Saturday, 8 November 2014

AUGI Top DAUG 2014

KnowledgeSmart is partnering with the team at AUGI once again this year, for the annual Top DAUG skills contest at AU2014.

This year's contest is shaping up well, with 10 tracks planned for AU delegates.

Here's what we hope to include, using 2015 versions of the software:

3ds Max
AutoCAD 2D
AutoCAD Civil 3D
AutoCAD Plant 3D
Revit Architecture
Revit MEP
Revit Structure

As in year's past, contestants will have just 10 minutes to answer a selection of knowledge-based and practical tasks, covering the main features of each application.

The person who posts the highest score, combined with the fastest time, in each track, will take the prize for their chosen topic. Then we analyse the data from all streams, to crown the overall winner of the Top DAUG contest.

Hope to see you at the Manadalay Bay!  #therecanbeonlyone


Tuesday, 14 October 2014

KS Devs Update

Here is a brief update of what's being discussed at our next tech team workshop. With thanks to our customer feedback forums for the majority of these suggestions.

Our current dev is progressing well. More detailed notes to follow shortly for each, but our top 2 current wishlist items are:

User dashboard pages
Survey questions

One those devs hit the live site, we'll take a look at the following:

CSV Export Consistency

Review CSV export across the KS dashboard to ensure it is behaving in a consistent manner.

Account Name in CSV Export

Many companies have multiple child accounts but would like to perform one csv export of all users.  However there is no clear identifier in the csv export as to which account each user belongs.  Include ‘Account Name’ in CSV exports.

Improved data selection in CSV Exports

Consider implementing ‘Field Chooser’ functionality for CSV exports.  When exporting a csv, the Admin User can select which fields to appear and save this selection for future exports.  We would also look to add further options such as ‘Full Name’ (concatenating first name and surname), ‘Training Tags – All’ and ‘Training Tags – Individual’ etc.  By making this functionality available in KS we can dramatically reduce the amount of time Admin Users need to spend outside of KS manipulating the data.

Allow admins to set up regular auto-reports (i.e. weekly/monthly/quarterly) which summarise key activities. For example:  Invites sent: Not started, In progress, Pending, Completed : Results, Scores within a certain range: User type: Test name(s): Date range: Select data for a particular account or accounts. Choose recipients. Full list of selection criteria to be workshopped.

Search /Grouping Criteria – Date Range

Extend search and group criteria across the system to allow the inputting of a date range.  This provides Admin Users with more powerful options when reviewing invites, results etc. Ensure consistency across all dynamic grouping filters. (Invite History/Results/Users).

Add Test Not Completed to Status Dropdown

Currently test invites do not have a single ‘Not Completed’ status.  If an Admin User wishes to identify all outstanding tests they would need to join together ‘Not Started’ and ‘In progress’. Amend grouping options to bring together these two into a single ‘Not Completed’.

Auto-Email when extending a test

When an Admin User extends the expiry date of a test invite, admins would like KS to send an email to confirm along with the new expiry date.  This could be managed in much the same way as the standard invites are with Admin Users having the option of amending the default text. Include option to add additional email addresses.

Increase Character Limit on Multiple Choice and Matching List Answer Options

Multiple choice questions currently have a limit of 50 characters per answer.  KS to review this to identify why the limit is in place (display purposes, database restriction etc) and if it can be extended. Also look at Matching List fields.

Default for Admins of Multiple Accounts

Where an Admin is managing multiple accounts, KS currently defaults to the first account in the list (alphabetically).  Admins have requested a change in this behaviour.  KS to consider alternative default selection options.

Add column in Invites – Date of last reminder/extension

When viewing invites KS currently displays when the invite was first sent and the date and time of the Users last login.  Admins would like an additional column which advises when the User was last reminded (either by reminder or date extension).

