Showing posts with label corporate. Show all posts
Showing posts with label corporate. Show all posts

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Why your business needs to create and develop Big Data skills from within


These days, one of the key needs for most businesses is the ability to react to changing market requirements in real-time. However, a predicted shortage of skilled big data analytics IT specialists could mean that many businesses keep failing to react quickly enough and lose out to their competition.

Real-time responses give you the edge

In the past, businesses had the luxury of changing at their own pace. Nowadays, the ‘always on’ internet, 24-hour rolling news, and the ability of social media to accelerate events, means a business that works in real-time will have a huge advantage.

CEOs and board members want to see when sales are up or down, or when teams aren’t performing, and demand that measures to solve these problems are put in place immediately, not two weeks or six months later when the problem has got out of hand. A new tool available to businesses helps them create real-time views of their business – business analytics (BI) and big data analytics allow a business to crunch huge amounts of the data received day in and day out from their websites, CRM systems, sales systems and ERP systems, so it can see exactly where it is at any time.

A shortage of skills, yet again

Unfortunately, the skills required for BI and Big Data are not easy to come by and those who are skilled in this area can demand high salaries. A recent survey by Teradata found that 42% of European businesses were currently looking to recruit data scientists and other big data analytics roles, with most of the pressure coming from CEOs and the boardroom. More than one-third (36%) cited the commercial potential of big data analytics in meeting their strategic goals as the key reason for recruitment.
Further digging into the survey data shows that businesses wanted not just big data IT skills, but also an intimate understanding of business. Thirty-seven per cent of the businesses surveyed anticipated that potential candidates would come from existing employees with business skills, with the majority (51%) of these working and reporting into departments other than IT.

While finding IT experts is hard enough for most businesses – a recent report by City and Guilds found that 74% of employers in the digital, IT and information services industry claim to be facing a skills crisis and are forced to look abroad for talent ­– the special requirements of big data, with its need for a mix of IT and business skills, makes recruitment even more difficult, even for a business with the deepest of pockets. 

The solution: hire an apprentice

However, the solution for most businesses is already within their grasp and it doesn't require them to spend huge amounts. Big data is largely in its infancy so most businesses have a few years in which to build their skills – and that timescale sits perfectly with an apprentice scheme. By taking on an IT apprentice through Firebrand and enrolling them on our big data courses, you can take young talented individuals either from within your business or recruited locally and mould them into the IT and big data experts of tomorrow.   

Visit Firebrand Apprenticeships to learn more about the scheme and how you can hire an apprentice. 

About the Author:       
Frank is managing director and partner at Firebrand Training. He has over 20 years of experience in business development, account management and IT training.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Firebrand beats another record and wins Gazelle Award


Since 2009, Firebrand Training Nordic has grown by an enormous 1430% and became one of five regional winners of this year’s Gazelle Awards.

However, this is not the only record associated with Firebrand’s name. Firebrand is the first and only partner, who’s ever been awarded the “Microsoft Training Partner of the Year” title in Denmark for 3 consecutive years.

Managing Director Frank Højgaard said: “We’re constantly thinking about how to keep ourselves fresh and there is no doubt that our mix of ambition, courage and thoroughness creates results for our clients, while winning awards for us.”

He also added: We are very proud to have created new jobs and sustainable growth in a time of crisis. Since we started the business here in the Nordic region we have doubled the number of our employees and there is nothing to suggest that growth stops here. We believe in our instincts and our product and we are not the ones that rest on our laurels."

In the coming years, Firebrand Training will be opening multiple offices in Sweden and further expanding the capacity of its Training Centre in Helsingborg. 

About the Author:       
Sarah writes for Firebrand Training on a number of IT related topics. This includes exams, training, certification trends, project management, certification, careers advice and the industry itself. Sarah has 11 years of experience in the IT industry. 

