, we will break down the different approaches used, and show you why more industries and businesses are turning to proactive maintenance modes as opposed to the traditional reactive approaches for their?field service operations.?

Reactive Maintenance: A wait and see game

Here, you basically wait for a problem to occur, then fix it. It’s also commonly referred to as a “Run-to-Failure” approach, where you operate the machines and systems until they break. Repairs are then carried out, restoring it to operational condition.?

At face value, it appears cost-effective, but the reality on the ground is far much different. Sure, when the equipment is new, you can expect minimal cases of maintenance. During this time, there?ll be money saved. However, as time progresses there?ll be increased wear, making reliance on a reactive maintenance approach a costly endeavour. The breakdowns are more frequent, and inconsistent as well. Unplanned expenses increase operational costs, and there will be lost productivity during the periods in which the affected machinery won’t be in operation.?

While reactive maintenance makes sense when you’re changing a faulty light bulb at home, things are more complicated when it comes to dealing with machinery in industries, or for those managing multiple residential and commercial properties. For the light bulb, it’s easier to replace it, and failure doesn’t have a ripple effect on the rest of the structures in the household. For industries, each time there is equipment failure, you end up with downtime, production can grind to a halt, and there will be increased environmental risks during equipment start-up and shutdown. If spare parts are not readily available, there will be logistical hurdles as you rush the shipping to get the component parts to the facility. Add this to overworked clients in a bit to complete the repair and to make up for lost hours and delayed customer orders.

For field service companies, more time ends up being spent. After all, there?s the need of knowing which parts needed to be attended to, where they are, and when the servicing is required. Even when you have a planned-out schedule, emergency repairs that are required will force you to immediately make changes. These ramps up the cots, affecting your operations and leading to higher bills for your client. These inconveniences have contributed to the increased reliance on?field service management platforms that leverage on data analytics and IoT to reduce the repair costs, optimise maintenance schedules, and?reduce unnecessary downtimes?for the clients.

Waiting for the machinery to break down actually shortens the lifespan of the unit, leading to more replacements being required. Since the machinery is expected to get damaged much sooner, you also need to have a large inventory of spare parts. What’s more, the damages that result will be likely to necessitate more extensive repairs that would have been needed if the machinery had not been run to failure.?

Pros of reactive maintenance

  1. Less staff required.
  2. Less time is spent on preparation.

Cons of reactive maintenance

  1. Increased downtime during machine failure.
  2. More overtime is taken up when conducting repairs.
  3. Increased expenses for purchasing and storing spare parts.?
  4. Frequent equipment replacement, driving up costs.?

This ?If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it? approach leads to hefty repair and replacement bills. A different maintenance strategy is required to minimise costs. Proactive models come into focus. Before we delve into predictive maintenance, let’s look at the preventive approach.?

Preventive Maintenance: Sticking to a timetable

Here, maintenance tasks are carried out on a planned routine?like how you change your vehicle?s engine oil after hitting a specific number of kilometres. These tasks are planned in intervals, based on specific triggers?like a period of time, or when certain thresholds are recorded by the meters. Lubrication, carrying out filter changes, and the like will result in the equipment operating more efficiently for a longer duration of time. While it doesn’t completely stop catastrophic failures from occurring, it does reduce the number of failures that occur. This translates to capital savings.??

The Middle Ground? Merits And Demerits Of Preventive Maintenance

This periodic checking is a step above the reactive maintenance, given that it increases the lifespan of the asset, and makes it more reliable. It also leads to a reduced downtime, thus positively affecting your company?s productivity. Usually, an 80/20 approach is adopted,?drawing from Pareto’s Principle. This means that by spending 80% of time and effort on planned and preventive maintenance, then reactive maintenance for those unexpected failures that pop up will only occur 20% of the time. Sure, it doesn’t always come to an exact 80/20 ratio, but it does help in directing the maintenance efforts of a company, and reducing the expenses that go into it.?

Note that there will need to be a significant investment?especially of time, in order to plan a preventive maintenance strategy, plus the preparation and delegation of tasks. However, the efforts are more cost effective than waiting for your systems and machinery to fail in order to conduct repairs. In fact, according to the US Dept. of Energy, a company can save between 12-18 % when using a preventive maintenance approach compared to reactive maintenance.