Remove Invites from system when a User is deleted

When a User is marked as Ex-Employee there is a clear requirement to retain their interaction with KS however when a User is deleted from the system, admins would like to have any outstanding invites (Not Completed) deleted from the system.

Additional Points for Discussion

More detailed benchmarking & analysis of user demographic & results data.

New API for LMS linking (esp. Olive/Absorb/Pinnacle).

Add number of results to Results > Data page.

Add date stamp to Global Comparisons view and export.

Add user count to training requirements chart.

Review display of Global question benchmark data.

Add question ID to training request csv export.

Improve page speed: Users > Users and Invites > History.

Investigate single sign-on and Active Directory links for user data import.

Investigate Content Delivery Network - adding zip files for test start to CDN environment.


Wednesday, 24 September 2014

New KS Question Types

We have added some new test question types to the KS system this month.  Here's a brief summary of the new choices.

Matching list

This question type asks the user to correctly identify, or match the relationship between 2 lists of data.  Here's an example:

Here's a look at how to build up the answer options, for Matching list questions:

Complete the blank

This question type asks the user to fill in one (or more) blank fields, or select from a list of available options in a sentence or paragraph.  Here's an example:

Here's a look at how to build up the answer options, for Complete the blank questions:


This question type asks the user to review a word or short phrase and select a radio button option that relates to the ‘correct’ description.

Here's a look at how to build up the answer options, for Matrix questions:


This question type asks the user to write a longer answer to a question. This will not be automatically marked and will require manual scoring.

To assign marks to an Essay question, go to Invites > History and click on the 'Pending' link.

Click the 'Edit Score' link and assign your marks. You can also add comments, which will appear in the test report. Save your changes and the final score will appear on the Results > Data page.

The 'Create Question' page now lists all 9 KS test question types:

You'll also see  a brief description for each question type on the test landing page:


KS Tips for Getting Started with Your Assessments

Making a positive start with your KS assessment program is a key part of generating momentum in your wider learning and development plans.  Here is a brief guide which walks you through the right steps to make sure you get off to a flying start!

1. Discuss your goals. What do you want to achieve?  How will you define success?  Do you have management buy-in to support your plan?

2. Select your KS system administrators.  Decide who will have global access and who will have regional access.  Do you want to include sub-admins?

3. Book your KS Getting Started web meeting with the KS team and/or training partner.  Review the information on the Settings > Resources page of your KS dashboard.

4. Set up your KS accounts.  Do you need one main account or multiple linked accounts?  Add your company branding to your dashboard, test UI & reports.

5. Agree your message and decide how to communicate your plans to your team.

6. Identify a list of users to be tested.  Do you have any positive-minded ‘super users’ or champions who can be relied on to assist your plans?

7. What topics will you include in your test program?  Will you use the KS library ‘off the shelf’, or will you make some changes?  Do you want to add any custom questions of your own?

8. Build your user list.  Filter your user list into groups.

9. How much user feedback do you want to provide in your reports?  Include coaching?  Include links to learning?  Include additional user data capture?

10. Create a schedule of invites.  Who, where, when, what?  Do you want to send a custom invite message?  Will you test new hires at interview?  Who will help to administer this?

11. Send your test invites.  Monitor progress on the Invites > History page.  Set up reminders.

12. Monitor overall test progress and results.

13. Schedule results analysis workshop/web meeting with the KS team and chosen training partner.

14. Create reports and feed KS results data into your wider training and learning program. Include your preferred training partner in this phase of activity.

15. Re-test after training to monitor effectiveness of your material and measure performance improvement.


Tuesday, 23 September 2014

KS Admin FAQ's

Here are the most common questions and points of discussion for KS admins.

Q - What's the difference between a Sub-admin and a Full-admin?

A - Sub-admins can set up test sessions from a browser, using the 'Assessment' link, but not access the main KS dashboard.  Full-admins can log in to the KS dashboard and use the browser test set-up tools.

Q - How do I re-set or change my KS password?

