Job brief – PHP Developer

Job brief – PHP Developer

We have a career opportunity for a dedicated PHP/MySQL developer. If you are able to write code that you are proud of, then this opportunity might be for you.In addition you should have at least three year’s experience as a developer and be able to work on your own as well as in a group.

Responsibilities

  • Write “clean”, well designed code
  • Produce detailed specifications
  • Troubleshoot, test and maintain the core product software and databases to ensure strong optimization and functionality
  • Contribute in the different phases of the development lifecycle
  • Follow industry best practices
  • Develop and deploy new features to facilitate related procedures and tools if necessary

 

Requirements

  • 2 to 3 years Proven software development experience in PHP
  • Demonstrable knowledge of web technologies including HTML, CSS, Javascript, AJAX etc
  • Good knowledge of relational databases, version control tools and of developing web services
  • Experience in common third-party APIs
  • Passion for best design and coding practices and a desire to develop new bold ideas
  • Fluent in English
  • Knowledge in Yii Framework will be considered an asset

This is a challenge for a programmer who is committed to self- development. Attractive terms and conditions of employment are being offered.

If you are interested in taking up the challenge, send us your CV on hr@ebizmalta.com

VACANCY for an Office Assistant

A post has arisen with an associated company of E-BUSINESS. This full time post is ideal for a person who has successfully completed their A-levels and is keen to develop a career in office administration. The successful candidate will provide administrative support and work proactively on a range of administrative tasks to achieve excellent client service.

The role consists of secretarial duties / general admin support within a busy SME organisation. This will involve handling general correspondence, maintaining filing system, managing diaries, database and website maintenance and undertaking any other general duties to ensure the smooth running of the office.

Candidates with excellent IT skills and proficiency in Microsoft Office systems will be preferred. People skills are important as the selected candidate would be expected to deal efficiently and politely with clients on the telephone and in person, in a supporting role to the companies’ executives.

Skills required:-

*administration skills (need for accuracy and attention to detail);

*Familiarity with business software Microsoft Office – Word, Excel, Outlook (e-mail etc);

*interpersonal and customer skills;

*communication skills, both written and verbal;

*Ability to build rapport with all levels of staff in the business.

*Candidates with A level in accounts will be given preference.”

This is an excellent opportunity to learn and develop a professional approach to administration within the professional services sector. Commitment, flexibility, a willingness to learn and a positive “can-do” approach, will be rewarded.

Attractive terms and conditions will be offered commensurate with the qualifications and level of experience.

Kindly submit your cv to the HR Manager as the following address: hr@credal-malta.com

VACANCY for an Accounts Clerk

The vacancy for an Accounts Clerk has arisen with an associated company of E-BUSINESS. The post is ideal for a student who has successfully completed their A-levels and is keen to develop a career by joining a busy accounting team.

The role requires the candidate to handle a variety of accounting and general admin support tasks which include: – the recording of basic business transactions, maintain general ledger, reconcile bank account statements, invoicing and updating of purchases and sales ledgers and assist the rest of the team in completing statutory accounts up to trial balance stage. Training on specific accounting software will be provided.

Ideally the candidate possess A-level in Accounting and be keen to learn and develop further as the company’s policy is to invest in its employees and would be willing to sponsor studies for the right candidate. A positive “can-do” approach to designated tasks to be carried out, is a definite plus.
Skills Required:
– Microsoft applications
– Good organisational skills
– Punctuality and reliability
– Attention to detail
This vacancy offers a great opportunity for a young person to find themselves a job with a steady income and with the right approach and commitment become a valued member of a growing team by developing their full potential.

Kindly submit your cv to the HR Manager at the following address: hr@credal-malta.com.

