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A round-up of Hart Square Training Programme

In 2021, our experts here at Hart Square delivered two series of the Hart Square Training Programme: How to deliver successful projects. We created the training programme exclusively for non-profit organisations, to contribute to building digital and change capability.

Discover the impact of the Hart Square Training Programme in the infographic below.

Are you looking to deliver a successful digital project in your organisation? Attend our free upcoming webinars to hear from experts from across the sector as well as get guidance from the Hart Square Team. Discover all upcoming events

How to succeed at User Acceptance Testing (UAT) in a virtual environment

At Hart Square we have had to adapt to delivering projects successfully in a virtual world. We continue to focus on managing all stages of our projects and supporting our clients at the same levels of quality and effort as we did pre-pandemic. This includes running User Acceptance Testing (UAT), which forms a critical part of any technology implementation project and is critical to going live.

There are two key elements to ensure UAT is delivered successfully, which I will explore here: preparation and delivery.

Preparation is the most important element and confirms that you are ready to undertake UAT. Firstly, it is important to understand what a test script, user story and acceptance criteria are; the key lies in agreeing clear roles and responsibilities not just for for who is responsible for preparing the scripts but also explaining what the purpose of them is.

By planning enough time to get ready and understand the process for putting your scripts together, you will feel more comfortable and confident in understanding the strategy. In addition, it is critical to put in place clear roles and responsibilities for the team, including your lead for triaging issues and agreeing a process for feeding back on issues that are found.

Finally, you need to have a clear definition of a showstopper which could significantly affect the progress of the project, and other critical tasks, in advance of UAT.

Once you are fully prepared, you are then ready to move into the delivery phase of UAT. The delivery of UAT virtually will require all stakeholders to be flexible for any technology disruption. Ensuring the right technology platform is used and following a clear and detailed testing plan, which has been put together in advance, will minimize this.

There are some elements that can be included to ensure the smooth running of UAT, including starting each day with a huddle with all testers to allow any questions to be asked and ensure that everyone is clear on the approach. Clear communication is vitally important, even more so in the current environment, to ensure that any issues are identified quickly and resolved efficiently.

During the periods when testers are undertaking their UAT tasks, you should maintain a continuous central online meeting to act as a hub. Regular catch ups must also be scheduled to ensure teams can raise questions or screen share to replicate a specific issue. By having regular catch-up sessions in the day, it enables the team to raise issues and feel supported.

Throughout the testing period, it is vital to have a dedicated resource to triage issues and ensure that showstopper items are escalated first, followed by high impact items. High impact items must include those which stop process completion and therefore block further testing of key functionality. This will ensure these are prioritized for fixing and can be resolved to enable you to move forward.

Despite the challenges with running UAT virtually, by ensuring clear preparation, processes, and flexibility – with support from your technology partner – they can be delivered successfully and fulfil their purpose.

The two most important elements to any successful virtual UAT are strong and reliable communication channels and a clear and well-prepared testing plan.

With both elements in place, you can ensure that being virtual is as effective as being there in person.

 

Successful implementationTo learn more about system implementation management, join our training programme “How to deliver successful projects“. The whole course is invaluable and module 5 focusses on “Delivering a Successful System Implementation” including running UAT.

Time to plan for project success rather than just survive

Click here to download the Top tips to plan for project success infographic

When lockdown 1.0 hit the UK in March, non-profit organisations across the country scrambled to do whatever it took to survive, to minimise disruption to BAU. While some did already enable remote working, many had to order and commission new equipment, implement new solutions, and train staff who were trying to find ways to deliver their day jobs. 

Regardless of our preparedness no-one knew how long this would last, so whether they were in short-term firefighting mode or seeking long-term adaptation of their models. 

As the dust settled, we came together to share all our learning around home-working good practice, remote meeting etiquette and more, but as the outlook worsened talk turned to Zoom Gloom, cameras started to go off, and by July our good practices were on the backburner while our diaries were crammed with back-to-back scheduled meetings. 

As winter approaches, we may have now settled into working from home, but are we holding ourselves back as we look for a new normal? We’re not going back to our offices for many months yet, and we can’t further postpone the digital projects we need to undertake, so we need to stop fighting to survive, and start planning to succeed in this new world. 

For Project Managers and Project Leads, here are four top tips on how to succeed in this virtual context which isn’t going anywhere fast. 

