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The second Saturday of June marked another edCAMP – an event organized by our Education Technologies accelerator: eduLAB. It’s the second consecutive marathon in the first round of acceleration aimed at selecting the most innovative ideas to solve technological problems of universities and scientific establishments. The event took place in our Warsaw office. It was really intensive and exciting day.

A total of 19 teams competed for edCAMP’s main prize – participation in the eduLAB project. The project grants its participants the opportunity to implement their idea thanks to access to knowledge, technology, as well as product development financing at the level of up to 1.000.000 PLN, including monthly remuneration for project team members. eduLAB accelerator’s support constitutes also the equipment, software, necessary trainings and business monitoring, as well as technological support provided by Edge1S experts. Backed by business mentors from Microsoft Poland, Department of International Co-operation of the Office of the Marshall of the Lubelskie Voivodeship, the teams had 12 hours to prepare their ideas for technological and IT solutions for the education sector. 

„It was a real duel – says Maks Stempniewicz Microsoft Poland’s Business Evangelist Partner, a mentor at eduLAB. Everyone was very committed, willing to cooperate and open. The teams accepted critical remarks and incorporated them in their activities. This willingness to compete and openness to cooperation made a deep impression on me. In my opinion, these are the basic features characteristic of entrepreneurs, and I do hope that the winners will make use of the opportunity eduLAB creates to develop their skills, improve their products and effectively implement them in the domain of education.”

„Taking part in edCAMP was an extraordinary adventure for all of us. – says Artur Habza, Director of the Department of International Co-operation of the Office of the Marshall of the Lubelskie Voivodeship, a mentor at eduLAB. It is quite amazing how the teams’ full preparadness, reserves of energy and the conviction of the uniqueness of particular ideas, while confronting a wall of practicians with vast knowledge and experience, split into the strong ones ready to accelerate, and those which need to slow down considerably in order to build a solid foundation for further work. Some of the ideas get rejected, but it is uplifting how the teams quickly substitute them with new concepts. It is a proof of particular teams’ strength and potential, as well as of their openness to learning, sometimes criticism, so that every next attempt is only better. In my opinion, this is exactly what it should look like – the best ideas compete for the main prize, while the best of the losing teams gain experience and join the game once again.  This way of building up startups’ potential guarantees the awareness of the power of victory and the consequence of failure.”

WINNERS
First prize – entry to pre-acceleration – a stage preparing for investment interview, which also includes establishing required documentation, was awarded to the authors of ”SmartCow” solution. Two second prizes – assessment centre cheques, allowing for further business and technological competence verification and preparing for pre-acceleration – were awarded to “eduBarter” and “ConfVRStation” teams. 

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SMARTCOW – PRE-ACCELERATION 
The solution’s purpose is to provide precise observations of breeding animals’ behaviors.  The developed system, composed of a set of electronic devices and network service, is aimed at collecting and quick transmission of accurate behavioral data. It allows for more effective use of information in research work and efficient breed management.

ConfVRStation – ASSESSMENT CENTRE
A platform for VR-technology broadcasting of conferences, research and training sessions. It will also allow sharing information on scientific research being carried out. The solution enables real-time communication and cooperation. Besides efficient event organization and reducing costs, it’s indisputable advantage lies in enabling the participation in conferences/research to people with disabilities and impairments.

eduBARTER – ASSESSMENT CENTRE
The platform allows for a barter exchange of one’s skills, knowledge or experiences. It will make personal development much easier, and the participants will work in a win-win methodology (skill for skill). An additional advantage of the solution is a “hobbyist’s package” which will allow companies to provide their employees with active free-time activities.

The solutions selected during edCAMP have the chance to advance to the next phase – eduLAB Academy, where they will receive maximal support in project implementation. At this stage not only will the teams be creating their own products, but also preparing for running their own business in the future.

1st ROUND OF ACCELERATION 
The accelerator’s concept of operation is based on three pillars. The first one is to define the needs of academic establishments, the second involves searching for ideas/solutions which would address these needs, and the third is the acceleration and creating final products. What is more, one of the main principles of this initiative is to create projects applicable in other sectors as well (so-called dual use).

The project is going to last 36 months. It will involve the minimum of 6 acceleration rounds which together will create the minimum of 13 solutions ready to be implemented. The second round of acceleration kicks off in September 2017. Currently, the idea recruitment is being carried out. The next edCAMPS, within the second cycle, are planned for the beginning of November. Within all the acceleration cycles, at least 6 companies will be created, having the potential to continue the development of the product and its launch to the market, hence becoming Education Technology pioneers in Poland.

Mpre about eduLAB: www.edulab.io

Saturday, May 27, 2017, is a historic moment not only for Lublin’s universities, but also for the whole region and Lublin itself. Edge One Solutions headquarters hosted the first ever edCAMP – an event organized by eduLAB accelerator, powered by the knowledge and experience of Edge1S specialists. It was aimed at selecting the most innovative ideas for solving universities’ and academic establishment’s technological problems.