Developing and operating an effective staff appraisal system

People are critical to the success of any organisation, large or small. It is people and their ability to devise systems procedures that add value to customers, that drives the success or failure of an organisation. The contribution to the success of the organisation will no doubt vary according to the different individual. Consequently, every organisation needs to learn how to measure the performance of people. Only then can they establish systems and procedures which help people perform better. This improved performance will drive the success of the organisation in its continued challenge to upgrade the quality of the products or services it provides to its customers.
Teckchand and Pichler (2015) confirm that the basis for any effective appraisal system is Trust and Support. They confirm that performance appraisals are a good way to let employees know what is expected from them and how well they are meeting those expectations. However, they content that often the appraisal process leaves both boss and worker dissatisfied. On the basis of the research they carried out, their findings showed that managers who take time outside of the formal performance appraisal process to seek common ground, practice reciprocity, understand their employees and provide informal feedback develop trust and support that enhances workforce productivity. In this context the appraisal system itself, be it computerised or manual, is secondary to the rapport and understanding created between management and staff.
They present a model which calls for trust and support as the basis for developing a quality relationship that ensures that both parties focus on the interests of the firm and its customers. Within that context, the appraisal reactions serve as shared performance objectives, where staff commit to achieve and management agrees to support, the required operational objectives and deliverables. It is within this shared commitment to excel, to look at problems as opportunities to deliver value, at failures as chances to improve, as success as a mutually beneficial experience, that performance appraisal can be effective.
ImageSource: Teckchandani, Atul; Pichler, Shaun; 2015
Not everybody in an organisation is a star performer and not everybody is a poor performer. Management has the obligation to seek out the top performers and provide fast tracks for their growth and development, if not, these people will inevitably leave the organisation. They also need to identify the poor performers who are not committed to their own personal development. These individuals have poor long term prospects in the organisation and their contribution generally is minimal. In many cases, they may have the aptitude or the competency but they lack the mind-set or the attitude to perform. Yet the majority of staff are what may be described as average. They have a desire to be successful and provided they are given the right support and opportunities, they will work to be successful. Nobody chooses to be unsuccessful. Most people who are unsuccessful in an organisation do so because of their own incompetence and/or the incompetence of their superiors who fail to recognise their talents and how these can best be applied to the mutual benefit of the organisation and the individual concerned.
It is within this broader perspective that appraisal systems and procedures need to be designed, developed and implemented. Their objective cannot be to focus on finding failure, on the contrary the focus needs to be on celebrating success and using failures as learning opportunities to improve individual and corporate performance. This is very much in line with the core concepts of the learning organisation developed and promoted by Peter Senge back in the 80s and 90s. Clearly, we are not talking of a fad, or a fashionable approach. The on-going training and development of staff, right across the organisation, from directors, senior managers, down to the most junior of staff, has been shown to be critical to the success of an organisation in coping with and adapting to both continually changing external and internal demands.
There needs to be a commitment from the Directors and Management to such an approach. This needs to be reflected in allocation of resources, both time and money to the design, development and implementation of appraisal systems that respect the above priorities. Within this context, a new breed of Software-as-a-Service appraisal solutions are available which provide the flexibility, automation and ease of use to produce pro-active appraisal reports that help to strengthen collaboration. Such dedicated systems include EB-SES the Staff Evaluation System offered by eBusiness Systems. This is available as a stand-alone solution or may be integrated with one or more of its systems.
This system allows for on-going staff evaluations, doing away with the traditional once in a year review. Typically, staff are required to carry out a self-evaluation of their performance on a quarterly or monthly basis. This evaluation is reviewed and assessed in different ways according to the procedures adopted by the firm. In this way, EB-SES allows for 360 evaluations where individual staff and appraised by their superiors, their colleagues and their subordinates, where relevant. Alternatively it can be set for traditional evaluation of staff on a top-down approach. The profiling routines available in setting up the system allows for subsequent appraisals and evaluations to the level of detail and frequency required by the organisation. The system can be up and running in weeks not months, it is based on low One-Time-Costs for set-up and commissioning and monthly On-Going-Costs for hosting, maintenance etc are based on the number of registered on the system. The data on the staff evaluation database can also be related to the data on the time management database providing management and staff with the powerful combination of data for a full evaluation of processes and results of individuals or teams within the organisation.
Extensive support is available on request, both at HRM level in designing and developing the most appropriate appraisal system for the organisation as well as on a technical basis in setting up and configuring the system.
References:
Teckchandani, Atul; Pichler, Shaun; 2015 “Quality results from performance appraisals”, Industrial Management, July/August 2015, pp 16-20.

Why bother tracking time?

One of the tried and tested truisms in management is that, “if you cannot measure it, then you cannot improve it”. In other words, the fundamental process to improved organisational performance must be based on measurement. Management decisions need to be based on facts, not opinions or guesswork. In addition, the level of detail in the measurement process must be related to the value involved. In other words, one does not spend Eur10 to track a Eur1 event. The cost of control needs to be managed to ensure that there is sufficient detail in the measurement process, without going to the added cost and hassle of getting additional detail that does not add value.

Time tracking is an essential part of time management and, if well planned and implemented, this adds tangible value to any organisation, whatever sector it may be involved in as it ensures that In any service industry, management needs to understand the service delivery process, specifically, who needs to dedicate what time in what sequence to deliver as planned.

Time management more than the installation of punch clocks to track every minute of overtime or time not worked.   Indeed, time management is far more than just attention to proper record keeping. The basis of a modern time management system is first and foremost an IT infrastructure that allows staff to keep track of how they spend their time at work. They should be able to update the system via their smartphone, tablet, laptop or PC wherever they are. The whole purpose of this tracking should be to enable management to easily track what activities take up who’s time within the organisation.

EB-TMS, the time management system offered by E-Business Systems is based on the company’s years of experience in the use of time management systems and the customised development of such systems for a diverse clientele. EB-TMS is ideal for SMEs, or even SME clusters, as it allows members of staff to have one main employer and allocate time spent on activities of different associated or affiliated companies. EB-TMS thus starts off with a definition of the main employer organisation and its associated or affiliated companies. It then allows for a listing of projects or product lines within these organisations, these may be Project Alpha, or Widget Product line, Beta service etc.