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

It pays to get talent early


Technology has radically changed the way we do business. The ability to create that change, however, and then take advantage of it, is dependent on the skills within the business. You only have to look at the Government’s record in IT development to see what happens when those in-house skills are missing. Over the last 20 years the government has largely outsourced everything in IT to external 'experts', with resulting massive overruns in both time and costs. 

In May, the government’s Major Projects Authority reported that of the 191 projects it was currently monitoring, just 32 were given a green all-clear rating, with 49 classed as probably going to be successful”. Fifty-eight were feasible but had significant issues and 31 were deemed unachievable or in doubt. This includes a new IT system for the MoD, new IT systems to manage back office functions in the Justice department, new systems to manage passport applications in the Home Office and a new accounting system and improvements to the website of the Office for National Statistics.

It's time to stand out

One government group has bucked this trend - the Government’s Digital Service (GDS). It’s a small autonomous group run by Executive Director Mike Bracken and it’s turning the 'traditional' way the government works with IT upside-down. GDS is agile, it does the work in-house and it recruits and builds its teams using fresh young talent. But, above all, it’s getting things done under budget and on time. 

One of the key recruits is Jordan Hatch – he joined GDS age 17, leaving college before completing AS levels in politics, economics and business studies. This savvy 19-year-old has helped turn thousands of expensive and under-utilised government websites into one single site, and is on track to save the government £4 million, yes four MILLION pounds. Together, the team are heading for savings of £1.2 billion by 2015. 

The lesson to be learnt from the GDS example is to build up your in-house expertise by grasping young talent;  however, that talent is currently in short supply and hard to find. A recent survey, Impact of the Skills Gap by CompTIA, found that only 15% of the businesses interviewed are “exactly where they want to be” in terms of IT skills, and almost one in two (48%) were concerned about finding IT workers with the right skills. That’s not just programmers; but help desk workers and employees with soft skills such as teamwork, customer service and project management skills.

Most businesses don’t have the deep pockets to compete with the government and businesses such as Google for new IT talent. There is another solution to the skills crisis, however, and that’s via an apprenticeship scheme. With an apprenticeship you get new talent and the chance to pick the skills you need, then those skills can be passed on to your existing staff. What’s more, all the training is paid for by the government. 

To find out more about how young talent can help your business visit Firebrand Apprenticeships.

About the Author:       
Frank is managing director and partner at Firebrand Training. He has over 20 years of experience in business development, account management and IT training.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Fixing training, an exam at a time


Why is your business training not working?

Training is broken. Employees are failing to remember what they learnt on the courses and for many the only solution is to re-learn the syllabus from the coursework.

Most businesses enter training with some sort of apprehension. No matter how well the course has been sold to you there’s always the nagging doubt that it’s going to be a waste of money and that the employees will come back from the course with a smile on their face, but an empty brain.

Ask anyone back from a training course what they learnt on the course, and no doubt they’ll happily reel off a list of acronyms and highlights. But the truth is the majority will already have forgotten most of their course, and when they’re asked to remember some technique they learnt, in a week’s time or a months’ time, they will need to go back to the coursework and learn it all again, that’s if they can find the solution in the coursework?

Most training just doesn’t work

Over the years there has been a wealth of academic testing and experimentation on training and training methods, and a lot of it makes quite depressing reading- especially if you’re spending tens or hundreds of thousands a year on skilling-up your workforce. The hard fact is that most training just doesn’t work.

Let’s take a look at the solutions out there; 

E-learning and class teaching

The great new hope for training has been online e-learning and massive open online courses (MOOC). For the employer they tick all the boxes. It’s something your employees can do when they have “free time” and doesn’t require time out of the office. It allows students to learn at their own pace and it’s cheap. But what research* has found is that online training can be ineffective for those struggling with a subject, it won’t help users to remember the coursework any better than classroom training, and it only usually teaches what’s in the curriculum, which for certain IT courses forms only part of what is tested in the exam.  