The premiere of edCAMP, one of the stages of the search for innovative edTech solutions, gathered  15 teams, the total of nearly 70 people – representatives of student, startup and entrepreneur environments – willing to fight for the support for their projects. Competition was intense, as the stake was very high. The best team would be granted the right to participate in an eduLAB project which could help them make their idea come true thanks to the access to knowledge, technology and project financing up to 1 000 000 PLN.

Financial support, including salaries for project team members, is not everything – says Piotr Pietras, eduLAB Managing Director. – Our accelerator will help innovators at every stage of their works, providing them with, among others, equipment, software, necessary trainings and business monitoring, as well as technological support from Edge One Solutions experts. Additionally, eduLAB will cover the first sale of the product. This is a unique acceleration offer on Polish market – he adds. 

Teams supported by business mentors had 12 hours during which they prepared ideas for technological and IT solutions for education in a broad sense. Technological aspects were assessed by our experts. 

AWARDED PROJECTS

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First prize, a cheque for preacceleration, i.e. entering the stage at which investment talk is prepared and necessary documentation is compiled, was awarded to the authors of the “Genius HR” solution. Two second awards – cheques for assessment centre stage, i.e. entry to further business and technological competence verification, which prepares teams for preacceleration – went to teams working on “Profil Kompetencji Zawodowych” (Professional Competence Profile) and “Edubus”. 

GeniusHR is a solution aimed at improving the performance of HR departments, as well as making students find their dream jobs easier. Its task is to analyze a CV and prepare candidates for a job interview virtually. Thanks to GeniusHR students will be able to verify their competences and employability.

Profil Kompetencji Zawodowych is a platform (database) containing professional competence profiles of students of psychology faculties, as well as psychologists. The tool will broadly research their skills and, in the future, will also include other faculties and specializations.

EduBus  is a concept for mobile and modern computer research units fully equipped and adapted to learning and accessing new technologies directly. The solution will help broaden horizons, develop and equalize opportunities.

FROM IDEA TO BUSINESS

The solutions selected during edCAMP move on to the next stage – eduLAB Academy, in which they will receive maximum support in project implementation. At this stage not only will the teams create their own products, but also prepare for running their own businesses in the future. 

eduLAB accelerator is consistent with Lublin’s strategic activities – says Maciej Zaporowski, Head of Lubelska Wyżyna IT. It concerns entrepreneurship – he adds  - also within IT sector. It’s an important project regarding the city’s cooperation with universities, universities’ cooperation with one another, as well as with businesses. eduLAB project will surely contribute to selecting the best students, most innovative ideas, and hence solutions which will have practical application in the city. 

FIRST ROUND OF ACCELERATION 

The idea of the accelerator’s functioning is based on 3 pillars. The first one is to define the needs of academic establishments, the second involves searching for ideas/solutions which would address these needs, and the third is the acceleration and creating final products. What is more, one of the main principles of this initiative is to create projects applicable in other sectors as well (so-called dual use). EduLAB project is going to last 36 months, within which the maximum of 6 rounds of acceleration will take place, generating the total of at least 13 solutions ready to be implemented.  

ANOTHER CHANCE FOR EDTECH INNOVATORS: edCAMP WARSAW

The next edCAMP within the first round of acceleration is going to take place on June 10 in Warsaw. Registration for the event is currently open. During all cycles of the acceleration at least 6 companies will be established. They will have a chance to continue developing their product and introduce it to the market, thus becoming Education Technology pioneers in Poland. 

Digitalization, mobile platform and on-demand services development have changed nearly all domains of our lives. Nearly, because so far Poland’s academic sector has not had a chance to fully exploit the potential of these solutions. This situation might soon change, however, as eduLAB – Poland’s first EdTech (Education Technology) accelerator, powered by the strength and experience of Edge One Solutions, has entered the market.

The winner of the National Centre for Research and Development’s competition (Operational Programme “POLSKA CYFROWA 2014-2020, DZIAŁANIE 3.3.” E-PIONIER), eduLAB accelerator constitutes the answer to pressing needs of modern academia and higher education. The idea of its creation originated in Edge One Solutions as the answer to Polish academia and higher education’s needs. We have set ourselves the objective of devising innovative IT solutions allowing for, among others, the creation of new communication channels, resources monetization, more effective management of educational establishments, research and technology centers, and education itself. Thereby, we have responded to the challenge of introducing innovation into Polish universities and science centers.

NEW QUALITY IN ACADEMIC SECTOR

The premise of the accelerator is to create new quality in academia, based on communication, sharing information and exploiting existing resources. The project has received great interest from education, science and technology sectors, and has acquired partners such as universities, research institutes, foundations  working towards innovation in education, as well as IT companies. The planned budget for the implementation of the project is nearly 12 million PLN.

