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.” 

© Copyright 2014 Oundle Group. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

KS Library update

We've been busy keeping the KS library up to date in recent months.  Here's a brief summary of our current progress.

We help AEC businesses to identify skills gaps and training needs, for existing teams and new hires, across a wide range of design and engineering software products. Here is a list of the current titles in the KS skills assessment library:


3ds Max (parts 1-4)
AutoCAD 2D for occasional users
AutoCAD 2D fundamentals
AutoCAD 2D fundamentals (extra questions)
AutoCAD 2D – Xpress 
AutoCAD Civil 3D (parts 1-4)
AutoCAD Civil 3D – Xpress 
AutoCAD Civil 3D advanced (Roadway Design)
AutoCAD Plant 3D (parts 1-4)
Design Review fundamentals
Inventor (parts 1-4) 
Navisworks Manage 
Revit Architecture for occasional users
Revit Architecture fundamentals
Revit Architecture – Xpress 
Revit Architecture advanced
Revit Content Creation
Revit for Interiors
Revit MEP fundamentals (Mechanical)
Revit MEP fundamentals (Electrical)
Revit MEP fundamentals (Plumbing)
Revit MEP – Xpress 
Revit MEP advanced (Mechanical)
Revit MEP advanced (Plumbing)
Revit Project Process
Revit Structure fundamentals
Revit Structure – Xpress 
Revit Structure advanced 
Vault fundamentals
KS Community – AEC Layer Standards – Autodesk 
KS Community – Revit Architecture (White Frog)
KS Community – Revit Process & Workflow

Bentley Systems

Bentley AECOsim Building Designer (Architecture)
Bentley GEOPAK (Drainage)
Bentley InRoads (Roadway Design)
Bentley MicroStation 2D for occasional users
Bentley MicroStation 2D fundamentals
Bentley MicroStation 2D – Xpress 
Bentley MicroStation 3D fundamentals
Bentley View fundamentals
KS Community – AEC Level Standards – Bentley 


Adobe InDesign for occasional users
Adobe Photoshop for occasional users


Rhino fundamentals


SketchUp fundamentals


Graphisoft ArchiCAD  (parts 1-4)

Building Information Modelling (BIM)

KS Community – BIM Management
KS Community – USACE BIM Requirements

We are making good progress on our annual update of the Autodesk test titles. All our KS test material will be available in 2015 format by the end of September.

We receive regular requests from our customers and user groups, for new library material.   Here is a list of our current works in progress:

Revit Architecture fundamentals extra questions
Revit Architecture advanced extra questions
Bentley ProjectWise
Bentley AECOsim Building Designer (Structures)
Revit MEP advanced (Electrical)
InfraWorks 360
BIM 360 Glue
BIM 360 Field

Here is a list of  additional titles, which are currently under consideration:

Adobe Illustrator
MS Excel
MS Project
Solibri Model Checker
Tekla Structures

KS works with a network of independent authors, all of whom are subject matter experts, consultants, trainers and published authors. All of the KS library material is fully customisable. Customers can also write their own questions and tests, to cover in-house standards, processes and workflows.

For a free evaluation of the KS tools, please email support@knowledgesmart.net and we'll be happy to set up a trial account for your company.


Sunday, 20 July 2014

Most In Demand AEC Software Titles

We read an interesting piece on the Black Spectacles blog this week, about the primary software skills required by leading design firms in the US.

Data was collected from a survey of 928 job postings at the top 50 architecture firms.

In summary, for software skills, over 70% of architecture jobs require Revit skills and over 50% still require AutoCAD skills.  The #3 software skill required is SketchUp. Hand-sketching was only mentioned in 4% of jobs listed.

In contrast, here are the top 15 most popular skills assessment topics from the KS library. This list is compiled from data gathered from a list of Architecture and Engineering firms in the UK, US, Canada, Aus/NZ, SA and ME regions. The split between A & E firms is more or less equal.

1) Revit Architecture (Autodesk)
2) AutoCAD (Autodesk)
3) Revit Structure (Autodesk)
4) Bentley MicroStation (Bentley Systems)
5) BIM Management (software vendor neutral)
6) AutoCAD Civil 3D (Autodesk)
7) Revit MEP (Autodesk)
8) Navisworks (Autodesk)
9) SketchUp (Trimble)
10) Adobe InDesign (Adobe)
11) Rhino (McNeel)
12) Bentley AECOsim Building Designer (Bentley Systems)
13) 3ds Max (Autodesk)
14) ArchiCAD (Graphisoft)
15) Adobe Photoshop (Adobe)

Not surprisingly, almost half of the titles listed are from the Autodesk stable. Bentley Systems and Adobe have two apiece, with Graphisoft, Trimble and McNeel making up the rest.  Interestingly, general BIM knowledge (no particular vendor) is a top 5 topic.

Here is a summary of the average score & time for the general level assessments, for each title:

1) Revit Architecture - 69% in 63 mins
2) Revit MEP - 65% in 76 mins
3) Adobe InDesign - 64% in 45 mins
4) Revit Structure - 63% in 64 mins
5) Adobe Photoshop - 62% in 48 mins
6) AutoCAD - 62% in 73 mins
7) Bentley MicroStation - 60% in 84 mins
8) Rhino - 57% in 42 mins
9) BIM Management - 56% in 44 mins
10) ArchiCAD - 56% in 51 mins
11) AutoCAD Civil 3D - 56% in 76 mins
12) Navisworks - 54% in 49 mins
12) SketchUp - 54% in 49 mins
14) Bentley AECOsim Building Designer - 54% in 71 mins
15) 3ds Max - 53% in 55 mins

In many cases, the data illustrates a clear need for additional basic skills training, if the most popular software tools used in A & E businesses are to be used productively and efficiently on Construction projects.