EB-TMS then allows for the definition of client firms, and for projects within such firms. It then allows for the definition of tasks within each of the companies and projects. These could be Client meetings, Product Development, Market Research, Credit Control etc. The challenge at this stage is to define tasks that reflect the actual work being carried out. The system typically calls for allocation of time in 15 minute or 30 minute bundles. Its not about catching the exact time of the service or task implementation. The key objective is to track the relative allocation of time to the different companies, projects and tasks by the different members of staff. In this way, staff need to account for their work in 15 or 30 minute slots and charge these slots to the particular company or client, confirming whether this was billable or not, with the option to annotate any time that is charged to clients but is deemed to be non-billable time.

To further enhance the reporting capabilities of the system, EB-IMS allows for the uploading of personal hourly cost and charge-out rates. This allows for the generation of proforma invoices or fee notes tracking time, client, project, task and relevant notes to the required billing period.

EB-TMS provides a user friendly charting and reporting engine which allows authorised users to produce on-the-fly charts to illustrate the results of queries. These could show the percentage time that is chargeable to a client but is not billable for whatever the reason. Reports can be produced to summarise all time allocated by all members of staff to a particular company, client, project or task, or the reports can focus on such an analysis on an individual basis.

EB-TMS is provided on a software-as-service basis, hosted on EBS servers with full back-up and business continuity measures in place. As a web-based system it is available to authorised users 24 x 7 from any location with internet connectivity and external access can further be protected with a two-factor authentication. This will require authorised users to register their cell phone number and this number will be automatically contacted with a security code whenever that user seeks access to the system from outside the company’s Local Area Network.

There is a cost to time management. There is the cost of staff uploading the details of their time allocations. There is the cost of management analysing and using the data. All this is set off with the benefit of knowing how time is being spent and being able to monitor and improve its allocation. It serves as a powerful tool to ensure that each task is being carried out by the appropriate person. This helps to reduce the chance of having senior personnel spend time on activities which their subordinates could do or which is not billable.

EB-IMS is a time management that helps clients improve their billing process, ensuring that all time is tracked and billable time is charged for appropriately. Inevitably is forces management to question the time being spent by staff on unproductive activities or time that is allocated needlessly to overhead administration. This increases the time for billable activities and this increases profitability.

Encouraging feedback from MBR Finance & Investment Forum

The participation of eBusiness Systems in the MBR Finance & Investment Forum held on the 17th June 2016 at the Laguna Suite at SMART City was another success in the company’s efforts to showcase its products and services to the local financial service industry. The Forum provided financial and investment services practitioners and entities with the opportunity to keep updated with developments taking place in the industry both locally and internationally.

 

eBusiness Systems participated in the Exhibition held in tandem with the Forum and focused on the promotion of three of its innovative web-based applications which can be subscribed to separately or integrated on a single platform:-

EB-DMS – a private document sharing solution essential for clients that wish to provide their customers with an added level of security in the client-customer communications area. Earlier this year, the latest version of this application was released providing users with additional security and improved ease of use in uploading documents to be shared.

EB-TMS – time tracking system that enables the investment management firms to better track time spent by employees on particular client accounts or portfolios allowing for more accurate calculation of client profitability and proforma billing for clients billed on a time basis. This has been operational for the last five years with the latest release launched earlier this year.

EB-IMS – investments management system which is designed to cater for the more demanding and discerning of investment service providers in meeting the needs for the more professional and sophisticated investors. With 2-Factor security, extensive internal controls and protocols, EB-IMS facilitates the operation of professional investment services to higher levels and standards of corporate governance. This has now been deployed for more than three years and provides various options for set-up and use by fund houses and investment managers. The current version 1.2 provides various high security features that enable Clients using the system to offer added value to their customers.

Thanks to all those participants at the Finance & Investments Forum who visited our Exhibition Stand to get to know more about solutions. For more details on our range of business productivity solutions, contact us office@ebizmalta.com

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The Minister for the Economy, Investment and Small Business of Malta, Dr. Christian Cardona in discussion with company director Stephen P. D’Alessandro at the eBusiness Malta Exhibition Stand.

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The directors providing a live demo of EB-IMS, the investments management system, to an accounting professional visiting the eBusiness Systems Stand.

eBusiness Systems at Finance & Investments Forum 2016

eBusiness Systems has announced its participation in the exhibition to be held as part of the forthcoming Finance & Investments Forum scheduled for the 17Th June 2016 at the Laguna Suite at SMART City Malta. The Forum provides financial and investment services practitioners and entities with the opportunity to keep updated with developments taking place in the industry both locally and internationally. The top calibre of the participants reflects the importance being given to this event.