Classroom training is - let’s face it - just like being back at school.  The atmosphere and techniques can make students nervous, the training can be very dry and a day of training can feel like “death by PowerPoint,”  plus students are away from their desks so spend any free periods and evenings catching up on emails and as with e-learning the research shows classroom learning has the same problems with understanding, and information recall.   

So what’s the solution?

Research carried out over the last 100 years shows that the most effective way to improve a student’s chances of learning, and being able to apply what they’ve learnt in a week or a months’ time is to adopt a policy of continuous testing throughout their training. In an academic study Ten Benefits of Testing and Their Applications to Educational Practice** the researchers found that all the evidence from repeated testing pointed to it being one of the most successful strategies for learning.

In one test students were told a story illustrated with pictures. After the story, one group of subjects was told that they could leave and return a week later for a test. A second group was given a single test that lasted 7 minutes, and the third group was given three successive 7-minute tests after the learning phase.  Immediately after the test the group that were tested on the pictures once recalled an average of 32 pictures and the group that recalled them three times recalled 32, 35, and 36 pictures (their performance increased across tests, a phenomenon called hypermnesia, another benefit of repeated testing).  

Repeated testing produced an 80% improvement in recall

When the same groups were tested a week later the first group who had been allowed to leave and had not been tested, recalled just 17.4 pictures, those who had been tested once recalled 23.3 pictures, and those who had previously been tested three times recalled 31.8 pictures. That’s an 80% improvement in recall compared to those who had no tests, and shows virtually no loss in recall across the week. Whereas those who hadn’t been tested were only able to recall 17.4 pictures a week later, demonstrating a memory loss of almost a half (45%) over the week.

Accelerated Learning

At Firebrand we have applied this learning and used it in our Accelerated Learning methodology which uses a combination of Lecture, Lab and Review, providing a more effective way to retain and learn information an importantly includes frequent testing .

With Accelerated Learning; trainees learn in a closed environment where there are no distractions or time restrictions. They are taught using a course based on a combination of real-world experience from the trainer and the other trainees and the course’s official curriculum. This is then followed immediately by practical testing in our state-of-the-art labs - the labs are available 24 hours a day – which gives the trainees a chance to fully immerse themselves in the subject and use the training they have just been given. Additionally the instructor is on hand in the labs should they need to quiz them on subjects they don’t understand. Finally trainees are tested while they’re still at the training centre, and given immediate access to their results and as well as help and feedback by their instructor.

To learn more about Accelerated Learning and how it can help your employees understand and retain information better then get in touch with one of our Managed Account Consultants.

Editor's notes

* Improving students’ learning with effective learning techniques:  Promising directions from cognitive and educational psychology - John Dunlosky, Katherine A. Rawson, Elizabeth J. Marsh, Mitchell J. Nathan, and Daniel T. Willingham - Psychological Science in the Public Interest – 2013

** Ten benefits of testing and their applications to educational practice - Henry L. Roediger III, Adam L. Putnam and Megan A. Smith- Psychology of Learning and Motivation, Volume 55 - 2011

About the Author:       
Frank is managing director and partner at Firebrand Training. He has over 20 years of experience in business development, account management and IT training.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

What to do when your projects keep failing


Failing, over-running and budget-crashing projects are causing businesses billions in lost revenue.

Businesses up and down the land are wasting tens of billions of hard-earned resources in projects that run late, cost more than they should or fail altogether. 

A British Computer Society study in to project failure by Dr John McManus and Dr Trevor Wood-Harper looked in detail at 214 big IT projects over a period of seven years and found  nearly a quarter of all projects  (23.8 per cent) were cancelled  before they even got off the ground.

A more recent IDC report shows that things aren’t getting any better “Improving IT Project Outcomes by Systematically Managing and Hedging Risk,” by Dana Wiklund and Joseph C. Pucciarelli, revealed that 25 per cent of IT projects fail outright. Meanwhile, 20 to 25 per cent don’t provide ROI and up to 50 per cent require material rework.

