Monthly Archive for April, 2020

What is Virtual Online Training?

Virtual Learning

 

Not classroom training and not just a normal online training course, what exactly is Virtual Online Training and what are its specific benefits?

 

Virtual training is an online, interactive classroom where people meet live in order to learn. Although the session is live, the Trainer and all learners take part from separate locations. Participants engage in learning activities and interact with the Trainer/Facilitator, as well as each other. Virtual Training simulates the classroom environment, allowing Trainer instruction, group discussion, individual questions and practice exercises, all in real time. The key difference is that learners can participate from anywhere in the world.

 

The benefits of Virtual Training are:

 

Live Trainer: Questions can be asked in real time and as they occur, in context. The Trainer can react to learners’ requirements and vary session pace and re-visit areas of the Training if required. They can also provide expert help in the subject area, relating it to the particular requirements of the learners. This means the training is a dialogue rather than a monologue.

 

Learn from anywhere: Training that does not have the location limitations of a traditional classroom provides increased convenience. A team may be widely distributed geographically and unable to meet easily, but training takes place in one virtual classroom. There they can interact with one another and learn together.

 

Flexibility: Virtual training allows options not available in the traditional classroom setting. Since all participants, including the Trainer, will be working from home, training start and finish times can be much more easily varied to suit particular Teams or organisations. Sessions can be shortened, lengthened or even delivered in a series, since travel and logistics are not a concern.

 

Cost Effective: There are no additional expenses to pay for travel, meals and accommodation, or the cost of an outside Trainer coming on-site. Virtual training is budget friendly and time-saving, because training rooms do not need to be reserved and extra equipment is not required for the training. As learners do not lose time travelling it allows training with a minimal disruption to productivity.

 

Fits current working styles: Virtual Training is highly compatible with the way people currently work and learn. It is suited to how people use IT equipment and devices at work and in their home. Virtual training can also include a variety of online tools to disseminate training content and materials easily. These materials can also be provided in different formats that meet a diverse range of learning styles.

 

Increases Participation & Engagement: Counter-intuitively, Virtual Training can provide more opportunities for participation and engagement than even traditional classrooms do. Learners can interact through chat features, which can allow learners not as comfortable with interacting in-person an opportunity to contribute they would not normally have. Chat facilities also allow for questions that cannot be dealt with immediately to be noted and answered at the end of the session or later. Sharing features and facilities in the virtual classroom can allow learners to collaborate and connect. in new ways.

 

Motivates by Relating Training specifically to Learner’s Jobs: A virtual training course can be customised to fit the level of experience, current projects and the learning goals of a team. It can be tailored to fit their day-to-day activities This can motivate learners who, perhaps initially, can’t see how training will benefit them. In the virtual environment, it is much easier to look at real work examples, as Learners will, for the large part, using the same machines they normally work on. This also allows the immediate application of anything learned, which will engage and motivate and learners, and let them see the relevance of the training to their jobs.

 

Although Webinars can also include the use of presentation slides, text chat, webcam, whiteboards used like flip-charts and other online facilities, virtual Training is much, much more than a webinar. In some areas, it even has advantages on traditional Classroom training.

5 Top Online Kanban Boards

In the final part of our look at Kanban, we are looking at the online Kanban Board apps that you can start using today. We have looked at the many, many alternatives available and come up with our Top 5 (in no particular order) Online Kanban Board Apps.

 

