Call the Consultant to discuss ways to become more productive
Thinking about the calls I have had with some of our clients recently, it struck me how many of them are actively seeking advice on how to improve productivity. The theme is always the same – they can produce the models and drawings that their projects need, and they can do this to a high standard – but they just feel that there must be a better / quicker / easier way. They think they must be missing something – perhaps there’s a secret button somewhere that they didn’t know about. Sometimes we can tell them where the secret button is – but of course most of the time it just doesn’t exist.
Scheduled or bespoke training
So, what do you do when your design team have had their training on the software, they can clearly use it to produce the work – and yet it doesn’t seem to be efficient enough, and some things just take too long.
Of course Symetri provide training on Autodesk software, ranging from a basic Essentials course up to more advanced topics. But sometimes more training isn’t the answer. As you move up to more advanced topics, finding the right training course becomes more difficult. At an advanced level, the topics themselves seem to increase exponentially – and no training course can accommodate every topic – and certainly not to the level of detail required.
My first piece of advice is really simple – just pick up the ‘phone and give us a call. If you need to connect with a specialist for the software you are using, whether it’s AutoCAD, Civil 3D, Revit or whatever – you can ask to speak to one of our Consultants. Most consultants have the same basic nature – they are problem solvers, and they get great satisfaction from being able to provide solutions. Speaking to customers who have problems is mutually beneficial, and with every conversation we have, we gain insight and knowledge which we can use to help other customers.
When the solution is not immediately available, then we’ll give you some options. If it’s a technical workflow issue, then a Workshop might be the best answer. Unlike training, where the Trainer is providing specific instruction, a workshop is a meeting where all participants will engage in intensive discussion and activity on a particular subject or project. The Consultant will lead the workshop and provide their knowledge and input, working with your teams to determine the optimum solution that fits your unique circumstances. These sessions work best with small teams whose members are already proficient with the technology in question. They can cover more than one topic or technology, and can be a cost-effective way to improve productivity.
After an initial conversation with you, our Consultants will often know whether your issues can be solved by adopting a particular workflow, or by combining technology solutions. If they don’t think that any in-product or off-the-shelf solution is available, then all is not lost. Most design applications offer some method of customisation. These might vary from simple macros to more complex development using a programming interface, and for some problems, such as data transfer between different systems, this might be the only viable solution.
DIY or not?
If customisation is the answer to your issue, then you will have a choice – train your staff to carry out the customisation – or ask us to do it for you. The advantage of the DIY approach is that your staff will learn how to customise the application, and they can then re-use their knowledge to solve other issues in the future – the downside to this is that it takes the staff-member away from productive work, and may not be the best use of resources. If you do choose this option, then consider allowing one of your more junior staff members to take this on – they are often keen to learn and pick things up easily, and the cost to the business is much less than if a senior designer were to take responsibility.
Training on tools such as Dynamo for Revit or Civil 3D have proved popular for may organisations who want to continually improve productivity. We can often customise such courses to point the way to solving your particular problem.
A Step Up with automation tools
Macros or tools such as Dynamo can provide solutions to many problems – but they also have some limitations. One of the issues is that they require maintenance over time, especially with changes in software versions – and they often don’t get “finished” – there’s always a bug here or there and they just don’t ever get fully tested.
Whilst Symetri can also provide more robust bespoke applications for you, written in code and integrated into the application, we would prefer to point you at our own technology suites. Naviate for Revit and Civil 3D, for example, are plugin applications offering a multitude of time-saving productivity tools. These are continually being improved and added to, and might already provide some answers for you. But one of the best things about Naviate is the community of users who drive the development of the technologies. Most of the tools in Naviate are based on user requests, so if the solution you require is not currently in our toolset, but adding it might also benefit other users, then we will consider doing just that - and you won’t pay anything extra.
Can’t see the wood for the trees - exploring your processes
Sometimes, the root of your issues won’t be the technology, or how you are using it. It might be that productivity is lost through a lack of communication between teams, how the teams themselves are organised, or a disconnect between management and staff. Sometimes it’s a lack of consistency in your approach to projects that might be the issue.
When everyone is busy on project work, it’s difficult to take a step back and focus on why things aren’t working – sometimes you just can’t see the wood for the trees.
Our Consultants have experienced first-hand how many different organisations, both good and bad – are organised. We can advise on how you can re-structure your teams to get the best out of them, and improve communications between different teams. We can also help drive consistency in delivery by providing guidance documentation and training that will get everyone working the same way, improving quality of delivery and de-risking your projects.
Whatever issues you face, and how you choose to solve them, you’ll want to ensure that when you’ve found a solution, the knowledge gained won’t be lost in the future. No business wants to invest in up-skilling their staff, just to see them move on for pastures new, along with their knowledge. Having a strategy in place to ensure that knowledge is shared across the business will go someway to mitigating this scenario.
Here are some simple tips to get the most from your investment in knowledge:
- Toolbox talks
These are knowledge sharing sessions, where staff can be encouraged to share advice and tips that they have acquired. They should be scheduled during normal working hours – this sends a message to staff that it is important to the business and is a part of the business culture.
When new staff join, assign them a mentor. Both the Mentor and Mentee should be briefed on your expectations for the process. The Mentor should be open to sharing information about how the organisation expects work to be conducted, about the culture, and of course they will take an active interest in seeing the Mentee improve. You should provide the right environment for the Mentor to have time to carry out these duties.
It seems obvious of course, but when improvements are made, they should be documented. It’s a fact of life that staff will come and go – but if important processes are documented, then others can look up the solutions to problems and issues that were solved in the past. For important processes regarding quality of delivery or project risks, these should be formally captured in business process documentation. For other solutions, perhaps relating to specific technology, then an internal Wiki site might be a good way to go. Again, you need to allow the time for staff to document the important things.
- Lessons Learned
It’s good practice to carry out a Lessons Learned process at the end of every project. For small projects, this might be a quick ten minute meeting. For large projects, it might take several hours. It provides an opportunity to discuss team performance on the project. Identify the things that did not go well, and try to find improvements. If any disaster occurred, this should be captured for consideration on future projects. Any new methods or processes that were tried that worked well should also be captured and re-used on future projects. Finally, this isn’t just a talking shop – make sure that everything is captured, and that processes are in place to ensure the information captured re-used on future projects.