Accompanying the Forum, will be a Exhibition in which service providers will be available to discuss their latest product and service offerings. eBusiness Systems will be showcasing three of its innovative web-based applications at the Conference:-

EB-DMS – a private document sharing solution essential for clients that wish to provide their customers with an added level of security in the client-customer communications area.

EB-TMS – time tracking system that enables the investment management firms to better track time spent by employees on particular client accounts or portfolios allowing for more accurate calculation of client profitability and proforma billing for clients billed on a time basis.

EB-IMS – investments management system which is designed to cater for the more demanding and discerning of investment service providers in meeting the needs for the more professional and sophisticated investors. With 2-Factor security, extensive internal controls and protocols, EB-IMS facilitates the operation of professional investment services to higher levels and standards of corporate governance.

These systems can be taken separately or integrated on the EB-IMS platform. A special offer is being launched during the Exhibition to those who register their interest in any of the systems. This is the provision of the EB-DMS or EB-TMS for a complimentary period of three months. In addition, any orders for EB-IMS before the end of June will include the waiver of on-going operating costs for EB-DMS and or EB-TMS for 2016.

At the eBusiness Systems exhibition booth, interested parties can see the software applications live and set-up individual presentations to establish the appropriateness of the systems to their requirements.

Excellent feedback to EB-IMS from FinanceMalta Annual Conference

“The participation of eBusiness Systems in the 9th FinanceMalta Annual Conference held yesterday at the Malta Hilton International was a great success.” This was confirmed by the company’s Director, Mr. Stephen P. D’Alessandro who continued by saying, “Our participation provided us with the opportunity to take showcase our product to the key decision makers in the local financial service industry. The high calibre of the exhibitors reflects the importance of the event within the industry.”

EB-IMS is the investments management system developed by eBusiness Systems. This has now been deployed for more than three years and provides various options for set-up and use by fund houses and investment managers. The current version 1.2 provides various high security features that enable Clients using the system to offer added value to their customers.

Thanks to all those participants at the Finance Malta 9th Annual Conference, held on the 26th May 2016 at Malta Hilton International, who visited our Exhibition Stand to get to know more about EB-IMS, our investments management system. For more details on this and other business productivity solutions, contact us office@ebizmalta.com

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eBusiness Systems at FinanceMalta Annual Conference – 26th May 2016

eBusiness Systems has announced its participation in the exhibition to be held as part of the forthcoming 9th FinanceMalta Annual Conference scheduled for the 26th May 2016 at the Malta Hilton Conference Centre. The annual FinanceMalta conference provides financial services practitioners and entities with the opportunity to keep updated with developments taking place in the financial services sector both locally and internationally in order to achieve and maintain a high level of excellence in their daily work practices and methodologies.

This year’s theme is ‘Malta’s Financial Services Industry – Sustaining Growth through Innovation’ and the FinanceMalta conference will be chaired by Mr. Kenneth Farrugia, FinanceMalta Chairman, and will feature select local and international experts who will address delegates on current topics affecting the financial services industry.

An integral part of innovation is the manner in which technology is used to leverage the competitive advantages of a firm or to reduce the operational risks undertaken by a firm. eBusiness Systems will be showcasing three of its innovative web-based applications at the Conference:-

EB-DMS – a private document sharing solution essential for clients that wish to provide their customers with an added level of security in the client-customer communications area.

EB-IMS – investments management system which is designed to cater for the more demanding and discerning of investment service providers in meeting the needs for the more professional and sophisticated investors. With 2-Factor security, extensive internal controls and protocols, EB-IMS facilitates the operation of professional investment services to higher levels and standards of corporate governance.

EB-TMS – time tracking system that enables the investment management firms to better track time spent by employees on particular client accounts or portfolios allowing for more accurate calculation of client profitability and proforma billing for clients billed on a time basis.

These systems can be taken separately or integrated on the EB-IMS platform. A special offer is being launched during the Exhibition to those who register their interest in any of the systems. This is the provision of the EB-DMS or EB-TMS for a complimentary period of three months. In addition, any orders for EB-IMS before the end of June will include the waiver of on-going operating costs for EB-DMS and or EB-TMS for 2016.

At the eBusiness Systems exhibition booth, interested parties can see the software applications live and set-up individual presentations to establish the appropriateness of the systems to their requirements.

For more information on FinanceMalta log on to their website: http://www.financemalta.org/

Putting the Principles of the Agile Manifesto into practice

We embarked on a process of Agile software development more than three years ago. It was a challenging conversion in the early days, but today, we wonder at how we managed to operate without the Agile principles. These are set out in www.agilemanifesto.org the official Agile software development site which provides really useful tools for Agile practitioners. In a recent internal exercise we decided to review our success or failure in the implementation of the twelve core principles of Agile development.

  1. Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.

Getting the customer to understand that our software delivery is not a single upload, but in fact consists of a series of deliverables which need their feedback and input to complete is an on-going challenge. Clients like being involved in the process, but all too often have not spent enough time, or do not have the resources available, to define internal systems and procedures accurately enough. Its all the many exceptions to the rule that create the programming challenges and difficulties, and this needs a deep analysis of the different operating scenarios by the client.