A - All users can re-set their KS password at any time, by clicking the 'Reset password' link on the KS login page:

This takes you to the following page:  Enter your KS username and the system will email a new password.

KS admins can set their own password, by logging in to their KS dashboard and selecting the 'Change password' link.

Copy the original password into the first field, then confirm your own password and save the changes.

Q - How do I add a new KS administrator to my account?

A - Go to the Accounts > Your Accounts page of the KS dashboard and click on the 'Administrators' tool (small people icon).

From here you can add new Sub-admins or Full-admins, using the 'Add administrator' fields:

Q - I get an error message when I try to import my user list.  Why is this?

A - First, make sure that you are using a .csv file format, not .xls or .xlsx.  (See help notes on the Users > Upload User Data page for a link to a formatted .csv template).  Also, make sure that you have 10 data columns in your .csv file.

Q - My invite mails are not getting through to users every time.  Why not?

A - Sometimes KS invite mails are blocked by spam prevention software.  If the KS mails are not in junk mail, then your corporate security might not be allowing the mails through.  This happens from time to time.  A combination of the following steps usually resolves the issue:

‘White flag’ the domain
‘White flag’ the domain
‘White flag’ mails from

That should allow the mails to work OK.  However, if they are still getting blocked, there is one more thing to try.  Our hosting company (1&1) sometimes uses a relay server in Germany, called

‘White flag’ the domain

That should sort everything out, from a corporate mails point of view.

Q - Some invite mails contain a username and password.  Others do not.  Why is this?

A - The KS system appends a username and password on invite mails for regular users (i.e. non-admins), but not for system administrators. KS admins can manage their own passwords, so the KS system does not include admin usernames and passwords on invite mails.

Q - When  a user tries to log into a test session, their password does not work.  Why is this?

A - If a user receives two or more test invites in close succession, the latter invite(s) will overwrite the password(s) from earlier mails.  Instruct them to use the password from the last email invite received to access ALL open KS test sessions.

All users can re-set their KS password at any time, by clicking the 'Reset password'' link on the KS dashboard login page, which takes you here: Enter your KS username and the system will email a new password.

Q - If  a user logs out of a test session, will all answers be saved?

A - Yes.  All your answers will be saved if you resume a test session, at a later date.

Q - If a user logs out of a test session, does the clock stop?

A - Yes.  The clock stops recording elapsed time when you log out of a test session and starts again when you log back in.

Q - A test result did not upload correctly at the end of a test session.  Can it be rescued?

A - Yes.  If a user loses their web connection at the end of a test session, occasionally a result will not upload to the dashboard successfully.  Just notify us and the KS team will manually retrieve the score and add it to your dashboard.  Submitted answers will not be lost.

Q - Can I mix & match questions from different test modules?

A - Yes. KS admins have full editorial control over all KS test material, including authoring tools for creating new questions from scratch and sorting and moving existing questions between modules and tests.

Q - Can I extend the expiry date on an invite?

A - Yes. Go to Invites > History, select your invite(s) and use the 'Extend invite' tool to change the expiry date of your invites.

Q - Can I set a time limit on a KS test?

A - Yes. Import your KS test and go to Library > Draft Content > Draft Tests, edit step 4 (Test Settings). Enter your chosen time in the 'Time limit' box.

Q - Can I hide the clock which appears on the KS test UI?

A - Yes. Import your KS test and go to Library > Draft Content > Draft Tests, edit step 4 (Test Settings). Uncheck the 'Show timer' box (see above).

Q - How do I copy admins on KS invite, reminder & results mails?

A - Go to Accounts > Administrators and toggle the account invites tool (small envelope icon) to 'on'.

Go to Settings > Invites and check the box below:

Go to Settings > Reminders and check the appropriate boxes:

Q - Is it possible to edit score and time data for KS results?

A - Yes. If you have a KS result that needs to be edited, email the details across to us and we can make the edits via the main KS db.