RESPONSE TO EDUCATIONAL ESTABLISHMENTS’ NEEDS

The accelerator’s concept of operation is based on three pillars:
1.    Defining educational establishments’ needs
2.    Finding solution ideas to suit those needs
3.    Acceleration and creating finished products
What is more, one of the key principles of our initiative is the creation of projects having broader application (so-called dual use projects) in other sectors.

Educational establishments will be able to submit their needs during dedicated meetings and external events in which we are going to participate. It will also be able via our website www.edulab.io. Teams of innovators – people who want to change the academia – will be working on devising solutions to those needs during our own hackathons named edCAMP – explains Krzysztof Kusiak, eduLAB’s Startup/Public Relations Lead.

SUPPORT FOR INNOVATORS

Solutions selected during hackathons will qualify to the next stage – eduLAB Academy – where they will receive maximal support in their implementation. The support will comprise not only the financing up to 1 million PLN including monthly remuneration for the team, but also access to equipment, software, necessary infrastructure and knowledge. eduLAB mentors will support the teams both technologically and business-wise, preparing the creators to running their own business in the future.

Technological mentoring which will be provided by Edge One Solutions experts is undoubtedly a distinctive element,  unique in terms of acceleration – says Piotr Pietras from eduLAB. No other accelerator offers this kind of support. What is more, solutions with the highest market potential will be granted support regarding their commercialization, among others in the sale of the product.

6 ROUNDS – 13 READY-TO-IMPLEMENT SOLUTIONS

The project will last 36 months. It will involve the minimum of 6 acceleration rounds which together will create the minimum of 13 MVPs – solutions ready to be implemented. Within all the acceleration cycles, at least 6 companies will be created, having the potential to continue the development of the product and its launch to the market, hence becoming Education Technology pioneers in Poland. 

 

EduLAB accelerator officially began its operation in March 2017. On the turn of the month March/April the first meetings at universities took place. During the first two months of its operation, eduLAB obtained cooperation with over thirty organizations and student associations.

 

Work in IT consulting is somewhat specific and requires possessing a number of skills facilitating everyday work with a client. An IT consultant in IT projects is supposed to analyze and diagnose clients’ needs. These activities result in the recommendation of solutions, then managing a project and – usually – analyzing the problems which have appeared during the work. 
The following article presents some of the analysis techniques which may turn out useful while accumulating requirements and identifying the needs and business problems.

Interviews and questioning
One of the first steps in defining customer’s needs is carrying out interviews with the project’s stakeholders (users, sponsors, customer’s contractors, people indirectly related to the project, etc.). Thanks to the collected information we can capture the differences in expectations by various stakeholder groups, since more often than not they turn out to be divergent. Once we have the complete idea, the so-called big picture, and we understand the context of the client’s market activities, we can move to a more detailed analysis and begin questionig. It is a stage at which we collect information by asking detailed questions to selected stakeholder groups. This action allows us to gather the requirements from people having relevant expertise relating to the aspects of our interest. 

Brainstorming
This is a well-known and commonly used technique. It allows generating numerous ideas within one session. The premise is to gather the group in one room, pick a moderator, work creatively by brainstorming the idea, and write down on post-it notes all participants’ ideas related to solving a given problem or issue. At this stage there are no good or bad ideas, no one is being judged and all ideas end up on the board. After the given time is out, it is the end of the first round of generating ideas and all suggestions are verified regarding their applicability and reasonableness in the context of the problem being discussed. The ideas which haven’t been turned down are grouped  according to the thematic areas they concern (e.g. functionality, behaviors, activities, systems, etc.). We can place ideas grouped this way in e.g. Ishikawa diagram or WBS diagram, and carry out further analyses.

Phillips 66
The Phillips 66 method is an iteration of brainstorming, performed in an clearly defined manner. Participants are divided into 6 groups and work in separate rooms. Each team has 6 minutes to work out the biggest number of suggested solutions to a problem. After the given time elapses, everyone meets in one room in order to present the results. The next step is a group discussion on the proposals submitted and then selecting the best one.

The 635 Method
Another version of brainstorming, referred to as brainwriting. The method implies participation of 6 users. Having no possibility to consult one another and only 5 minutes at their disposal, each participant writes down 3 ideas on a sheet of paper. Next, users exchange papers and get another 5 minutes to add 3 new ideas or modify / elaborate the existing ones. This method is highly efficient – it allows the group to generate even 108 new ideas within 30 minutes!

The 5W2H
The 5W2H method takes its name from the questions which need to be asked, i.e. Who, What, When, Where, Why, How and How much. This problem-solving technique has its special use in strategic consulting and management counselling. By detailed answers to consecutive questions it allows coming up with a solution in just a group of people we closely cooperate with. The role of the consultant is to run the whole conversation in a manner which would allow participants to single-handedly work out a solution and realize its essence. 