The knee jerk reaction is to blame the problem on the programmers and the coders. However when you dig down into the figures however you find that it’s not the IT that’s at fault or the people creating and testing the code, it’s actually project management where the problem lies. The statistics show that 54 per cent of IT project failures can be attributed to project management, whereas only 3 per cent are attributed to technical challenges.

The obvious solution therefore is to do something about the project management, but what?  The answer according to an in-depth study “The Benefits of Training and Certification” by analysts IDC is to invest in training.

The IDC research shows (see graph above) an undeniably tight correlation between training, team skill, and project success and the research found that the three most important variables for predicting project success were;

  • The overall skill level of project teams
  • The percentage of project budget spent on training
  • The number of hours of training per team member

Increasing or reducing any of the three variables would directly have an impact on the project success. Projects allocating 7% of the budget to training were significantly more successful than projects where only 4% of the budget went to training In fact, managers of IT project teams that meet most or all of their objectives provided each team member with 40% more training than managers of teams that achieve little or only some success.

The numbers required don’t need to be that significant; when preparing for a project, teams receiving 40 hours of training per member met their significant project objectives three times as often as teams that received 30 hours of training or less.

Finally the report also looked at the type of training that the teams received and found that there was also a close correlation between project success and certification.  

The research found that every relevant certification increases a teams performance with an "average" team performance achieved only when more than 40% of the team (see graph above) is certified, with 100% success rates achieved when over 60% of the team achieved certification.

The report should be a wakeup call to anyone embarking on a large IT project – or for that matter any large project.  If you want success then get your staff trained to expert level and make sure they have the certificates to prove it, if you don’t then be prepared for the same old failures, over runs and costs spiralling through the roof. 

About the Author:
Stefano is the co-founder and head of strategy education at Firebrand Training. He has 20 years experience in IT operations and services support, and worked in financial markets supporting IT infrastructures.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Business as usual is an opportunity - eating monster


If you had to make the choice between innovation and business as usual, I’m willing to bet that 99.99% of you would plump for innovation. So why is it that businesses spend so much time fire-fighting and so little time being innovative?  For most businesses the answer is ‘because we have to.’ Systems will always need updating and fixing and things will always go wrong and you need to fix them, servers fall over, disks crash and users – bless them – get a little confused and accidentally delete things they shouldn’t or forget their password.

Unfortunately most businesses can’t afford the luxury of having dedicated people on standby should a server fall over or an application crash or a price needs changing on the website. The consequence of this is your IT department and the development teams get called off the new revenue generating projects to deal with the crashes and the problems.  In a nutshell, business as usual is a great big opportunity-eating monster.

By and large IT departments were not created to fix old applications, mend failing hardware or to answer the dumb-ass support questions of the rest of the business. They’re there to serve the business, creating IT solutions, making the business more efficient and to bring in new revenue. Alas over the years this role has been forgotten and instead the IT departments now spend their time waiting on business as usual and attending to her every need, and she’s a demanding customer.

So what can a business do to improve the situation? The answer is to give the business as usual problem to someone else better suited to deal with it and to make sure that when you build the applications they’re built and managed properly, and that the people fixing the problems are capable of fixing the problems.

A report by analysts IDC showed that experts ie trained IT professionals with certification spent far less time on business as usual, and were able to spend more time on being innovative. According to the survey, experts in archiving and retrieval teams spent 28% less time fixing problems, data backup and recovery experts spent 21% less time fixing problems and security experts had 20% more time to spend helping end users.

It’s a no-brainer.  If you are being swamped by business as usual then get an expert to handle the jobs, either in-house or in the cloud, or send your IT and business teams on some training courses and set your IT team free to become revenue generators and not a business overhead.

About the Author:
Stefano is the co-founder and head of strategy education at Firebrand Training. He has 20 years experience in IT operations and services support, and worked in financial markets supporting IT infrastructures.