Planners Collage
1. Microsoft Planner
MS Planner is Microsoft’s version of an online Kanban Board. It Integrates effortlessly with other Office 365 apps, which is a big plus, but it does require an Office 365 Business Premium, Business Essentials, or Enterprise account. It is not available as a standalone app, or with any other version of Office. Columns in Planner are called buckets. It has a Charts view, which can show a summary of tasks that are Not Started, In Progress and Complete and a breakdown of tasks assigned to each team member as well. Microsoft Planner does not have filtering tools, a search bar, timer, or swim lanes.
2. Trello
Trello is possibly the best-known Kanban alternative to Microsoft Planner. Setup is relatively simple and does not require a large amount of information. Any member of the Team can create new boards, which can be named to suit particular projects. Cards can be filtered with coloured labels. Trello offers integration with a variety of applications and there are mobile apps for iOS and Android. It doesn’t have built in reporting, but, overall Trello is easy to use and offers one of the most generous free packages.
3. Asana
Asana is a both a project and task management. It allows the assignment of tasks, a view of progress and even conversations all in one place. Asana looks good and is feature rich. Notes and attachments can be shared, tasks can be followed or ‘liked’ and due dates added. Asana integrates with Dropbox, Hipchat and Zendesk among others. Apart from the Kanban board view, Asana does allow tasks and projects to be displayed in list, calendar or file view, but some features, including much of the project management functionality is available only in the paid for versions. The free version works for up to 15 users.
4. KanbanFlow
KanbanFlow a very simple, uncluttered Kanban tool. Like the other apps here you can add lists and cards and customize card colour. Swim lanes can be included to divide the board into sections. The cards are also simply designed, but subtasks can be added and it is possible to set estimated time for a particular task. This ties into KanbanFlow’s built-in Pomodoro timer. This allows you to set a timer running whilst completing a particular task and will even remind you to take a break. KanbanFlow is then able to provide reports on the time the teams spend in work. it is free for 2 boards and users.
5. GoodDay
Like the other apps here GoodDay offers an online Kanban dashboard. The difference is GoodDay also has tools for task progress, milestones achieved, and employee activities. It offers project planning and even Gantt charts, making it an almost full project management solution. It is free for up to 25 project members with 1 GB of storage.

The Kanban Method

 

Kanban 4As we said in the last blog, using a Kanban board is not quite as simple as just creating the board. putting cards onto it, then simply moving them around. The Kanban Method, which is outlined by David J Anderson in his book “Kanban: Successful Evolutionary Change for Your Technology Business” outlines a number of principles for managing and improving the flow of work.

 
The Kanban Method
Kanban is described as an evolutionary, non-disruptive method. This sounds complicated, but it basically is a simple principle. Evolutionary means that the idea is to start where you are. Start using the Kanban method directly with the system currently in place. Then small, incremental changes should be made, that will gradually help the system ‘evolve’, promoting gradual improvements to an organization’s processes. These small changes can be suggested and implemented by anyone and, in fact, this should be encouraged. This is why the method is also ‘non-disruptive’ and will avoid resistance within a team or organisation. There is no move to a brand new, wholly different system all at once, with all the associated difficulties of doing that.

 
Once the Kanban method is effectively applied, it should provide a number of benefits including:

 

  • Improving the flow of work
  • Reducing cycle time
  • Providing greater predictability

 
Implementing Kanban

Kanban is implemented by following a number of steps:

 

  1. Visualise your Workflow
  2. Limit work in progress
  3. Manage Flow

 
Visualising your Workflow
This is the first and most fundamental step. Work and processes need to visualised on a Kanban Board (this can be physical or electronic). Depending on how complex the work processes and whether there are different work-types involved, the Kanban board may be very simple right through to extremely complex. Once the board is in place, however, the current work of the team or organisation can be clearly visualised.

 

The cards on the board (again, whether physical or electronic) can be simple, or may be different colours (different types of work, perhaps), or, swim lanes can also be used. It is a good idea to keep the board as simple as possible to start with. The design of the board can evolve and grow, as the work-processes themselves do.
Limit Work-in-Progress.

 
Once work-flow is visualised, work-in-progress (WIP) should be limited. A team should be encouraged to complete ongoing work before beginning any new work. They should STOP STARTING and START FINISHING. Kanban is a ‘Pull-system’, so new work should only be started when there is capacity to do so and can be ‘pulled’. Setting WIP limits may not be easy at first, but it is possible to start with no WIP limits in place, observe the initial work in progress as a team starts to use Kanban, and then halve the average of each stage (column) of WIP to arrive at a limit.

 
A WIP Limit is usually 1 to 1.5 times the number of people working in a specific stage. Putting WIP limits on each column helps team members finish what they are doing before starting anything new. It also communicates clearly that there is limited capacity to do work for any team.

 

 

Manage Flow
After defining your workflow and limiting WIP, there will either be a smooth flow of work, or work will start to be held up at one or more points. When this happens, the system should be analysed and adjustments made to improve flow, so as to reduce the time it takes to complete each piece of work.

 
Workflow should be observing to see how long items stay in waiting stages (i.e. “Doing”). Reducing the time spent in these wait stages reduces overall Cycle Time. With improved flow, work becomes smoother and more predictable and reliable commitments can be made to your customers. The main objective is the smooth flow of work from start to completion.

