Glancy Nicholls Architects drive constant skills improvement with KnowledgeSmart
Glancy Nicholls Architects uses KnowledgeSmart to keep everybody's capabilities in tip-top shape
“KnowledgeSmart is a key support mechanism enabling Glancy Nicholls Architects to produce quality outcomes on every project, and the best possible contributions from every team member.
It has become a valuable management tool for us, giving an overview and detailed insight into where our strengths and weaknesses are and where our training focus needs to be."
Neil Carter, BIM Lead, Glancy Nicholls Architects
Meet Glancy Nicholls Architects
Founded by Lyndon Glancy RIBA and Patrick Nicholls RIBA in June 2004, Glancy Nicholls Architects (GNA) Ltd. is a Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Chartered Practice. GNA is continuously involved in high profile public and private sector developments, working with many repeat clients, including blue chip organisations across many sectors.
GNA is active in education, student accommodation, residential, healthcare, leisure, industrial, offices, and numerous master planning projects. For more than ten years, GNA has had a close working relationship with Excitech, expanding the practice's ability to respond to new opportunities presented by new technologies as they become available or as they refresh.
Excitech consultants, for example, worked alongside the GNA team to migrate over to Revit as the platform of choice, helping the practice to establish a BIM platform in pursuance of BIM Level 2 accreditation.
Assessing what people do and don't know
Neil Carter, BIM Lead at GNA, is responsible for coordinating and enabling the company's preparations for BIM level 2 accreditation. Among the many requirements for gaining the accreditation is the ability to prove that a company has assessed staff on BIM processes and standards.
Many organisations in the construction sector encounter this requirement, but it is not exclusively driven by BIM. The vast range of software solutions available to the industry is constantly evolving.
Upgrades, new releases, enhanced add-ons and the influx of new technologies to the sector can create a sometimes bewildering array of new techniques for users to keep track of; or to catch up with.
Even the most highly accomplished designers and architects can discover new ways of doing things that they were often not aware their existing software portfolio already enabled them to do. The challenge is to pinpoint where the knowledge gaps are.
The challenge – how good are we at what we do?
Carter had seen KnowledgeSmart in use across many companies he worked with in the past and noted a high level of enthusiasm for the software's function in helping companies elevate skills levels within their business. He felt it would assist GNA to adopt a detailed and consistent strategy and approach to taking standards and capabilities to the next level; not just for BIM but also to deliver more productivity and higher quality outputs to the business.
"How do you really know how good people are at what they do? We had always trusted people in interviews, assuming they had the skills they said they had.
Making sure the team can contend with any challenge and has the innate capabilities to work with any software starts with onboarding; getting the foundations right. We hadn't cross-checked people's capabilities and we wanted to be able to do that," explains Carter.
"We employ a lot of RIBA Part One and Part Two qualified students as part of our company's commitment to training future leaders. They know the theory but tend to be light on the practice e.g. employing their skills on the go in a busy environment, we have to be sure they can hit the ground running, for their own benefit and for the company's."
The solution – higher levels of skill, deeper confidence across the team, wider insights all round, with KnowledgeSmart
Carter decided to put KnowledgeSmart in place to test everyone in the practice on their Revit capabilities. KnowledgeSmart assessments are completed online and they are timed so that the results show a combination of time and accuracy. They present the user with a series of task based and knowledge-based questions, to which answers are entered into the KnowledgeSmart browser screen.
The assessments are benchmarked across the industry, showing levels of competence that should be expected as a minimum. Assessments are in-built for AutoCAD, Revit and numerous other software suites; those commonly used across the construction sector.
"The initial Revit assessment gave us a great analysis of strengths and weaknesses across the practice. We have 60 technical staff of which approximately 45 use Revit every day, so it's vital to understand our capabilities in meeting client requirements efficiently and professionally. Integral to this process is the avoidance of delays or hold-ups that might happen when people have to consult with others about certain aspects of the software."
Carter identifies three additional strategic benefits from embracing KnowledgeSmart as a daily support tool within the business:
- Targeted training: "With KnowledgeSmart as the basis for revealing knowledge shortfalls, we run two two-hour weekly training workshops pinpointing areas for focus for all staff."
- Process improvement: "The KnowledgeSmart reporting overview gives us insight into where we can generally improve processes within the business, so it benefits not just the individual but the whole mechanism of the company and how we work."
- Motivation: "We have great people and it's important that they know that we value their input. We invest time and money in developing their skills. This approach is mutually beneficial. Staff see the esteem in which we hold them and the efforts we make to support them, which are powerful motivators for individual commitment and staff loyalty."
Glancy Nicholls Architects also takes advantage of the authoring tools within KnowledgeSmart that enable the practice to create its own assessment questions. "The authoring tool has been of particular value to us," explains Carter.
"We have built up a series of tests and questions, with multiple-choice answer options, around Revit and BIM processes. We're now developing modules for broader areas across the practice, such as asbestos management and conservation issues. KnowledgeSmart is flexible in that way, offering a very broad-based series of assessment modules but giving you the ability to craft your own."
Examples of Glancy Nicholls customised BIM questions for Knowledge Smart assessments:
Getting better all the time
- What is 5D BIM?
- A. The inclusion of information that helps facilitate accurate cost estimates.
- B. Data that helps with scheduling and build times.
- What does 4D BIM involve?
- A. The ability to understand your clients better, allowing you to tailor designs to their needs.
- B. Time-related data, such as information about scheduling (including lead times, installation and build phases) being added to the model.
- What does BEP stand for?
- BIM Execution Plan
- BIM Extraction Plan
- BIM Executables Plan
Carter believes that KnowledgeSmart is pivotal to the process of continuous skills improvement at Glancy Nicholls Architects, raising levels of efficiency and quality. "It's part of what we are now. Each week we respond to results gathered from KnowledgeSmart. It frames our internal training programme. It gives us focus. It keeps us on our toes. I even test myself regularly, and always learn something new from the process."