Monday, 25 January 2010

Recession - a good time for listening!

So, the powers that be have decided that we're more or less out of recession now, have they? Doesn't really feel much different yet, truth be told, but it's fair to say that things are starting to gain momentum again. I was reading a discussion thread on the IoD LinkedIn forum last week about when things get 'back to normal'. Trouble is, we haven't defined 'normal' yet! I posted on the blog at the end of 2008 that we were planning for recovery to arrive around Q3 2010 - and nothing I've seen since has caused me to believe that that wasn't a reasonably accurate read on events.

Whilst it's still too early to start looking over our shoulder at the past 18 months of economic turmoil and draw hard conclusions, the simple psychological impact of seeing the new year swing around has definitely helped in many quarters. 2009 can be consigned as another 'Annus Horribilis' in the history books!

However, whilst certainly the financial repercussions of the recession were - and remain - a challenge, there was also a different side to the coin, at least as far as customer communication goes.

We found that many AEC firms in 2009, for the first time in a long time, had a bit of breathing space, at least from an IT admin point of view. Some much needed housekeeping was taken care of, coupled with some forward planning for the post-recession rebuilding phase.

During the course of many, many conversations last year, we were able to identify a number of service improvement ideas, by asking the question; 'What don't you like about our service?'. We frankly know what we do rather well, but it's the things at which we don't excel which are of the most interest. The niggles in our service. The bits our customers would like us to tweak, change, or even tear up and start again.

As a result, we went back to the (proverbial) drawing board (we are in the CAD & BIM world, after all! :) ) and started with a fresh look at how we could deliver future test modules for a host of design and engineering software apps (108 at the last count!).

And so KnowledgeSmart was born, as part of this process. Next month, we roll out the first phase of our new web-based tools, which will give AEC businesses even more insight into the skills base and competency of their teams. All existing 'Premier' customers will be upgraded to our new 'Enterprise' subscription, which offers a wide range of choices for knowledge capture and dissemination.

The months to follow will see a phased release of some new tools to help with the analysis and sharing of the newly captured performance data. Testing is already underway on a skills matrix tool, which will give HR and Training leaders a valuable insight into more focused learning, not to mention smoother resourcing of projects.

So, whilst the recession was (and still is) a hurdle on the overall journey to running an enjoyable and profitable enterprise, we are also, in a funny way, grateful that it came along when it did. It taught us how to listen again.


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