Project Managers: 

  1. Book in travel time between meetings: a valuable opportunity to process the content of the meeting and to clear our heads. 
  2. Record all demos and training sessions: take advantage of a luxury that we didn’t have before. 
  3. Move to shorter, more frequent collaborationShort and sharp meetings are a good way to ensure everyone is on track and that priorities are set for the day. 
  4. Insist on “video on”: If a picture is worth a thousand words, imagine the value of live video. It holds us accountable and discourages us from multitasking. 

Project Leads: 

  1. The demands on you remain the same, even if your PM isn’t on your shoulderThe supplier is still doing the exact same build, so you will have the same role and responsibilities.   
  2. Be aware of team capacity and performanceIt’s possible that your project team appear to have everything under control but check in on how this is being achieved. 
  3. Lead by exampleRefer to the project plan and make sure that you block out appropriate time in your schedule for busy periods of the project such as discovery, reviewing a specification or UAT. 
  4. Have a strategy to prevent low moraleAs well as checking in on the operational status of the project, check in on how the team are feeling and don’t be afraid to flag this to the Project Manager. 

 

Click here to download the Top tips to plan for project success infographic

 

We’ve recently launched our free (for non-profits) training programme “How to deliver successful projects”  where we will equip you with the skills, knowledge, and Hart Square Project Methodology to ‘do it yourself’ – you will come away with the expertise to deliver your project to success – first time, every time. Find out more here.

The challenge and opportunity of the virtual venue

For many of us, out of necessity we now live our working lives in the virtual world. With the majority, if not all, of communication happening through video calls and emails, “real life” events feel like a distant memory. So how can organisations successfully shift their event programmes into the virtual world?

Like with any new venue, it takes time to figure our way around the space, to uncover how we can best utilise it to achieve our objectives and remain connected to our audiences.

With our event “venue” moving online we have all been on a voyage of discovery in the virtual event space, uncovering the many benefits, and challenges, of our new “virtual venue”.

It’s certainly not a simple lift-and-shift of our in-person event delivery model into an online space, that plainly won’t work. It’s six months now since we were forced into this new world, which looks set to remain in place for the foreseeable future, so how can we ensure we continue to create valuable and memorable events?

Content should arguably be the heart of any event

Content is king should apply as much to events teams as it does to content marketers. However, as we have seen at our conferences, many delegates attend with a key intention of networking with their peers and building new relationships. With that ability to network among delegates being severely restricted, the content of our event is now more important than ever, to attract and engage our audiences.

Within this, we need to ensure we can provide true value to our audience, with even more touch points, engagement and interaction, to build and maintain our relationship with them. Now, more than ever, we need to therefore take the opportunity to uncover what our audience really want, and need, and determine how we can effectively deliver it to them.

Always-on connectivity and smart devices

Technology and the internet have provided us with the ability to connect to anyone at any time, in any location, through a whole host of channels; emails, instant messaging and social media just to name a few. With this level of connectivity, we can interact and deliver content to our audiences on various platforms at different times. This brings with it a whole host of advantages including our events reaching new audiences who aren’t restricted by time or location. Ironically though it doesn’t enable us to create the connectivity between delegates which they so crave.

Now, as many organisations look to take advantage of the freedom from location and physical space offered by a virtual experience, the challenge lies in standing out from the crowd. Webinars are now omnipresent it seems, and where before we would not necessarily have had to compete with international events if our event was taking place in the UK, now perhaps we do. In addition to this, once we have attracted our delegates to join, there are so many distractions available in the online space. How can we minimise the risk of the audience drifting, simply opening their inbox or opening a new tab in their browser and getting stuck into another task? And that’s not to mention online event fatigue!

Time to innovate

To overcome these challenges, we must find new ways to create a memorable experience. Whether this is through the tools we use or the content we deliver, we now have the opportunity to carve out something new – which is both intimidating and exciting.

10 Top Tips for running online workshops

Whether by necessity or design, to keep projects moving most of us are now in a place where we have to run online meetings and workshops.

At Hart Square, we’ve now got 6 months’ experience of helping clients to gather requirements, review business processes, select new technology partners and implement new digital solutions in an online world, so felt it was time to share 10 top tips for running online workshops:

  1. Plan in Regular Breaks: Online sessions can be draining so planning in regular breaks is important especially if they are over 2 hours long. If possible, have a 5 minute stretch after an hour, but appreciate that a “5-minute stretch” can be a 10-minute break!
  2. Take Ownership: Direct your questions around attendees to avoid people feeling left out, and to give them all the opportunity to participate
  3. Be visible: Wherever possible, try to ensure that everyone has their camera on, to build that in-room feeling
  4. Be clear: Consider the lightning and avoid any distractions in the background (not always possible though)
  5. Get involved: Using the chat function for questions through the session is a great way for people to ask questions and get involved
  6. Record: Record the session, with all participants’ permission at the start, to allow you to review the session and refine your notes after
  7. Set clear agenda: Set objectives to allow the session to flow, but be flexible to move the agenda around as the session runs – and ensure the agenda is shared in advance
  8. Choose the right tool: e.g. Teams, Zoom, Skype, Google Meet. Understanding what works best for screen sharing, the chat function, and the number of people involved is critical for a smooth session
  9. Think Numbers: Decide on the optimum number of people (usually between 6 and 8) to allow everyone to participate and to ensure the right level of conversation can flow
  10. Stay calm!: Be prepared for technology disruptions and be ready for this to happen. The internet is overloaded, connection speeds are variable, and there’s little any of us can do about that!
Download the 10 Top Tips for running online workshops infographic 

Delivering a virtual conference in lockdown: APM’s Power of Projects Takeover

When lockdown started in March, Hilary Trahair, Events Manager, Association for Project Management realised very quickly that their summer conference would have to be cancelled.

Whilst a devastating blow, APM knew that they did not want to lose out on all the work that they had put in to the event, so they immediately started looking at virtual options. “We knew we had plenty of good content and the majority of speakers were still really keen to participate in a virtual space, which was very encouraging and gave us the impetus to go forward. The challenge then became how can we transform our successful conference format into a virtual one?” explained Hilary.

They soon realised that they could not just take the existing format and timetable and simply transfer it online.

For a start, there was far too much content for one day, as the event was really three conferences. Instead, they came up the idea of a virtual event that would take place every day from 12noon-2pm over a two week period, abandoning the term conference and renaming the event Power of Projects Takeover.

The extended timeframe meant they didn’t have to try squeeze all the content in one day and gave them the opportunity to create more engagement opportunities. For example, outside of the lunchtime content, they have launched APM’s brand-new community platform, APM Member Hub, which will allow delegates to continue the conversation, ask questions about the content that there was not time for, showcase APM products, such as qualifications and pick on areas of interest for future content, such as blogs. Having an extended timeframe also allows delegate more time to absorb the information being presented to them.

Delivering an excellent virtual delegate experience became the priority and the choice of the technology has been crucial to that process. APM had previously made the decision to use the event app InEvent during the physical conference to allow delegates to create their own agenda on the day, ask questions, take part in interactive polls, set up chats and network.

InEvent then developed their own web based virtual conference functionality and, as Hilary explains, APM chose their product. “InEvent allows delegates to choose the sessions they want to attend and the people they want to chat with. Networking is the one of the key reasons people attend a conference and we wanted to make our event as interactive as possible and more than a series of webinars. InEvent was the most flexible and best value product for us and they have been able to develop new features for us too. You do need to shop round though and do your research as all of these product have different pricing models and you need to very clear about your requirements.”

APM want to make the virtual experience as user friendly and interactive as possible alongside delivering valuable and insightful content.

Using the app, delegates will be able to:

  • View all the sessions in one place
  • Create their own agenda each day, giving them choice and control over the content they want to see
  • Register only once to access sessions for the whole event
  • See who is in the lobby to allow better networking opportunities and invite people to meetings
  • Use multi-devices to engage with the content
  • Download content and take part in polls and ask questions each day

Significantly, the majority of the content will still be live.

They have retained key speakers and delegates will be able to see the speaker talking as well as the content, explains Hilary: “Making the most of the live content is really important to us. We are encouraging speakers to stand up and move around as you would at a conference. Inevitably different people have different styles and levels of experience in delivering online events, so we have needed to coach some people, but everyone is open and enthusiastic to making the most of this event.”

A key difference from the physical conference is that there is no exhibition space to showcase sponsors. After some internal debate, APM has decided not to pursue sponsorship opportunities for this event recognising that it is not as clear cut what the sponsorship value is of a virtual event and sponsors are in a difficult place financially too. Instead they have used the opportunity to focus on more of their own content and use it as an opportunity to engage people in different ways to further their development. Hilary commented: “We have been lucky enough to make this event free which means we will be able to engage with even more people than we would normally, such as non-members and an international audience, an added benefit of a virtual event.”

APM is already thinking about how they can maximise the content of the virtual event afterwards, including offering members the benefit of being able to watch any sessions they may have missed after the event before releasing it into the public domain.

So far nearly 1,000 delegates have registered and APM welcomes anyone is who interested in projects to register for Power of Projects Takeover, which takes places from Monday 1 to Friday 12 June from 12:00pm. It is completely free of charge and open to anyone interested in projects, wherever they are in the world.