Wednesday, 25 June 2014

KS Summer Devs Update

As we approach the halfway point of the year, we thought it might be useful to provide a brief update on our current plans, including a look at what's coming up in the Fall release of the KS tools.

KS Software

There are two main themes for our next core system update: new question types and individual user dashboards.

The KS user groups have provided clear feedback that they would like to see our next release focusing on these two key issues. First, providing the means to capture user opinion, as well as test scores, including new test questions (i.e. matching list, fill in the blank, matrix, short essay) and introducing survey options (i.e. likert scale, free text).

Next, a new method of providing KS admins with the ability to more easily chart results on a per-user basis. And allowing users themselves to log in to their own KS dashboard, to monitor their own personal assessment history, charts and benchmark comparisons. This new UI will be mobile-friendly and HTML-5 compatible.

We also recently introduced a new menu option to capture results data on a per module basis.

KS Library

Our library updates are progressing well. All main Autodesk titles will be available in 2013, 2014 and 2015 formats, in the next couple of months. We also plan to update our SketchUp, Adobe and Rhino data sets this year.

Our Revit MEP fundamentals metric data sets will be available in July. And our Revit MEP advanced modules will also be live next month. Advanced Civil 3D, Synchro and MS Excel are all on the 'to do' list in the coming months. Additional AutoCAD 2D  and advanced RAC questions are also in development during the summer months.

We'll keep you posted as these updates progress.  As always, any feedback and suggestions on new tools and library titles are warmly received.


Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Structured Knowledge Management Using Skills Assessments - White Paper

The team at A 2 K, led by ANZ Consulting Manager, Sean Twomey, have put together an excellent, thought-provoking paper which examines knowledge assessment and the benefits and process of using skills assessment for benchmarking in the field of design technology.

The paper has a particular focus on the CAD/BIM sides of design and engineering companies, but the process applies to all facets of business. The examples referred to in this paper are based on
Autodesk environments and processes (e.g. CAD and BIM), but are also applicable to Adobe, Graphisoft,
Bentley and similar packages.

In his detailed analysis, Twomey looks at the process of analysing and harnessing assessment data to calibrate goals, to build major improvements and measure progress, with one of the most practical and visible benefits of knowledge management being the ability to facilitate decision-making capabilities. He also considers the challenge of overcoming the innate fear of assessments.

Here's a link to download the white paper.


Sunday, 16 March 2014

KS Devs Update - Spring 2014

Q1 is almost done and we've had a busy start to 2014. In fact, if a skills assessment service is a good bell-weather for the general well-being of wider industry, then this is our best start to the year since before the recession began. That's encouraging!

So here's a look at what we've been working on in the past few months:

We started off with a general update to our underlying platform, trading up to .NET 4.5. And we added a new issues-tracking system for logging bugs and system updates.

The Results > Group Comparisons page has a new tool which allows admins to capture and save results comparison charts.

The Results > Data page has new search and export options for capturing 'Skipped' question data:

The Results > Training Requirements page has 2 new tools which display charts for 'Training requests' and 'Skipped' questions:

At the end of a test session, a new advisory note displays, which confirms how many questions have been skipped:

We added some new options for creating dynamic groups on the Users and Results pages:

We added dynamic grouping to the Invites > History page:

Plus the ability to recreate existing dynamic groups in other areas of the system. For example, if you have an existing dynamic group on the Users page, you can now recreate the same group on the Results or Invite History pages. This tool can be found on the Settings > User Datafields page:

Admins can now check the progress of existing 'in progress' tests, by clicking on the new link in the Invites > History page:

We added a new filter on the Invites > History page which allows admins to display a sub-list of users who have not yet received any invites:

We added a new tool which allows admins to anonymise charts on the Results > Performance Spread and Results > Group Scores pages:

The following tasks are currently being tested in our staging area and will shortly be deployed to live:

The test start page has been tidied up and re-formatted.

We fixed a bug which caused tests to display an error if they contained more than 71 questions.

We added the ability to create more than one draft invite template on the Settings > Test Invite page.

We added rich text options, including HTML links, to the Test Invites page.

We added an advisory which is triggered if a user enters too many answers for pick list questions. It says: 'This question has a maximum of x correct answer choices'.

We are adding new options on the Results > Data page to filter and export the user data capture info (which is captured on the pages at the start and end of a test).

We are adding a new page called 'Module Performance', which allows admins to analyse results data on a per module basis.

We are adding new search options on the Accounts > Move Users page.

In addition to the system updates, we are also continuing to work on the KS library. All existing Autodesk titles are available in 2014 format. Plus the following: Vault, Civil 3D advanced, Revit MEP advanced, Revit MEP metric, AECOsim Building Designer, Blue Beam, Synchro and Tekla Structures,

Looking ahead, our summer dev list includes adding new question types and survey options. Followed by individual user dashboards. We'll keep you updated as this work progresses.