Leading the national news – Jumar shares apprenticeships experience

We’ve been in the news today.

Jumar was invited to take part in a feature on youth unemployment on the BBC News Channel this afternoon: the lead story on the 3pm bulletin.

Jumar’s newest recruit, apprentice Natalie Ball, interviewed about her experiences in taking an an apprenticeship with the company – one of a number of options available to her after leaving school.

NB BBC News crop

Natalie, who is part of Jumar’s admin team, told the BBC that while university was an option for her, the fact she could learn real-life situations, while getting paid, was a much more attractive route.  She also said that it gave her valuable transferrable skills for the future.

AH BBC News crop 2Marketing Manager, Andy Holmes, also told of how Jumar had taken on many apprentices over the years who brought enthusiasm, commitment and loyalty to the company , resulting in a much lower staff turnover rate.

This whole culture stems from Jumar’s Managing Director, Wendy Merricks.  Wendy, who left school with very few qualifications, runs the non-profit organisation, Starfish (www.starfish.org.uk) which motivates young people into a career in industry by forging closer links with schools, colleges – and ultimately students.

For more information, please contact Jumar Solutions on 0121 788 4550.

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Why should I take on a work experience student?

To understand the benefit to you as a company, you simply have to understand the benefit to the student you take on.

Experience highlighted in blue

Last week, we had the pleasure of playing host to Nicholas Gould, a year 10 student from the nearby Heart of England School. Jumar regularly takes on work experience placements, as well as working with local schools to help inspire pupils into a career in technology.

Nicholas – an aspiring IT expert – worked with one of our developers on a specially designed project, allowing him to absorb the various aspects of work life and a career in IT. We asked Nicholas to summarise his week (which we’ve shared below), but one particular paragraph really stood out:

“In my opinion employers should make a bigger effort to try and speak to students at secondary school. Even just spending an afternoon talking to pupils can make a massive difference to their choice in career. At some point these very students will enter working life and speaking to an employer can make a huge difference.”

This goes to reinforce Jumar’s ethos (and that of our Managing Director’s charity, Starfish) that engaging with students is vital in helping them make sound career choices and to plan their future with confidence.

Starfish

Jumar runs a series of events at local schools and organises work experience placements, as well as taking on apprentices in various roles. This ethos is something that MD, Wendy Merricks strongly recommends business leaders to adopt, and is always happy discuss the benefits it has brought to Jumar. It’s very simple: you get out what you put in. Jumar has grown significantly over recent years, and working with school leavers has been an integral part of that.

For now, we’ll let Nicholas, sum up by describing his week with us, in the hope that more businesses are encouraged to do the same. We’ve made only minor changes to his summary for brevity and context…

“I found out about the Jumar work experience project when I was finishing my second year in secondary school. Jumar Solutions came into my school and explained who they were and what they did. I was given a small folder containing details of both Jumar Solutions as a company and of how jobs in IT actually function. I kept this folder because I knew this was the sort of place I would like to work. So when the opportunity to do work experience came up I quickly applied to Jumar Solutions who replied positively.

When I arrived at the business for my first day I was given a quick tour and briefed with the health and safety. I was then introduced to one of Jumar’s IT Developers who explained that she didn’t want this to be a boring experience and asked what I was interested in doing. We decided on doing a project for the week. This meant I was always engaged on one task or another.

Another thing I liked was the freedom that I was given. I was given my own computer system to use for the week and even allocated my own desk. This meant that the whole experience was both relaxed and beneficial.

The staff at Jumar Solutions are another reason that I had such a fantastic time. Everyone was always so upbeat and were all equipped with a great sense of humour. For the four days that I had the pleasure of spending at the business there seemed never seemed a dull moment.

During the week I have witnessed first-hand all the benefits of work experience – especially how good it can look on your CV if you find the right placement. It also gets you prepared for team exercises. Until you actually work in a team as part of a company you sometimes fail to realize the importance of the job you are completing.

The highlight from this opportunity was definitely the way in which the experience was conducted. I liked the fact that I was very involved and allowed a real experience as to how this area of the IT market works.”

Why are you suspicious about automation software?

Andy Scott, Client Services Director, Jumar Solutions Limited

It's all about speed. Automation can save considerable time and money. There's no need to be suspicious.

It’s all about speed. Automation can save considerable time and money. There’s no need to be suspicious.

The simple answer to that question is: that you have good reason to be. The phrase ‘too good to be true’ springs to mind when being told that a complex CA Gen transformation project could be carried out in a fraction of the time compared to traditional development methods.

The scepticism tends to manifest itself in two ways; suspicion over whether using automation is viable – and suspicion over whether it is genuinely possible.

In this blog, we’ll attempt to address those questions – but if you want the short answer it is, respectively, ‘probably’ and ‘yes’.