  1. Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage.

Change is the one variable that one is sure of whenever embarking on a software development or even a software customisation programme. Internally, our team of developers has risen to challenge and their positive can-do approach has been critical to the successful implementation of Agile within our organisation. The difficulty that we face all too often is for the client to realise the consequences of change. Everything is possible, but every change comes at a price. What may seem to the customer a simple addition of another variable, my mean a complete re-write of the core engine to deal with potential conflicts in data which may arise on the introduction of such a new variable. Costing such impacts to change, is difficult, so clients need grant some latitude in this.

  1. Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale.

This is where we have been particularly fortunate in the level of support we have got from clients in their on-boarding of the frequent software updates as opposed to the single software implementation after a significant software development period. Customers see the benefit this affords them in being able to make changes as the system itself is developing, often being able to address conflicts and ambiguities that arise in the programming process but which were not adequately addressed in the planning period.

  1. Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project.

Getting collaboration from clients and developers has proved to be a major success. Clients realise that ultimately they are the real beneficiaries of the collaboration, and our developers realise that without the client’s collaboration we cannot understand their requirements and deal with the many issues and concerns so often related to a software development or customisation project. To create the win-win environment that is critical to the successful development of long term collaboration, we modified our billing policy to ensure that we could offer clients reduced rates on those developments being finalised with their involvement and which we could then share with other clients.

  1. Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.

With or without Agile development, its all about people. You need to have positive, motivated and driven people in the team. Agile development puts pressure on getting people to work to the highest standards. It encourages people in the team to search for best practices and adopt them wherever suitable. This calls for confident developers who can work in a team and know how to share knowledge. This transfer of knowledge within the team is probably one of the key benefits of Agile development as it helps to create the environment where sharing and mutual collaboration to attain common goals is the norm. Good motivated people needs the right tools and they need the space to work. There needs to be a culture which encourages experimentation and rigorous on-going quality assurance as the safety net to protect customers’ interests.

  1. The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.

Face to face meetings are essential to build and nurture a culture of teamwork and collaboration. But, meetings need to be managed. They need to be carefully planned, scheduled at sensible times, and run efficiently to ensure that enough time is given to discussion, but control is kept to avoid discussions needless wandering out of subject. We found that mixing face-to-face physical meetings with the client at our offices or at the client’s premises was just as important as including video-conference face-to-face meetings with clients. Our approach is now that general discussions, or specific detailed discussions need to be carried out at the clients premises or at our offices, preferably the latter as we can ensure that there are less interruptions. On-going feedback, tweaking of issues, or discussion of minor points that may be holding up development, these can be dealt with very efficiently via video conferencing.

  1. Working software is the primary measure of progress.

This is the reason for our being. We need to deliver software solutions that add value to our clients. Each deliverable component adds value to the client. Whether it is an enhanced user interface, an improved computation routine, a more detailed internal data audit, or a general system security upgrade – all add value to the client. In reality, not all the deliverables are visible to the client, and some of the most important deliverables, such as those related to security, will not be noticed by the client. It is our responsibility to keep the client informed of what is being done on their behalf and what deliverables come on-stream.

  1. Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.

The aspect of sustainability is core to a commitment to Agile which facilitates on-going development and the leverage of knowledge to shorten the learning and implementation processes. Particularly from a client’s point of view, this aspect of Agile development is totally against the traditional tender system seeking the cheapest product. Clients need to be more discerning in their selection of service providers, focusing on long term collaborations that may not be the cheapest, but which add the most value to their organisation. The continued collaboration ensures that lessons learned in the past are not forgotten, but are implemented in the on-going developments. Continued collaboration builds on the positive experiences and shared achievements.

  1. Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility.

This calls for a culture of on-going learning and development. Being a learning organisation is a source of competitive advantage, but it does not just happen. It calls for the selection of qualified and competent staff who realise that they best job security is their competence and expertise. Whilst management needs to see to the allocation of time and resources to ensure that the team is involved in on-going practice development, staff need to be prepared to invest in their own future and seek opportunities for continued learning and growth. We have found that the broad range of international on-line specialised training courses and resources provide a flexible and cost-effective platform on which to base such an approach.

  1. Simplicity–the art of maximizing the amount of work not done–is essential.

Its not easy to make things simple. In fact, bringing simplicity down the end-user often involves tremendous levels of sophistication and complexity at a design and programming stage. The reality is that today’s challenges are quite complex and often across different operational sectors of a firm, be they areas of administration, front-line or back-office support, finance, research and development etc. Creating simple interfaces that are intuitive to users and allow for easy learning and operations is a challenge when the tasks and operations involved could be so complicated with different variables coming into play at different levels of risk. The best applications are all too often those which the user finds so simple, so easy, so reliable to use. In such circumstances, users often do not realise the complexity of the underlying operations that the software or application performs.