 
The beauty of Kanban is that it is very simple, but, to work effectively, it requires that its principles be applied in a methodical manner.

 
Please come back for our next blog which compares online Kanban options.

What is Kanban?

Kanban

 

At the time of writing the UK is currently in lockdown and planning and coordinating your team’s work is becoming more and more difficult. There are many online tools to help, but where to start? And  when you’ve chosen one, how do you use it effectively?

 

Over the next three blogs, we’ll be looking at this very subject. We start by covering exactly what the ‘Kanban’ method is.

 


Kanban is a Japanese term that means “Signboard” or “Billboard”

 

Kanban 2

 

 

The first Kanban system was developed for Toyota by Taiichi Ohno, an Industrial Engineer. It started as a simple planning system to control and manage work and inventory in manufacturing. It drastically increased productivity, efficiency and productivity and became widely adopted.

 

Kanban relates to ‘Lean’ and ‘Just in Time’ production. Lean production cuts out waste, whilst ensuring quality and can be applied to all parts of a business; from design, right through to distribution. Costs are cut and the business becomes more efficient and responsive.

 

Kanban as applied to IT, Software development and knowledge work evolved from a 2004 project at Microsoft. (This process is described in the book “Kanban: Successful Evolutionary Change for Your Technology Business” by David J Anderson.) In these areas, the aim is to provide a visual process management system. This will hopefully aid decision-making about what should be done, when it should be done, and, crucially, how much should be done.

 

Kanban Boards

 

A Kanban board is a tool that can be used to implement Kanban for managing work.

 

On a Kanban board, work is shown at various stages in a process.

 

  • Cards are used to represent work items
  • Columns represent stages of the process.

 

Cards are moved from left to right to show progress. if required, a Kanban board may be also be divided into horizontal “swim lanes” representing different kinds of work or different teams involved.

 

In the simplest Kanban board model, there are three columns, as shown in the illustration above:

 

  1. “To Do”: Tasks that are not yet started.
  2. “Doing”: Tasks that are in progress.
  3. “Done”: Tasks that are completed.

 

However, as you might expect Kanban is not quite as simple as creating a board and putting cards onto it. Please come back for our next blog about how the Kanban Method actually works.

The Five Best Things to Do This Easter Holiday

It’s Easter Easter EggsWeekend. The weather is shining but we’re all still on Lockdown. We can’t take a mini-break or even go to the park, so what are we going to do? The good news is there are still plenty of things to do to make this a real Bank Holiday weekend to remember.

 

Here are five things to do (with not a Box-Set in sight) to keep you in the Bank Holiday Spirit:

 

1. Tour Historic Buildings and Museums
You may not be able to get to them, but it’s still possible to virtually tour a large number of cultural venues, from the British Museum to the National Gallery and even the Houses of Parliament. It’s worth checking if your favourite venue has a virtual tour and even if it doesn’t, there is still something to suit every taste, such as the RAF Museum.

 

2. Create a virtual pub quiz for your friends and family
Virtual quizzes have become the new big thing. If you haven’t already had on, then host one for the Bank Holiday and invite your friends and family to join you on your preferred video app. The great news is that everyone brings their own bottle and washes their own glasses!

 

3. Take Some Virtual Tennis Lessons
If you are already a keen player, or even a complete novice, the LTA (Lawn Tennis Association) have put together a series of 12 videos with moves that can be practiced in your own garden. They are aimed at children, so will suit a complete beginner, but will also still help to keep that two-handed backhand as deadly as it ever was.

 

4. Bake Your Own Bread
Everyone’s baking bread in Lockdown, from Stephen Fry to Holly Willoughby. Here at Infero, we even have our own resident ex-baker. There are hundreds of recipes out there, including ones which only use what most of us already have in the back of our cupboards. Why not have a go yourself? Who knows, maybe you’re the next Paul Hollywood or Mary Berry!

 

5. Sit Down to Watch Some Stand-Up
Watch some of the UK’s best comedians without even paying an entrance fee. ‘The Stay at Home Festival’ runs from Friday 10th to Sunday 12th. There are live shows both during the day and later at night and acts include Isy Suttie and Josie Long.

 

Whatever you do have fun. The Easter Bunny had been designated as a Key Worker, so it will all be ok.