Tuesday, 14 January 2014

A Decade of Skills Assessment...

At the end of 2013, we celebrated our 10th anniversary, on our journey to develop innovative skills testing solutions for the AEC industry.

Here's a (slightly nostalgic) trip down memory lane, looking back at a decade of skills assessment...

Way back in 2003, we launched a start-up called CADTEST.  Here's our old logo:

This was a plugin software tool, based on the AutoCAD API, which tested basic CAD skills across the following 10 areas (for a simple percentage calculation):
Lines/Sheet Setup & Xrefs/Circles/Text/Blocks/Dimensions/Integration/Layers/Variables/UCS.

We continued developing this application throughout 2004, but eventually realised that we would need more detailed results analysis, if the concept of skills testing was going to go any further.

We also experienced considerable resistance to the 'test' part of the brand, so a new name was launched in 2005 - CADsmart.  We re-wrote the software from the ground up and launched a new application, which offered greater functionality for capturing and analysing results data.

We swiftly progressed our technical offering by adding MicroStation skills testing, plugging into the Bentley Systems API - another industry first.

One of the most important decisions we made early on, was agreeing to focus solely on skills testing, not training, hiring or consultancy services.  And we took an independent approach to recommending training. 

By 2006, we were doubling new sales each year and carrying over 90% renewals.  A brand refresh followed, with a new logo and marketing campaign.

We developed a more sophisticated online admin dashboard, with charting tools, screen recording, 100% movies and detailed user feedback.

In 2007 we introduced performance quartiles, more detailed benchmarking statistics, an 'Xpress' test for interviews, a candidate movie and a web based booking system.  We also ran our first 'CAD Focus Group' meeting, a popular forum for gathering user feedback and software wishlist ideas, which continues to the present day.

By 2008, the world was feeling the effects of the coming 'credit crunch' (read: recession) and the AEC industry was starting to embrace the concept of BIM with greater enthusiasm.  We opened our US office, in sunny Clearwater, Florida.  And we hosted our 'Cutting Edge CAD Management' conference in London.

In the same year, we launched our first interactive Revit Architecture skills test and hosted our first AUGI Top DAUG skills contest at AU, in partnership with 4D Technologies.  We also presented at the Bentley conference in Philadelphia and attended our first RTC conference in Melbourne, Australia.

By 2009, the global recession was taking hold and AEC firms were turning away from hiring and training in large numbers.  This was probably our most challenging year to date.  But it also proved to be a turning point on our journey. With BIM adoption gathering pace, we realised that the plug-in technology we had developed was in danger of becoming obsolete. 'The Cloud' beckoned, and with it the ability for firms to customise their test experience and cover a much broader range of test topics. Our original approach of, 'any colour you want (so long as it's black!)' was not going to allow us to grow much further.

As is often the case with technology, our original ideas were being overtaken by the growth of internet technology and the broad range of software being deployed across the AEC industry. One door was closing, but another one was opening... and the KnowledgeSmart brand was born.

Once again, we found ourselves developing new technology from scratch, but we had 6 years of invaluable ideas to build into our new platform. Plus a loyal customer base and extensive network of authors.

In early 2010, the KnowledgeSmart web based test engine was launched.  And in the summer of 2010 the original CADsmart software was finally retired from service.

Fast forward 4 years and we arrive at the present day, with a fully developed, interactive, web-based test engine, complete with a customisable library of 60+ software assessments (covering the most popular software products from Autodesk, Bentley, Graphisoft and Adobe) and a customer base numbering in the hundreds of firms, right across the globe.

And the funny thing is, in spite of everything we've built over the past decade, all the presentations, meetings, overseas trips, conferences, competitions, highs and lows, in many ways, we're only just getting started on our journey to create a world class skills assessment system.

We can't wait to see what the next 10 years will bring!


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