Q - Can I copy dynamic groups from the Users page to the Results page?

A - Yes. Go to Settings > User Datafields and click on 'Share Dynamic Groups', to share existing groups across the Users, Results and Invite History pages.

Q - Can I filter results by date of test taken?

A - Yes.  You can filter KS results data across a variety of search criteria. Go to Results > Data page and click on the 'Show search' tool to display the search options:

Q - Can I export test results?

A - Yes.  Go to the Results > Data page and click on the 'Show groups' tool.  Look for the 'Export results to csv' tool.  You have a number of export options to choose from:

Q - Can I edit the user rating labels which appear at the start of a test?

A - Yes. Go to Settings > Test UI Options and apply your changes in the fields provided.

Q - Can I choose whether or not to display the user survey pages at the start and end of a test session?

A - Yes. Go to Settings > Test UI Options and apply your change in the relevant check box.

Q - Can I stop users from logging out of a test session?

A - Yes. Go to Settings > Test UI Options (see above) and apply your change using the relevant check box.

Q - How can I compare our results to the overall average KS benchmark stats?

A - Go to Results > Global Comparisons and select the title(s) you want to compare your results data against.


Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Customising Self-Rating Datafields

At the start and end of a KS online skills assessment, admins have the option of capturing additional demographic data, which provides helpful background information for users and places test results in a more relevant context.

This includes details such as industry discipline, job title, geography, training history and core software use.  We also capture a 'self-rating' at the beginning of an assessment. That is, how well a person thinks they are going to perform, before they begin.

We can then chart anticipated performance against actual scores and capture a 'perception gap'.

Here is a customer wish list request we received in May: 

We would like to change the labels of the mini survey at the beginning of an assessment to the following terms if possible:

1 – Basic
2 – Beginner
3 – Intermediate
4 – Advanced
5 – Expert

An excellent suggestion!  So it is now possible to edit the values in the user self-rating title and description fields, so KS admins can add their own custom labels when capturing this data.  The updated fields carry over to the test report, results search table and csv export tools.

In the next release, we'll be adding additional survey options to the KS dashboard, making it possible for KS admins to capture even more detailed information about teams skills and user capability.


Saturday, 16 August 2014

David Miller Architects Case Study

Architects That Invest To Win, Win More Business!

David Miller Architects (DMA) is a forward-thinking, leading-edge architectural practice that has made significant investments in people, performance and processes since its inception in 2000. The net result is improved client service levels and an unparalleled portfolio of repeat business.

For the first six years David Miller worked alone, but then in 2006 he committed to grow his practice to service larger clients and to take on more challenging projects. With a long-term vision for growth and a well-developed ‘emotional intelligence’ (EQ), Miller embarked upon his search to recruit like-minded architects. “Right from the start I looked for people with a certain temperament,” he explained. “The best practices hire great thinkers, great communicators, and team-players but I wanted more.”

Miller searched specifically for individuals with minds open for learning and an abundance of creative energy for problem solving in response to project requirements. “These people are the real transformers of projects because they build enduring and trusted client relationships.” concluded Miller.

According to author Daniel Goleman, this rare combination of abilities is common in architects with high EQ. For Miller, it is the primary reason for the unusually high volume of repeat business enjoyed by his practice. Today the DMA team is 19-strong, having grown steadily to service its expanding portfolio of commercial, education, and residential projects. Throughout this growth period staff turnover has remained low. “I consider it my job to make everyone on our team feel supported by investing in technology and processes to enable them.” explained Miller.

DMA applied for ISO 9001 accreditation when there were only four people on the team. It quickly became apparent to Miller that when supported by good processes his team would be free to make decisions without deferring to him for approval. This approach nurtured and insulated new recruits in a way that quickly enabled their self-confidence to grow; giving them a greater sense of autonomy and achievement. “The whole practice found ISO 9001 to be very liberating and for the first time we were able to pitch for public sector projects that require ISO 9001 compliance from all consultants,” commented Fiona Clark, Practice Director.