Viability

With any complex modernisation or transformation task (be it CA Gen or another technology) there is a tendency to think that your particular circumstances are so unique and complex, that no automation software could possibly produce the desired results. Over many years we’ve seen dozens of such environments, and can confidently say that there is no such thing as a ‘standard’ set of circumstances; we have, however, seen a diverse range of implementation styles and ‘standards’. Systems have typically evolved over time, they are often business critical and they may follow standards to greater or lesser degrees. Despite this, highly-tailored automation is a perfectly viable option for modernising and/or re-architecting legacy and ‘tightly-coupled’ systems. The best way to ascertain if this really is the case, would be to look at three basic elements included within the preparation / planning phase for the project.

  • What does the system look like now?
  • What do you want it to look like in the future?
  • What steps are necessary to achieve the desired outcome?

Scenarios where an organisation can create a well-defined set of required transitions, based on a full understanding of the existing ‘as is’ configuration, best lend themselves to the application of tailored automation. But that’s not to say that more complex scenarios don’t. More on that, later.

Tightly coupled systems

Tightly coupled system? Automation could still save you considerable cost.

Scale is also an important factor to consider here. Much of the investment in tailored automation is done upfront – and if there are, say, thousands of in-scope objects to be processed, then that upfront investment is effectively distributed across that large number of objects. The implementation of a risk mitigation strategy to approach the project in a logical phased manner (which is where the majority of our expertise lies) and the resulting economies of scale should help to mitigate any fears or suspicions over the viability of using automation in these circumstances. When projects are done on such a large scale, we are effectively industrialising the process and supporting the required transitions via automation, which provides greater predictability and high quality resulting in cost effectiveness for the client as the time and cost to process each in-scope object reduces dramatically.

We’ve touched on this before but, vital to understanding the feasibility of using automation, is to understand what you currently have. In our experience, only a very small number of organisations know EXACTLY how their system is set up (and how it has evolved over the years following original development), and the majority don’t. (It’s nothing to be embarrassed about – read our previous blog for the reasons why). Even on occasions where an organisation DOES know exactly what they have, it is still important to carry out a comprehensive model analysis exercise to confirm / validate the ‘as is’ situation, hence ensuring that the automation, when tailored and executed, absolutely delivers the desired result.

Model analyser

Jumar’s Model Analyser software quickly ascertains the ‘as is’ situation.

This understanding of the target ‘to be’ scenario needs to be thoroughly defined, in order to determine the transition steps that are candidates to be automated. It’s not unusual for organisations to have defined the target architecture and supporting technologies, but without specific knowledge of the capabilities of automation software, there is a danger that opportunities are overlooked or dismissed as they are not considered viable when implemented using traditional techniques. Our approach encourages clients to stop and take a methodical approach to the process. Only now can the viability of automation start to be considered in earnest and a cost-benefit justification be prepared. However, as a general rule, in our experience, in the vast majority of cases where the scope is large – it is viable.

Possibility (scepticism)

Now, we look at the second major area of scepticism. Is it really automated, or simply outsourced to a low-cost high-capacity development shop perhaps located on a different continent?

Phoenix box device small

Jumar’s Project Phoenix automation software

We can’t speak for other organisations that offer automation solutions, but at Jumar, our automation software does exactly what it says on the tin (read more about our automation tools and Project Phoenix), and we can prove it with strong customer references from complex “real world” CA Gen projects. All automation actions are recorded and documented in a comprehensive execution log report – where the speed of completion of each action is blatantly so fast and the number of objects processed so large that it’s simply not possible that it is being done manually. It is only when looking at such a report that the magnitude of the savings made by using automated methods really becomes clear. Imagine how long it would take (and how much it would cost) to do it manually, or to introduce a change at a late stage in the process. Not to mention the very real risk of introducing manual errors and inconsistencies. Highly tailored automation is fast, consistent, predictable and reliable – operating across the entire implementation as specified it can subsequently be adapted and re-executed as required.

Degrees of automation

One final thing before we draw to a close on the subject of automation – it may be that ‘degrees of automation’ need to be considered when defining the transformation roadmap and the approach to be adopted. There have been occasions where we have been faced with a particularly complex situation where a degree of pragmatism comes into play. For example, when supporting a customer with a migration from a very tightly coupled implementation to a new functionally isolated “n-tier” architecture. Upon further investigation, separating the application into its constituent tiers may show that, in practice, even with automation software, it may be viable (and cost-effective) to automate most – rather than all – of the task in hand. In a recent case study, the tailored automation software effortlessly dealt with 80% of the required transformations, but it was decided that the remaining 20% would be tackled manually. The net effect was still a considerable time and cost saving over 100% manual work. Where automation is not viable (and cost-effective), there’s no way we would recommend it.

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Andy Scott

If you have a CA Gen – or a related legacy technology – transformation project (planned or underway), I’d be more than happy to discuss the benefits that automation could bring to your organisation.

Just drop me a line and we can talk some more.

I’m more than happy to attempt to lay any suspicions to rest once and for all!