Wednesday, 29 February 2012

KS System - next release

We're just going through the final round of testing on our staging site, before we move the next release of the KS tools to the live site.  The beauty of a web based system is that all KS customers get to enjoy the latest features, as soon as they go live, without worrying about physically un-installing or re-installing software.

A number of firms have asked for a heads up, as to what will be appearing in the March release.  We'll be talking about this in detail at the upcoming KS user group, in London, but for now, here's a brief overview of the new features, plus a look ahead to the point-release currently in development, which rolls out around May.

The main theme of the next release is to introduce account hierarchies, for firms with two or more locations in their organisation.  Large firms, with multiple KS accounts in place, will now be able to view and manage data, across linked accounts.  This impacts on almost every area of the KS admin dashboard.

KS Library

A common request is to enable firms to share custom test material, which has been created in one KS account, with the related accounts in an organisation.  The 'Test Content' pages have been re-branded as the 'Library' area of the dashboard, with a new menu structure now appearing. The 'Your Tests / Modules / Questions' area now appears as 'Draft Tests / Modules / Questions'. When a KS OTS (off the shelf) test is imported, the editable copy now appears in 'Draft Tests'.  The individual editable stages appear in 'Draft Modules' and the editable questions appear in 'Draft Questions'.

When you are happy with your new content, (either material you have written in-house, or an OTS test that has been modified), you now have the option to 'Publish' your modules and tests.  This effectively locks down that content and allows you to share it across linked accounts.  Draft content can not be shared between accounts.  Published modules and tests can be un-published at any time, for further changes.

Viewing Linked Accounts

Another key change to the KS dashboard operation, is the introduction of a hierarchy of linked accounts.  Admins can now view their account structure of 'parent', 'child' and 'sibling' accounts.  For admins with permission to access multiple accounts, a new 'Switch account' feature allows simple navigation between accounts. For viewing data across linked accounts, a new sub-menu dropdown is available in the Library, Invites > History, Results > Data and Users pages.  This sub-menu can be used to drill down to individual accounts, or to view information from all linked accounts, organisation-wide.

Creating New Accounts and Administrators

It is now possible to add new KS accounts to an organisation hierarchy, and also to create new account administrators for each account.  In addition, we have created a new type of admin profile, a Sub-administrator.  Full administrators can assign their preferred status to new admins and also change the status of existing admins.  Sub-admins can only set up KS test sessions from a browser; they cannot access the full admin dashboard. This is particularly useful for delegating the task of setting up test sessions for interview candidates, without the need for a full KS administrator to be available every time.  It also opens up the option for firms to create a general admin profile, which they can make centrally available, for users to 'self-invite' themselves to take a KS test or re-test, via a browser (i.e. skip the need to issue an email invite).

Full admins can also assign account permissions (i.e. decide how high up the organisational hierarchy new admins are allowed to access company data) and flag additional admins to receive system emails (i.e. invite mails, results mails, etc.).

Managing Content

We've added a selection of new tools, which allow Full admins to share KS data, across linked accounts.  For example, moving user records between accounts, moving test results, sharing modules and tests between accounts and applying changes to account settings, across linked accounts.

We have also tweaked the logic, relating to usernames and passwords appearing on test invite mails. Before, this data was only appended to the first instance of an invite. Subsequent invites only included the test name and URL.  Now the username and password is included in every instance of an invite, which will reduce the need for users to re-set their passwords (i.e. if they have lost or deleted the original password).

So, as you can see, quite a few changes to the overall structure of the KS system, but offering greater flexibility and control to customers, to manage data across their organisation.

Here's a sneak peek at what's currently being worked on, from the KS user wish list..

General update of the KS system to a cloud based server environment, including an updated operating system, more memory and greater flexibility for future growth.

Automatic retrospective grouping of new user and results data, based on existing groups.

New charting options and improvements to existing results data. New exporting options for results data. Linking of question footprint information, to Question Performance chart.

New options for admins to select level of precision on free text answers.

Update to the rich text editing tools, for creating and editing questions.

General improvements to the 'Invites' area of the dashboard, including auto emails for expired tests, reminder mails for users and capturing data for Issued/In Progress/Completed tests.

Updated 'Resources' area for admins, on how to utilise the KS tools and manage their assessment program.

This little lot will be finding its way into the live site in the next 3 months.  We'll be discussing all this and more at the KS user group, in London, on April 26.  We will also be mapping out the technical roadmap (sometimes referred to as, the 'Jane List') for the second half of 2012 and beyond.  Themes include; capturing and displaying additional benchmark statistics, personal dashboard pages for users, survey questions, links to training and e-learning providers and links to HR systems and learning management systems.


Tuesday, 28 February 2012

KS User Group - April 26, London

We’re hosting the next KS user group meeting, in London, in April.  Here are the details:

Thursday 26 April

Smeaton Room, Buro Happold, 17 Newman Street, London

Tea & coffee at 08.30, for a 09.00 start

Last session wraps up at 13.30

Free (breakfast & lunch included)

We will be reviewing the KS tools in some detail, including a look at what’s coming up in the next 3-6 months.  Plus a guest presenter or two.  Full agenda to follow, as the date gets closer.

Places will be limited to 25, on a first come, first served basis.  As of close of business Tuesday 28 Feb, we have just 6 slots remaining.

Hope you can make it!


Monday, 6 February 2012

2012 Priorities for AEC Firms

I read an interesting White Paper from Deltek last week, looking at where AEC firms are focusing their energy this year.  Conducted in November and December 2011, Deltek’s survey polled 430 decision makers at primarily US based AEC firms.

Not surprisingly, Marketing & Business Development and Cost Control are the two key themes for AEC firms in 2012.  70% of respondents said that increasing business development is their biggest priority this year.

This is something we are seeing across all regions.  Most AEC firms have now begun to implement a BIM strategy, but the majority are still in the early stages of communicating a joined-up message.  One of the areas the Deltek paper addresses, is how architects and engineers can make the most of Business Intelligence, in order to win more work. 

A trend we are noticing, is the need for AEC firms to demonstrate their BIM credentials.  This is important for a number of reasons.  The more data firms can gather on how proficiently they can deliver on a project, the more confidence they can instil in clients, prospective clients and their supply chain partners. It's one thing to say, 'Oh yes, we can deliver this project to BIM Level 2'.  It's quite another thing to actually be in a position to back up the words with hard evidence. This includes metrics from past or current BIM projects and performance data on individuals in the team, who will be hands on delivering the project information and working alongside the client and the GC.

And when this information is identified, it is vitally important that the business development teams are fully briefed on what it all means.  More and more firms are being requested to complete BIM-readiness questionnaires these days and, as clients become more knowledgeable about BIM, those forms will be requesting ever increasing levels of detail.  The phrase 'BIM Execution Plan' is already becoming a familiar refrain and this is not going to go away.

No longer can AEC firms simply trade on their past reputations.  They need to come up with a new message, one which truly differentiates them from their numerous competitors.  We came into this recession, at the end of 2008, on the back of a near 10-year boom.  We should now be bracing ourselves for a 7-10 year down- cycle, which is currently only 3 years old.  It is those firms who can capture relevant, objective, BIM-related performance data, who will be the real winners in the continued lean years, which lie ahead.

Here is a link to the Deltek paper: