2020 recession prediction

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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Workers Taking Measurements

Top 10 Benefits of Using Field Service Automation Software

Just how much wastage is witnessed in your operations? Each morning your technicians report to work, they receive the day’s schedule, go through the inventory for the parts and tools that will be required, collect and fill the paperwork, before finally hitting the road- translating to hours of manual organisation. What of the information they need when they are at the site? Are they carrying around bulky files on each individual customer? Your field technicians are also responsible for lots of the equipment being handled- and you want to keep a tab on it all- knowing what is being worked on, when it is happening, how long it takes, and the materials that have been used. Dealing with all this on your end through loads of Excel sheets, calculating and updating time logs, and ticking off the inventory- it can be a strain. Field Service Automation Software comes in to handle it all- from the scheduling and tracking, to inventory control and invoicing- all on the same platform.

Eliminating the Paperwork and Optimising Your Operations

There has been a surge in demand for all-in-one Field Service Management (FSM) solutions. They leverage the power of mobile technology, cloud computing and social collaboration to boost the efficiency of field services. In fact, the FSM market is growing at rates never seen before, if the recent statistics are anything to go by. According to the latest estimates, it is worth $3.5 billion and is expected to hit $5.9 billion by 2024.

It’s understandable why this is happening. Technology is advancing, and we all know it’s every entrepreneur’s dream to optimise the use of the available resources while guaranteeing customer satisfaction. If technology can deliver this through automation, why not? Every business now wants to automate things, and the focus is to maximise resource output. You should, therefore, not be surprised to see the FSM software industry booming. If you just considered the field service industry, you’ll realise that there are so many software applications to help with service automation, whether full or partial.

A good example is FieldElite, which helps with the management of field workers. From your desktop or the palm of your hands, on a tablet or smartphone, you can take full control of your field workers, manage scheduled jobs, and use maps to manage work assignments for the already dispatched field workers. Not only does FieldElite help you handle tasks in an accountable manner but also provides options for accounting and reports, all managed in an easy to use dashboard.

10 Benefits Field Service Automation Software Brings On Board

Why would organisations need to invest in a Workforce management app? Below are some of the key benefits of using a Field Service Management software:

1. Cut down the down-time and make every minute count

From scheduling your operations, mapping out preferred routes, dispatching the service team, to staying connected with them throughout the tasks, you get to improve worker efficiency with field service software like FieldElite. 

Most FSM software programs allow the administrator to send tasks directly to the field worker’s mobile. More often than not, the FSM software provides vital information, including service history, optimal route to the site, the tools required, and contact numbers, among other details.

This improves efficiency by ensuring that the client’s needs are taken care of promptly. Where it’s about machine maintenance, the downtime would be as short as possible.

2. Enhance professionalism and boost your brand image

FSM software programs are known for ensuring professionalism in the manner in which business activities are conducted. Of course, professionalism is attained through several factors, including working with a team of professionals. Such a team, using FSM software, results in enhanced efficiency and excellence.

A field service software like FieldElite helps you to consolidate all your business information into a single central database. With different access levels, your employees will access only as much information as is relevant to their respective duties.

An FSM software is ideal because the stored information can be accessed from any location, meaning field workers can pick new tasks while in the field, provided they’ve got the requisite tools. Instead of having to come back to the office, the employee would access all the information and execute the necessary task.

3. Resource Optimisation with Real-time Field Service Automation Software

Resource optimisation is one of the key determinants of a company’s profitability. While businesses vary in size and purpose, they all share one thing in common – the desire to increase productivity while ensuring the optimal usage of resources.

Besides productivity, field service software also allows for efficient utilisation of the available resources to cut down on costs.

4. Stay connected with all your crew- and coordinate them better

FSM software facilitates improved coordination with the workforce. The software streamlines the management of the entire field service life cycle, ranging from labour to work orders, returns, contracts, warranties, and equipment.

The idea is to bring all the company’s field-related operations to a central point. And now, with easy data accessibility from a central platform, improved coordination is easily achievable.

5. Get accurate data and make well-informed decisions every step of the way

Adopting the field service management software is more than just a way to improve efficiency. It goes a long way towards improving a company’s accuracy. When a field service management software is used to trace a company’s activities, all the tasks are tracked on the mobile device, keeping the managers informed of every step.

Besides, the technicians also have a free reign to record the diagnostics, quality information, test results, and the parts consumed. All the information can be captured using text, audio, videos, and still photos. This guarantees minimal to no instances of data manipulation.

6. Improve Customer Satisfaction: Win Their Loyalty

Field service management software improves customer satisfaction. How does that happen? Well, using a field service software like FieldElite allows for quick response to customer queries. If there’s one thing that quickly turns your customers off, it’s delayed response to their requests. With the field service management software, however, you can respond to such requests quickly and effortlessly.

Moreover, your customers can also track the service engineer to ensure they’re well informed of any anticipated delays. With quick response time, customer machines have more reliable up-time, which is the desire of every client.

7. Flexibility – because no one likes being tied down

If there’s one thing that customers like when dealing with a company, it’s flexibility. Instinctively, customers will always want different options to choose from when using a service without appearing to be confined to one provision. Having limited options would also appear boring.

To this extent, it would be wiser to adopt advanced FSM software. Advanced FSM software is compatible with mobile phones, meaning users can easily manage their tasks from isolated locations. FSM software can either be device-agnostic or device-specific. The device-specific type supports Android, Windows, and Apple iOS. This guarantees mobile-friendly tasks where users can easily manage the assignments via mobile application.

8. Store client history in secure cloud-based FSM software

Software like FieldElite stores client history precisely. All the past data, including order history, are stored separately and accurately. In so doing, the field technician gets easy access to the tools, specifications, and technician instructions that aid them in their operations. The result is increased productivity and on-time service delivery.

9. Asset Management and Inventory Control

Naturally, companies offering different repair services have plenty of assets to store. Accordingly, retrieving a specific part out of the large collection would be daunting.

With a field service application like FieldElite, the staff members can track down all the products effortlessly using the GPS. Furthermore, the FSM software ensures excellent maintenance of assets.

10. Improve oversight of field workers – and keep them in the loop

The FSM software comes with many useful tools, including a built-in GPS tracker. The GPS tracker oversees the operations of the on-field workers, providing precise details about their geographical location, actual arrival time, and most importantly, the distance from the job site.

While this might not be useful at all times, it comes in handy when you need to assign an urgent task to the nearby technician. Call it a classic example of dynamic scheduling.

Final Thoughts

With so much at stake, it’s increasingly compelling to include the Field Service Management Software in your business. With every industry moving towards automation, your business cannot afford to lag.

Quick and efficient service delivery through FSM software may be the difference between you and your competitors.

The FSM software is no longer the cherry on the cake but a must-have tool for your survival in the highly competitive market.

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Busy skilled maintenance technician repairing brewery equipment

Proactive Preventative Maintenance: How IoT and Field Service Management Software Helps

FieldElite, our mobile workforce management software, has been key to several industries’ return on investment. Whether it’s for plumbing, electrical, property management, cleaning, and maintenance, FieldElite has provided data centralisation for efficient management of these business activities. 

Field service management software is important to utilise current workload, and also helps resolve future issues. We’re talking about a proactive approach to preventative maintenance. 

How exactly do field service managements help in preventative maintenance? 

The answer lies in how field service management is interlinked with IoT in predicting future jobs for the mobile service industry.  

What is IoT? 

Simply put, the Internet of Things (IoT) is a network of devices and sensors connected to the internet. These “things” (e.g. your smartphone or smartwatch) enable data to be sent and be received without human intervention.

Fundamentally, IoT is about devices being connected to the internet to allow remote monitoring

For many years now, remote monitoring for IT infrastructure has been widely used. 

What’s new that we’re experiencing right now is even the smallest devices — individual light bulbs and sensors — can have a network and internet connection, allowing entire systems to be monitored in great detail. 

Implementing IoT and accessing data can be challenging for most service organisations. However, when combined with predictive analytics and field management software, it can have a huge potential impact on individual businesses and the service industry as a whole. 

What is Preventative Maintenance? 

Preventive maintenance refers to regular, routine maintenance to help keep equipment up and running, preventing any unplanned downtime and expensive costs from unanticipated equipment failure. 

The goal of preventative maintenance is to decrease the likelihood of a machine or an equipment’s failure by performing regular maintenance. 

Preventative management can be very complex, especially for companies with a fleet of equipment or customers. It requires careful planning and scheduling of maintenance on equipment before there is an actual problem. 

Also, preventive maintenance is evolving. It’s not just about scheduling the same work every month to prevent failure anymore. Today, working smarter with better information about equipment conditions is critical to ensure maintenance is effective.

That’s where IoT and field service management software, like FieldElite, comes in. Together, they organise and carry out preventive maintenance needs for service industries. 

How IoT and FieldElite Helps in Preventative Maintenance

With FieldElite and IoT technology, you get the best in preventive maintenance management.

  • Evaluation of equipment or machines — the condition of machines or equipment is evaluated in order to predict when maintenance needs to be performed. 
  • Automated work order — automated time-based work order creation
  • Full condition-based plans — allows you to do the following:
    • Right-size your maintenance work
    • Lower costs
    • Extend the life of your or customer’s assets 
  • Quicker reporting — due to its efficient and automated nature, IoT and field service management software can reduce a field technician’s average report time from two weeks to two days, therefore boosting your cash flow! 

That’s the most important result a mobile service management software can produce (in connection with preventative maintenance). It’s cost-saving! This can be achieved over routine or time-based preventive maintenance, as tasks are only performed when they are needed. 

The Internet of Things (IoT) and field service management software is changing field service as we know it. 

Companies who adapt and utilise these technologies will benefit the most from the resulting competitive advantage of preventative maintenance. 

Start elevating every field service experience now!  

Our field service software, FieldElite helps you: 
  • Accepts jobs in the field
  • Automate appointment scheduling
  • Manage scheduled jobs 
  • Get real-time visibility into all operations
  • Have a clear and easy viewing of job locations 
  • Resolve field service calls faster 
  • Enable mobile workers to get the job done right
  • Keep customers updated at every step 
  • Create quotations and accept payments 
  • Analyse efficient reports from field technicians
  • Helps in proper preventative maintenance management. 

Learn how to schedule jobs to field workers with ease. Check out FieldElite

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Designer Planning Project on Floor

Are Target Operating Models strategic compasses?

The short answer is they usually are, because every organisation needs a road-map of where they are going. Target operating models can be complex documents with illustrative details including project management structures, special tools, implementation procedures and management metrics. They can also be simple statements, as for example Winston Churchill’s promise that “we shall fight them on the beaches, on the landing grounds and in the fields” which gave Britain the strategic direction it needed.

Many initiatives unfortunately fail because managers are ‘too busy’ to bottom on what their target operating model should say, or simply don’t believe in paperwork. As a result, promising initiatives may blunder off course or die a slow death without them really noticing. We cannot manage what we cannot measure, which is where the management metrics fit in. One of my favourite quotes is ‘if you don’t know where you are going any road will get you there’ which is what the Cheshire Cat said to Alice in Wonderland when she got lost.

The author blundered through life without a plan because there was no one else with his particular brand of imagination. The current business climate is different because everybody is trying to ramp up, and investors want to know exactly what is going to happen to their money and by when. Hence a target operating model can be indispensable throughout a change or product cycle.

The benefits of having a measurable operations / technology plan can produce powerfully tangible results if the organisation follows through on it. Built-in metrics with milestones are powerful tool for management, and, when they map through to the company financial plan almost irreplaceable as cash-flow forecasters.

Other benefits may include:

  • Shorter times to market and greater agility when launching new ideas
  • Reduced investor risk through a predictable process that’s readily monitored
  • A stable operating environment where there is consensus on direction
  • Greater likelihood of delivering on time and leading to repeat orders
  • A more cost-effective process, with less risk of loss of quality and money

Although it dates back a few years the Wills UK and Ireland Retail model still provides an excellent benchmark of a target operating plan that worked. The strategic goals were exceptionally clear, and they brought in a proven project manager to help them drive the program forward.

We have delivered advanced business management services to many of our clients, and believe you will find our personalised approach time-efficient and effective too.

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architect checking plan on tablet

Field Service Organisations should use Digital Forms

For many Organisations, making use of paper based forms, is a common practice and method for collecting data and recording transactions. Whether it be for producing Quotations, Invoices or even getting sign off on completed jobs.

Paper based forms and documents have been the main stay of office communication and productivity for over 200 years. Paper-based forms are used to create anything from Invoices, Receipts, Purchase Orders, Contracts to the humble internal memo!

Paper-based forms radically improved productivity, efficiency and compliance by enabling people to create paper based instructions and enabling others to add additional information as required.

Over the past 3 decades or so, modern business environments have gradually been evolving towards the concept of the Paperless Office, resulting in the humble Paper based document migrating to a Digital Counterpart. The ease of availability of various Word Processing and Spreadsheet software products and cheap and easy data storage capacity have resulted in the Proliferation of thousands if not millions of files and documents being stored somewhere on the Company’s IT infrastructure.

People often create Digital Templates of forms that may be printed off and supplied to staff to complete using Pen and Paper or electronically. The data collation and reporting is often process

Often when conducting Operational Reviews, it is commonly found that the processing and analysing paper based forms is the least productive, efficient and profitable areas of business, although it is often vitally important.

Benefits of using digital forms for data collection

The ability to collect and analyse data effectively is increasingly important to businesses. Companies gather, examine, process and build reports on large volumes of data. Traditionally, they have deployed mail surveys, telephone interviews, door-to-door interviews as methods to collect information. With the ongoing digitisation, these procedures have become old fashioned.The digital transformation is changing many business operations at a high speed and a great deal of processes that were executed manually are now accomplished using digital methods.

Technology has had a major impact on how to approach data research and has provided researchers new tools that have transformed and improved data collection and analysis. The pace of change requires companies to be able to react quickly and adapt themselves to changing demands from customers and market conditions.

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Startup business team on meeting in modern bright office interior brainstorming, working on computer

Finding the Best Structure for Your Enterprise Development Team

An enterprise development team is a small group of dedicated specialists. They may focus on a new business project such as an IoT solution. Members of microteams cooperate with ideas while functioning semi-independently. These self-managing specialists are scarce in the job market. Thus, they are a relatively expensive resource and we must optimise their role.

Organisation Size and Enterprise Development Team Structure

Organisation structure depends on the size of the business and the industry in which it functions. An enterprise development team for a micro business may be a few freelancers burning candles at both ends. While a large corporate may have a herd of full-timers with their own building. Most IoT solutions are born out of the efforts of microteams.

In this regard, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg blazed the trail with Microsoft and Facebook. They were both college students at the time, and both abandoned their business studies to follow their dreams. There is a strong case for liberating developers from top-down structures, and keeping management and initiative at arm’s length.

The Case for Separating Microteams from the Organisation

Microsoft Corporation went on to become a massive corporate, with 114,000 employees, and its founder Bill Gates arguably one of the richest people in the world. Yet even it admits there are limitations to size. In Chapter 2 of its Visual Studio 6.0 program it says,

“Today’s component-based enterprise applications are different from traditional business applications in many ways. To build them successfully, you need not only new programming tools and architectures, but also new development and project management strategies.”

Microsoft goes on to confirm that traditional, top-down structures are inappropriate for component-based systems such as IoT solutions. We have moved on from “monolithic, self-contained, standalone systems,” it says, “where these worked relatively well.”

Microsoft’s model for enterprise development teams envisages individual members dedicated to one or more specific roles as follows:

  • Product Manager – owns the vision statement and communicates progress
  • Program Manager – owns the application specification and coordinates
  • Developer – delivers a functional, fully-complying solution to specification
  • Quality Assurer – verifies that the design complies with the specification
  • User Educator – develops and publishes online and printed documentation
  • Logistics Planner – ensures smooth rollout and deployment of the solution

Three Broad Structures for Microteams working on IoT Solutions

The organisation structure of an enterprise development team should also mirror the size of the business, and the industry in which it functions. While a large one may manage small microteams of employee specialists successfully, it will have to ring-fence them to preserve them from bureaucratic influence. A medium-size organisation may call in a ‘big six’ consultancy on a project basis. However, an independently sourced micro-team is the solution for a small business with say up to 100 employees.

The Case for Freelancing Individuals versus Functional Microteams

While it may be doable to source a virtual enterprise development team on a contracting portal, a fair amount of management input may be necessary before they weld into a well-oiled team. Remember, members of a micro-team must cooperate with ideas while functioning semi-independently. The spirit of cooperation takes time to incubate, and then grow.

This is the argument, briefly, for outsourcing your IoT project, and bringing in a professional, fully integrated micro-team to do the job quickly, and effectively. We can lay on whatever combination you require of project managers, program managers, developers, quality assurers, user educators, and logistic planners. We will manage the micro-team, the process, and the success of the project on your behalf while you get on running your business, which is what you do best.

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Colorful building toy blocks 3D

The Child at Work: Fun Team Builds with LEGO SERIOUS PLAY

There is a child just below the surface in all of us. When were kids, adults lopped off the sharp bits that intruded into their ‘genteel’ society. Schools, to their everlasting shame sanded away our unique free spirits, as they stuck us into uniforms and imposed a daily classroom discipline. We received badges and prizes if we obeyed, and strict sanctions when we did not. This produced a generation of middle-age managers who no longer know how to play.

Life can be so deadly serious …

Things work pretty much the same in business. Life is deadly serious. If we want to keep our jobs, we must deliver on the bottom line in our departments. There is little time for fun outside the Christmas party, when we may, within the limits of decorum engage in activity for enjoyment and recreation, rather than a serious or practical purpose.

Team builds (and strategic planning sessions) can be deadly boring affairs that proceed down narrow funnels defined by human resource facilitators. No matter how hard HR they may try, the structural hierarchy will remain intact, unless they find a way to set it aside during the program. Injecting fun into the occasion liberates independent thought, and this is why.

… But not for a little child at play

Next time you dine out at a branded family restaurant, select a seat that allows you observe the kiddies’ play zone. Notice how inventive children become, when the family hierarchy is not there to tell them what to do (although parents may try from the wrong side of the soundproof glass). The ‘serious play’ side of fun team-builds aims to liberate managers by releasing their child for the duration. Shall we dig a little deeper into this and discover the dynamics?

Many of us have less than perfect oral communication skills. This is one of the great impediments to modern business meetings. We may not have sufficient time to formulate our thoughts for them to remain relevant when we speak. When we express them, we sense the group’s impatience for us to hurry up, so other members can have their opportunity to contribute.

Sharing better thinking with LEGO® bricks

Most of us feel an urge to click the brightly coloured plastic bricks together that carpenter Ole Kirk Christiansen released into a war-weary world in 1949. The basic kit is a great leveller because the blocks are all the same, and the discriminators are the colours and the power of our imagination. Watching a free-form LEGO builder in action is equally fascinating, as we wonder ‘what they will do next’ and ‘what is happening in their mind.’

Examples of LEGO Serious PLAY in action

Instead of asking team members to describe themselves in a minute, a LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® facilitator may gather them around a table piled high with LEGO bricks instead, and ask them to each build a model of themselves. The atmosphere is informal with interaction and banter encouraged. It is still serious play though, as team members get to know each other, and their own personalities better

The system is equally effective in strategic sessions, where the facilitator provides specially selected building blocks for the team to experiment with as they learn to listen, and share. This enables them to deconstruct a problem into its component parts, and share solutions regardless of seniority, culture, and communication skills.

Creating problem- and solution-landscapes three dimensionally this way, enables open conversations that keep the focus on the problem. Participants at these team builds do not only reach effective consensus faster. They are also busy building better communication skills as they do.

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Contemporary Team Planning Project

Scrumming Down to Complete Projects

Everybody knows about rugby union scrums. For our purposes, perhaps it is best to view them as mini projects where the goal is to get the ball back to the fly-half no matter what the opposition does. Some scrums are set pieces where players follow planned manoeuvres. Loose / rolling scrums develop on the fly where the team responds as best according to the situation. If that sounds to you like software project management then read on, because there are more similarities’.

Isn’t Scrum Project Management the Same as Agile?

No it’s not, because Scrum is disinterested in customer liaison or project planning, although the team members may be happy to receive the accolades following success. In the same way that rugby players let somebody else decide the rules and arrange the fixtures, a software Scrum team just wants the action.

Scrum does however align closely – dare I say interchangeably with Agile’s sprints. Stripping it of all the other stages frees the observer up to analyse it more closely in the context of a rough and tumble project, where every morning can begin with a backlog of revised requirements to back fit.

The 3 Main Phases of a Scrum

A Scrum is a single day in the life of a project, building onto what went before and setting the stage for what will happen the following day. The desired output is a block of component software that can be tested separately and inserted later. Scrumming is also a useful technique for managing any project that can be broken into discreet phases. The construction industry is a good example.

Phase 1 – Define the Backlog. A Scrum Team’s day begins with a 15 minute planning meeting where team members agree individual to-do lists called ‘backlogs’.

Phase 2 – Sprint Towards the Goal. The team separates to allow each member to complete their individual lines of code. Little or no discussion is needed as this stage.

Phase 3 – Review Meeting. At the end of each working day, the team reconvenes to walk down what has been achieved, and check the interconnected functionality.

The 3 Main Phases of a Scrum – Conclusions and Thoughts

Scrum is a great way to liberate a competent project team from unnecessary constraints that liberate creativity. The question you need to ask yourself as manager is, are you comfortable enough to watch proceedings from the side lines without rushing onto the field to grab the ball.

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Employees explain to the manager their ideas about the project

Is Your Project Agile, a Scrum or a Kanban?

Few projects pan out the way we expect when starting out. This is normal in any creative planning phase. We half suspect the ones that follow a straight line are the exceptions to the rule. Urban legend has it; Edison made a thousand prototypes before his first bulb lit up, and then went on to comment, “genius is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration”. Later, he added that many of life’s failures are people who did not realise just how close they were to success when they gave up.

So be it to this day, and so be it with project planning too. There is no one size fits all approach when it comes to it. Agile, Scrum and Kanban each have their supporters and places where they do well. Project planning often works best when we use a sequential combination of them, appropriate to what is currently happening on the ground.

Of the three, Agile is by far the most comprehensive. It provides a structure that begins with project vision / conceptualisation, and goes as far as celebration when the job is over, and retrospective discussion afterwards. However, the emphasis on daily planning meetings may dent freethinking, and even smother it.

Scrum on the other hand says ‘forget all that bureaucracy’. There is a job to do and today is the day we are going to do it. Although the core Agile teamwork is still there it ignores macro project planning, and could not be bothered with staying in touch with customers. If using Scrum, it is best to give those jobs to someone else.

The joker in the pack is Kanban, It believes that rules are there to substitute for thought, and that true progress only comes from responsible freedom. It belongs in mature organisations that have passed through Scrum and Agile phases and have embarked on a voyage towards perfection.

That said, there can be no substitute for human leadership, especially when defined as the social influence that binds the efforts of others towards a single task.

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Why DevOps Matters: Things You Need to Know

DevOps creates an agile relationship between system development and operating departments, so the two collaborate in providing results that are technically effective, and work well for customers and users. This is an improvement over the traditional model where development delivers a complete design – and then spends weeks and even months afterwards, fixing client side problems that should never have occurred.
Writing for Tech Radar Nigel Wilson explains why it is important to roll out innovation quickly to leverage advantage. This implies the need for a flexible organisation capable of thinking on its feet and forming matrix-based project teams to ensure that development is reliable and cost effective.
Skirmishes in Boardrooms
This cooperative approach runs counter to traditional silo thinking, where Operations does not understand Development, while Development treats the former as problem children. This is a natural outcome of team-centred psychology. It is also the reason why different functions pull up drawbridges at the entrance to their silos. This situation needs managing before it corrodes organization effectiveness. DevOps aims to cut through this spider web of conflict and produce faster results.

The Seeds of Collaboration

Social and personal relationships work best when the strengths of each party compensate the deficiencies of the other. In the case of development and operations, development lacks full understanding of the daily practicalities operating staff face. Conversely, operations lacks – and should lack knowledge of the nuances of digital automation, for the very reason it is not their business.
DevOps straddles the gap between these silos by building bridges towards a co-operative way of thinking, in which matrix-teams work together to define a problem, translate it into needs and spec the system to resolve these. It is more a culture than a method. Behavioural change naturally leads to contiguous delivery and ongoing deployment. Needless to say only the very best need apply for the roles of client representative, functional tester and developer lead.

Is DevOps Worth the Pain of Change?

Breaking down silos encroaches on individual managers’ turf. We should only automate to improve quality and save money. These savings often distil into organisational change. The matrix team may find itself in the middle of a catfight. Despite the pain associated with change resistance, DevOps more than pays its way in terms of benefits gained. We close by considering what these advantages are.

An Agile Matrix Structure – Technical innovation is happening at a blistering rate. The IT industry can no longer afford to churn out inferior designs that take longer to fix than to create. We cannot afford to allow office politics to stand in the way of progress. Silos and team builds are custodians of routine and that does not sit well with development.

An Integrated Organization – DevOps not only delivers operational systems faster through contiguous testing. It also creates an environment whereby cross-border teams work together towards achieving a shared objective. When development understands the challenges that operations faces – and operations understands the technical limiters – a new perspective emerges of ‘we are in this together’.

The Final Word – With understanding of human dynamics pocketed, a DevOps project may be easier to commission than you first think. The traditional way of doing development – and the waterfall delivery at the end is akin to a two-phase production line, in which liaison is the weakest link and loss of quality inevitable.

DevOps avoids this risk by having parties work side-by-side. We need them both to produce the desired results. This is least until robotics takes over and there is no longer a human element in play.

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