While it is better than the purely reactive approach, there are still drawbacks to this process. For instance, asset failure will still be likely to occur, and there will be the aspect of time and resource wastage when performing unneeded maintenance, especially when technicians have to travel to different sites out in the field. There is also the risk of incidental damage to machine components when the unneeded checks and repairs are being carried out, leading to extra costs being incurred.

We can now up the ante with predictive maintenance. Let’s look at what it has to offer:

Predictive Maintenance: See it before it happens

This builds on preventive maintenance, using data analytics to smooth the process, reduce wastage, and make it more cost effective. Here, the maintenance is conducted by relying on trends observed using data collected from the equipment in question, such as through vibration analysis, energy consumption, oil analysis and thermal imaging. This data is then taken through predictive algorithms that show trends and point out when the equipment will need maintenance. You get to see unhealthy trends like excessive vibration of the equipment, decreasing fuel efficiency, lubrication degradation, and their impact on your production capacities. Before the conditions breach the predetermined parameters of the equipment’s normal operating standards, the affected equipment is repaired or the damaged components replaced.??

Basically, maintenance is scheduled before operational or mechanical conditions demand it. Damage to equipment can be prevented by attending to the affected parts after observing a decrease in performance at the onset?instead of waiting for the damage to be extensive?which would have resulted in system failure. Using?data-driven?field service job management software will help you to automate your work and optimise schedules, informing you about possible future failures.

Sensors used record the condition of the equipment in real time. This information is then analysed, showing the current and future operational capabilities of the equipment. System degradation is detected quickly, and steps can be taken to rectify it before further deterioration occurs. This approach optimises operational efficiency. Firstly, it drastically reduces total equipment failure?coming close to eliminating it, extending the lifespan of the machinery and slashing replacement costs. You can have an orderly timetable for your maintenance sessions, and buy the equipment needed for the repairs. Speaking of which, this approach minimises inventory especially with regards to the spare parts, as you will be able to note the specific units needed beforehand and plan for them, instead of casting a wide net and stockpiling spare parts for repairs that may or may not be required. Repair tasks can be more accurately scheduled, minimising time wasted on unneeded maintenance.??

Preventive vs Predictive Maintenance?

How is predictive different from preventive maintenance? For starters, it bases the need for maintenance on the actual condition of the equipment, instead of a predetermined schedule. Take the oil-change on cars for instance. With the preventive model, the oil may be changed after every 5000?7500 km. Here, this change is necessitated because of the runtime. One doesn’t look at the performance capability and actual condition of the oil. It is simply changed because “it is now time to change it“. However, with the predictive maintenance approach, the car owner would ideally analyse the condition of the oil at regular intervals- looking at aspects like its lubrication properties. They would then determine if they can continue using the same oil, and extend the duration required before the next oil change, like by another 3000 kilometres. Perhaps due to the conditions in which the car had been driven, or environmental concerns, the oil may be required to be changed much sooner in order to protect the component parts with fresh new lubricant. In the long run, the car owner will make savings. The US Dept. of Energy report also shows that you get 8-12% more cost savings with the predictive approach compared to relying on preventive maintenance programs. Certainly, it is already far much more effective compared to the reactive model.?

Pros of Predictive Maintenance

  1. Increases the asset lifespan.
  2. Decreases equipment downtime.
  3. Decreases costs on spare parts and labour.
  4. Improves worker safety, which has the welcome benefit of increasing employee morale.
  5. Optimising the operation of the equipment used leads to energy savings.
  6. Increased plant reliability.

Cons of Predictive Maintenance

  1. Initial capital costs included in acquiring and setting up diagnostic equipment.
  2. Investment required in training the employees to effectively use the predictive maintenance technology adopted by the company.

The pros of this approach outweigh the cons.?Independent surveys on industrial average savings?after implementing a predictive maintenance program showed that firms eliminated asset breakdown by 70-75%, boosted production by 20-25%, and reduced maintenance costs by 25-30%. Its ROI was an average of 10 times, making it a worthy investment.

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