  1. The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.

Design is critical at all stages of the software development and implementation process. Understanding the long term requirements of the solution are thus fundamental to allow for the use of the most appropriate architecture and within that architecture design and build-in functionality that adds value and meets the clients expectations. Design cannot be top-down. Developers involved in the client interaction also need to have their say in the design process. Their focus on the simple most effective interface to clients is essential. The objective is not the develop the most technically advanced solution, the objective is to harness the level of technology that is appropriate to provide the client with the set of deliverables required within the timeframes and budgets agreed upon.

  1. At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behaviour accordingly.

Self-analysis and self-criticism are very good habits to develop. The team needs to learn how to criticise each other without being personal, how to identify project or sub-project failure early and use this as a learning experience to improve quality.  The structured format of the Agile approach to software development provides time for the retrospective analysis. Yet making the most of this time calls for an open style of leadership which is ready to admit and fix its faults and a development team that is continually looking at opportunities to improve its performance. This never ending challenge for improvement is one of the most important legacies of the Agile approach because it focuses the attention of the team on the future, using the past as a reference for continued development.

In summary, our experience with Agile development has been very positive and a confirmation of the relevance and importance of the twelve principles to its successful implementation. As a customer-driven organisation that deals with on-going development and customisation of systems to meet the evolving demands of a discerning corporate clientele it is relevant to note that Agile development requires the collaboration of the client. Clients need to recognise the importance of leveraging technology to improve their services to their customers and they too need to commit resources to optimisation of developments.

Effective elearning practices in corporate environments

Over the past years, Elearning has become a popular buzz word. Yet, it is a word that is bandied about so loosely and with very different meanings for so many different people. At the broadest level elearning is about accessing a website and downloading learning materials, be they documents, pod casts, video streams whatever. Technically, this would be an on-line repository, or if it was more than just a set of on-line directories with downloadable files, then it would be best described as a virtual learning environment. At the top end of the virtual learning environments are the true learning platforms which allow the sharing of rich content materials and for interactive learning experiences.

It is the level of inter-activeness that is critical to the success of elearning in general. Within the corporate environment, where cost-benefit is rational basis for investment decisions, the effectiveness of training needs to be measured. E-learning provides a cost-effective return on in-house training and development since it allows for the development of standard plain vanilla self-learning programmes as well as the more complex and sophisticated collaborative or interactive learning programmes.

Regrettably this variation in use of the term, has led to a poor understanding of what it takes to develop an effective corporate elearning system.

Programme Interactivity

Interaction has long been considered as being a crucial element in education (e.g. Anderson and Garrison 1998; Miyazoe and Anderson 2010). Studies conducted in schools and universities (e.g. Su et al. 2005; Chang and Smith 2008) have emphasized the importance of social interactions (i.e. between people) to foster learning. Educational interactions have been defined as “reciprocal events with at least two actions and two objects mutually influencing one another” (Wagner 1994). This ties in with the basic concept developed by Moore (1989) who described three main types of interaction, which are crucial for success in online courses:

(1) Learner–content interaction. The provision of on-line materials alone is usually not enough for learning. Students need to engage with the content purposefully, they need to be challenged and stimulated by the content and the supporting learning activities. Online course participants tend to rank learner–content interactions highly (Kellogg and Smith 2009; Rhode 2009; Miyazoe and Anderson 2010). In an adult learning environment, experience shows that there are different levels of motivation by students. At one end of the spectrum are students are interested in getting the very basic knowledge they require and these seek easy to refer to course content that typically allows them to dip in and take what they require. At the other end of the spectrum as students who seek deep knowledge and expertise in the subject. These expect to have extensive analysis and references to enable them to delve as deeply into the topic as possible.

(2) Learner–learner interaction. While some online students appreciate opportunities to work and share ideas with their peers (Su et al. 2005; Chang and Smith 2008), others feel that these are tangential (Kellogg and Smith 2009; Rhode 2009). In an adult learning environment, experience has shown that the more senior the programme and the more diverse and relevant is the work experience of the students, the more value is given to peer interactions.

(3) Learner–teacher interaction. Instructors are regarded as experts in the subject they teach. Thus, communication with them has a high perceived value amongst learners (Anderson 2003; Su et al. 2005; Rhode 2009). In an adult learning environment, the calibre of the teacher/tutor is instrumental. Students expect to interact with a teacher/tutor who not only is knowledgeable in the particular subject but has ‘real-world’ experience that is relevant to their own queries and challenges. Experience shows that these students value the interactivity as it enables them to deal with personal queries or issues that they have and which they can then refer back to their work environment to their benefit.

Based on Moore’s (1989) taxonomy, Anderson (2003) developed the interaction equivalency theorem, which establishes that deep, meaningful learning can be supported as long as one of the three types of interaction (learner–content, learner–learner or learner–teacher) is present at a high level. The other two forms can be offered in a minimal degree, or omitted, without decreasing the quality of learning.