There was also a human benefit, as Clark explained. “Younger people found it easier to increase their contributions to the team leading to increased efficiency and more predictable operations across all projects.” Such positive outcomes quickly led to DMA applying for and securing ‘Investors in People’ recognition; placing them among the top 0.5% of architectural practices in the UK.

Perhaps unsurprisingly then, with an office filled with emotionally intelligent architects and designers with minds open to learning, the adoption of Building Information Modelling (BIM) processes, technologies and collaborative behaviour has also been successful.

The result; DMA is now years ahead of the curve for complying with the Government’s BIM initiative for all centrally procured projects to achieve Level 2 BIM status by 2016. As with other parts of their business, DMA approached the transition to BIM with an appetite for learning and a hunger to understand all aspects of the new collaborative workflows.

“Ordinarily across the practice we measure everything so we can continue to improve,” added Clark. “We therefore committed to measure the cost of our BIM investment and compare it to the value we realised at the practice and project level.” 

As with ISO 9001 and Investors in People, DMA engaged external consultants to help measure their BIM performance. First they looked at DMA’s BIM adoption on a macro level using the American ‘National Institute of Building Sciences – Facilities Information Council National BIM Standards’ (UK standards were still under-development) and after they looked at DMA‘s capabilities on a micro-level by assessing staff skills when using Revit, Autodesk’s BIM software.

To assess staff skills, DMA engaged the KnowledgeSmart team to identify individual Revit skills gaps and to plug those gaps using customised training programs. “We hope to measure significant productivity and efficiency improvements…” explained Miller, “…but that isn’t our primary goal.”

Indeed when each software license costs around £4,000 it makes little sense to use only a tiny fraction of the software. With modular training from White Frog, prescribed in response to an individual’s KnowledgeSmart skills-gap assessment, DMA can be sure that its architects’ design and project development skills are uninhibited by their software knowledge.

Miller continued, “We first want to ensure that our BIM adoption is strong and the best way to raise the bar is to make sure our architects can achieve everything they need to achieve inside the BIM software environment.”

Sadly not all practice leaders believe in the value of training staff. Some even reject the notion of training on the grounds that the newly skilled employee will just up-sticks and leave for more money elsewhere.

Of course, people don’t always change jobs for more money, many move in search of greater job satisfaction. But as Zig Ziglar once said “What’s worse than training your workers and losing them? Not training them and keeping them!” 

It is common for employees to feel under-appreciated and un-supported by employers when they are passed over for training or promotions. As new talent joins a firm, with new skills in hand, the current staff can start to feel a little overshadowed. Causing them to seek out pastures new; this is highly disruptive to active
projects as project-specific knowledge leaves the project along with the staff. According to Ben Franklin, “An investment in education always pays the highest returns.”

Indeed, the longer the construction project the greater the chance of team members leaving. As many construction projects take a long time to complete, and as starting and finishing with the same team in place is a sure-fire way to provide the best client service levels, retaining staff that are well trained and highly knowledgeable is likely to contribute more than anything else towards improved client service levels and project quality.

DMA constantly reinvests for growth. For example, R&D Tax Credits realised from their investment in BIM have been reinvested in its staff to assess and improve their individual knowledge and productivity. And this investment in practice performance is amplified at the project level where DMA clients are also able to measure improved performance.

Miller explained why this matters to DMA “Our clients make no secret of their project and consultant performance measurement processes and we know that we score very well because they continue to give us larger projects.”

As UK projects move towards more process-driven workflows DMA is ideally suited to further expand its portfolio of projects. Miller concluded, “Our continued investment in the practice, our people, and our processes is paying off. Clients have come to know that they will always enjoy a consistent level of output from DMA which greatly reduces their project risk. And I know that our achievement in that regard is a team achievement of which I am very proud.” 

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