5 Why
A method similar to 5W2H. It originates from a Japanese management philosophy Kaizen and is largely an element of RCA analysis. As one might easily figure, 5 Why consists in asking the question Why five times. The technique allows for a detailed analysis of a problem, leading to the understanding of its essence and identifying its root cause.

Benchmarking
Benchmarking is a comparative method consisting in juxtaposing processes and practices in our own enterprise with their counterparts existing in companies which we consider to be better in a given area (worth following). It is a quite common method of measuring a company’s potential, its products or directions of development. It is not aimed at copying and repeating patterns observed in others, but solely at transferring the best practices and tried and tested processes which might help our company to work much more effectively. 


The examples described above constitute only a part of possible techniques to use. They are worth knowing and applying. Personally, in my daily work, I incorporate interviews, brainstorming and benchmarking. What guarantees a success is a selection of the right technique correlated with the issue being analyzed and the goal we are trying to achieve.

Good luck!

Michał Pośnik, Project Manager

 

AD-HOC, URGENT, EMERGENCY, OUT OF SCOPE – how to say “NO” to additional requirements?

A big number of changes and corrections in requirements regarding the scope of the project vastly impacts the date of the project’s delivery. Extending the time limit is just one of the negative effects of the modification. It happens that additional requirements lead to a situation in which the project is not delivered at all. Such cases take place when many of the following requirements are dropped into the project: ad-hoc, urgent, emergency, out of scope.
The above factors often need to be addressed and managed immediately, as not only do they affect the duration of the project, but also distract the project team and divert the attention from the project’s main goal.

6.thumb.jpg.c951e6d700adc46888a20169996fHave you ever wondered how to refuse in a professional way without offending the client, at the same time keeping the project’s well-being in view?
Below you’ll find some tips and thoughts on this matter (which, presumably, I am not the only one to hold), based on my own experience.

Consent to the additional requirements and its influence on the project
When you say YES, it predominantly has influence on 3 main aspects of the project: cost, time and quality. Growing of the solution’s scope may significantly increase the costs, leading to a budget overrun. It results from the extending of works’ duration, which may ultimately affect the final product’s quality. This is key information for stakeholders, as it allows them to make the right decision regarding further tasks in the project.

Foto: Rawpixel.com/Shutterstock 

Alternative
„Expect the unexpected.” The project’s only constant is the change, which is worth emphasizing during the talks with stakeholders as regards requirement extension. It is always smart to have several alternative solutions up your sleeve. Additionally, for each of them it is advisable to present the pros and cons, as well as explain their impact on the project. One might as well suggest delivering the solutions in the project’s next phase in case it is currently impossible or may significantly affect the deadline, cost or quality.
Such an approach does not guarantee success in each case, but telling someone “NOT NOW” instead of “NO” is certainly better seen, as it gives the conviction that the needs will be implemented at a later date and not rejected entirely.

Priorities
Once we have found ourselves in the situation where too many requirements of Ad-hoc, Urgent, Emergency, or Out of scope type have been requested for the project, one might ask the stakeholder to give priorities to the requested changes, and subsequently confront the expectations with current workload and deadlines. The stakeholder should individually decide what we should focus on in the first place and define the scope of requirements which “drop out” from the project plan. The upside of this technique is chiefly the transparency. The contractor can quickly see which additional tasks “entered” the project, assign them priorities and  partake in the responsibility for the project team’s task execution. 

Data and statistics
Presenting data and statistics often allows stakeholders to understand the impact of additional changes. Analysis results allow to make the right decision regarding requirement implementation. Hard data may also be the justification for the decisions made by ourselves. 

Out of scope
This element is often overlooked while collecting requirements and keeps coming back in the project’s lifecycle’s further phases. The more assumptions that something is not a part of current project (goes beyond the scope) we make, the more often we will be able to refer to them. It allows us to avoid many unnecessary and inconvenient discussions. Besides, we can plan the implementation of additional changes for a further phase or the next release, which – as we all know – is inextricably related to additional cost.
It is worth keeping in mind that out of scope changes should be formally notified from the very beginning and priced each time. 


There are many factors which may affect the quality and timely delivery of our work in the project. These factors very often crop up in completely unexpected moments and usually not only do they affect the project, but also cause much stress. This is why the ability to manage additional requirements and analyze their impact on our work or the final product constitute skills of great importance which every good analyst shall possess. Thanks to an assertive attitude and thorough requirement analysis we may avoid many unpleasant situations.

I hope that you will find the examples presented above helpful and useful in your work. Good luck!

 

Filip Sadowski
LINE MANAGER, EDGE ONE SOLUTIONS

 

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