Training effectiveness

Whilst the interaction equivalency theorem focuses on learning and provides a humanistic approach to learning, corporate programmes require other indicators to validate their effectiveness. Kirkpatrick (1979) created the most widely used framework for training evaluation. Applying this four step framework, the success of an online programme can be judged by:-

(1) Reactions: The level of satisfaction of the participants with the programme;

(2) Learning: The level of acquisition of knowledge or skills acquired by participants;

(3) Behaviours: The extent to which the acquired knowledge is applied directly in the workplace, also known as knowledge transfer.

(4) Results: The level of improvement in the broader dependable variables in the organisation such as increased sales, improved quality, higher productivity and reduced costs.

Corporate Value Added

Getting value for money from elearning in a corporate environment calls for a strategic approach to ensure that programmes are designed, developed and implemented in a way that allows for sustainable up-dating and upgrading. The tremendous opportunities presented by elearning are primarily based on the ease with which elearning platforms allow for harmonised, company-wide training and development, ensuring that the same consistent messages are given right across the organisation, irrespective of the department, the location and the country. Effective elearning corporate solutions cannot be outsourced as this often results in theoretically correct materials that are not congruent with organisational practices. Effective elearning in the corporate environment calls for strategic alliances between the client, the course content developers and the elearning service provider. Such collaboration provides stimulating, relevant training materials that encourage participants to engage in learning and to seek continued learning and development within the organisation.

Sources:

Anderson, T. 2003. “Getting the Mix Right Again: An Updated and Theoretical Rationale for Interaction.” International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning 4 (2). Accessed May 23, 2013. http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/149/230

Anderson, T., and D. R. Garrison. 1998. “Learning in a Networked World: New Roles and Responsibilities.” In Distance learners in higher education, edited by C. Gibson, 97–112. Madison, WI: Atwood Publishing.

Chang, S.-H. H., and R. A. Smith. 2008. “Effectiveness of Personal Interaction in a Learner-Centered Paradigm Distance Education Class Based on Student Satisfaction.” Journal of Research on Technology in Education 40 (4): 407–426.

Kellogg, D. L., and M. A. Smith. 2009. “Student-To-Student Interaction Revisited: A Case Study of Working Adult Business Student in Online Courses.” Decision Sciences Journal of Innovative Education 7 (2): 433–456.

Kirkpatrick, D. 1979. “Techniques for Evaluating Training programs.” Training and Development Journal 33 (6): 78–92.

Miyazoe, T., and T. Anderson. 2010. “Empirical Research on Learners’ Perceptions: Interaction Equivalency Theorem in Blended Learning.” European Journal of Open, Distance and ELearning. Accessed May 23, 2013. http://www.eurodl.org/?article=397

Moore, M. G. 1989. “Three Types of Interaction.” The American Journal of Distance Education 3 (2): 1–6.

Rhode, J. F. 2009. “Interaction Equivalency in Self-Paced Online Learning Environments: An Exploration of Learner Preferences.” International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning 10 (1). Accessed May 23, 2013. http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/viewArticle/603/1178

Su, B., C. J. Bonk, R. J. Magjuka, X. Liu, and S. Lee. 2005. “The Importance of Interaction in Web-Based Education: A Program-Level Case Study of Online MBA courses.” Journal of Interactive Online Learning 4 (1): 1–19.

Wagner, E. D. 1994. “In Support of a Functional Definition of Interaction.” The American Journal of Distance Education 8 (2): 6–26.

Upgrading of document management system – EB-DMS

Earlier this month we issued clients with the new release of our web-based document management system, EB-DMS. This secure web-based solution enables clients to manage shared documents with registered third parties, be they customers, suppliers or consultants etc. The new version comes complete with a two factor authentication system. This requires users to register for the service and provide the number of a valid cell phone service they have access to. In this way, once they enter their username and password on the EB-DMS portal, the system will automatically send a verification code to the registered cell phone number. This number will then have to be entered to complete the access requirements of the system.

DMS

As in earlier versions, EB-DMS allows clients to set-up and manage folders. This simple process allows them to create different folders and give different access rights to different user groups. This latest version of EB-DMS has improved meta-data tracking allowing clients to better monitor the manner in which the system is being used and the manner in which stored documents are being shared and utilised.

EB-DMS is not an on-line archiving system, although clients tend to use this for archiving of shared project data, or multi-party projects ensuring that all parties have access to the shared documents concerned. EB-DMS is designed particularly to assist clients requiring secure sharing of different types of documents for on-going projects or assignments.

This private secure on-line document repository reduces risks of confidentiality breeches so common in the transfer of files via simple email attachments. The software-as-a-service solution can be set-up via EB-DMS portal hosted on EBS secure servers. It can also be accessed via a simple link through the client’s own website. Arrangements can also be made to accommodate clients which require the service hosted on their own servers. For more information please contact admin@ebizmalta.com

SMEs need to invest more in technology to better leverage their strengths

An influential Australasian journal last year published an excellent article by Bradshaw, Pulakanam & Cragg in which the authors showed how their extensive research demonstrated that many small and medium enterprises (SMEs) depend on consultants to overcome knowledge barriers, especially for IT projects. Their research showed the extent to which IT consultants affect the IT knowledge of SMEs when IT consultants and SMEs interact. Data were collected using face-to-face interviews with both IT consultants and SME managers. Their study identified what and how SMEs learn from consultants during an IT implementation project. They concluded that consultants help SMEs gain different types of knowledge, employing a broad range of knowledge sharing mechanisms. Furthermore, as consultants are an important part of the knowledge creation processes of SMEs, SMEs should strive to form long-term relationships with consultants and use these interactions to develop IT knowledge within the SME.

This fits in very closely with my own experience, both in managing SME organisations which require ICT support, and in managing an ICT service provider giving support to SMEs. In my experience SMEs seem to adopt two different approaches towards ICT (information, communications and technology). Some SMEs which look at ICT as an opportunity to add value would look at such expenses as investments. I refer to these as the IT-savy firms. Other firms do not look at ICT as providing opportunities for growth and development, but look at these as costs which had to be incurred to run the business. These I refer to as Non-IT-savy firms. The difference in approach between the two groups is obvious.

The first group, the IT savy firms, are keen to get the best return on their investment. As Bradshow et al. found in their research,  these look for long term business relationships with their ICT service providers. They seek on-going business relationships to avoid having repeated learning curves and to ensure that their ICT service providers knew about their organisations and their particular challenges. The non-IT-savy firms are focused on minimising their costs of ICT. They focus on their current budget and the all-important priority of not exceeding budgetary spend. Inevitably, they seek the cheapest service providers and products, determined to set minimum specifications and get the lowest price for any ICT service or product. These firms tend to work with multiple ICT service providers and change firms often in search of the lowest cost. Yet, in their search for the lowest cost they fail to realise that because they do not have a long term business relationship with their ICT service providers, there is no mutual interest in the accomplishment of any project. Because the service provider has already been squeezed on the project price and deliverables, the non-IT-savy firms introduce a focus on cost rather than value.

Added value is the key to survival and growth. Rather than focusing on the minimisation of ICT costs, SMEs need to look at optimisation of ICT investments to provide a basis for improved productivity or service to internal or external customers. The basis for improved customer service is recognised as being to get the right information to the right person at the right time and in the right format. This is a tremendous challenge for any organisation, large or small. Needless to say the more complex is the organisation, the more difficult is the challenge of sharing information internally and externally with suppliers and customers.

All too often SMEs focus on cost reduction rather than value creation. This approach blinds them to the value that many modern systems such as customer relationship management or time management can deliver to an organisation. Rather than see the added value that these systems deliver, and the improved performance of the organisation, they focus on the new investment require or the additional operating costs involved.

ICT investments can be a bottomless pit, so its not about blind investment in all the latest systems and equipment. SMEs need to focus on developing long term relationships with ICT service providers that do not merely sell an ICT product or deliver an ICT service. SMEs need to work with ICT service providers that are strategic in their approach. SMEs need service providers which can give them the benefit of their experience and expertise, enabling SMEs to leverage technology to perform better, thereby making it easier for front-line staff to win and keep more customers.

Bradshaw, Adrian; Pulakanam, Ventateswarlu; Cragg, Paul; 2015 “Knowledge sharing in IT consultant and SME interactions”, Australasian Journal of Information Systems, Vol. 19, pp. S197-S217

We are hiring – Marketing Executive

A post has arisen with an associated company of E-BUSINESS. This full time post is ideal for a person who has successfully completed their undergraduate degree in marketing, or has similar professional qualifications in Marketing, and is keen to get hands-on experience and develop their career in marketing. The successful candidate will provide marketing and marketing research support on a range of client products and services.

The main activities would be marketing research, planning of marketing campaigns, product research, competitor research and content creation. The selected candidate will be working in a small team and reporting to the Director.

Candidates with previous overseas experience, such as ERASMUS assignments, will be given preference, as will those with excellent IT skills.

This is an excellent opportunity for someone seeking to grow into a marketing and business development role within the professional services sector.

Commitment, flexibility, a willingness to learn and a positive “can-do” approach, will be rewarded.

Skills required

  • Marketing skills with a clear focus on being a customer-driven organisation and the implications of such a commitment;
  • Familiarity with business software Microsoft Office – Word, Excel, Outlook (e-mail etc) and marketing research tools such as SPSS and on-line survey tools;
  • Excellent interpersonal and customer skills;
  • Strong communication skills, both written (particularly report writing) and verbal;
  • Ability to build rapport with all levels of staff in the business.

Kindly submit your cv to the HR Manager as the following address: hr@tcin.com

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