TeamFolio Case Study - BG&E
Global civil engineering firm BG&E designs award winning structures, from mega projects like Dubai's Opus and Index buildings, to bridges, stadiums, power stations and highways. But it struggled to find the right experts for new project teams, or to answer tricky design questions.
BG&E implemented FidraSoft's TeamFolio™ employee skills inventory and discovery application with support from FidraSoft and taxonomy experts WAND. With the system in place, searching for staff with the right engineering skills and experience is now rapid, efficient and effective.
BG&E is the global consulting engineering practice behind award-winning designs like the EY Centre in Sydney, Australia and Dubai's Opus and Index buildings. The company's 500-plus workforce is multi-talented, just as capable of designing a giant cryogenic storage tank as a new hospital. But finding the right internal experts used to be slow and inefficient.
“We're widely recognised for applying innovative designs and alternative uses of materials across an array of projects,” says Brent Van Lelyveld, Associate Director at BG&E. “We have an incredible range of staff skills and experience but we needed a way to organise that information so we could locate the people we wanted quickly.”
Searching for a solution
Staff looking for certain skills used to simply email local managers – or the entire company. However, BG&E's recent substantial growth meant this approach was becoming unworkable. “There were a lot of emails flying around,” says Brent. “Many people wouldn't respond, even if they had the skills, as there's a tendency to be modest and downplay their talents.”
Getting quick answers to specialist questions was tough too. Many engineers assumed that others would answer or were wary of “putting their hands up”, something that also made the company's technical forums ineffective.
“We could store explicit knowledge and content in our SharePoint system and tag items with metadata so we could find it,” explains Brent. “But the problem was the tacit knowledge in people's heads. How do you make that searchable?”
Finding a solution that could bring together this tagged content with people's skills was key.
Parts of the company had already created spreadsheet-based “skills matrices”. But though building them took significant effort, once in place, they were unmaintained and so would rapidly go out of date. Inconsistent descriptions and incompatible structures in these informal databases made searching a chore too – leaving blanket emailing as the only viable option.
Expertise discovery – it's a lot harder than you might imagine
“We needed to tag skills data consistently so you could easily find it by searching,” says Brent. “We thought about capturing information from CVs, but few CVs are complete and up to date. We wanted people to self-assess themselves and make the updating process quick and easy.”
To capture people's skills, BG&E had initially considered using its HR system but this couldn't be customised to suit its engineering-specific skills mix. Added to that, skills location involved a cumbersome mix of report generation and non=intuitive searching.
The company decided it needed an application that incorporated a flexible skills database with its own custom taxonomy and that could populate, maintain and search that database. Any application also had to be simple to use and offer secure browser-based access.
Using standard Microsoft Office 365 Delve profiles was another possibility but they lacked detail and, once again, customising the profiles would be hard to achieve and challenging to maintain.
The company decided it needed an application that incorporated a flexible skills database with its own custom taxonomy and that could populate, maintain and search that database.
Any application also had to be simple to use and offer secure browser-based access.
The Solution - TeamFolio
BG&E came across DiscoverMe™, which is what the earlier version of TeamFolio was called, when investigating WAND's pre-built taxonomies. DiscoverMe Pro includes licences for the WAND taxonomies and fitted the specification perfectly, providing a taxonomy-based talent profile for every employee. It is easy to self-complete and maintain, and provides a very powerful but user-friendly expertise search engine.
Fully compatible with Microsoft Office 365 and SharePoint Online
“DiscoverMe immediately looked like a very good solution and it was also a great fit with our own IT infrastructure,” says Brent. “It works directly with profiles in Office 365 – very important as a lot of our data resides there. Technically, DiscoverMe extends SharePoint, which we were already using for our knowledge and content management. It uses SharePoint's Term Store for metadata management – as does our in-house environment.”
“DiscoverMe Pro also comes with WAND's foundation taxonomies, which we could then customise to fit our needs,” continues Brent. “We assessed DiscoverMe carefully and searched for software with the same capabilities, but drew a blank. The only other option would have been to build it ourselves.”
Designing a consistent, reliable skills vocabulary
The project's first priority was to customise the ready-made WAND taxonomy to include all the right skills within the correct hierarchical structure. Whether it was designing super-high-rise buildings or specialisms like motion dampers, naming conventions had to be completely clear.
The relationship between parent and child terms had to be accurate too: bridge abutment design is only relevant to bridges but what about reinforced concrete beams? Is that skill for bridges only, or for buildings too? Quantifying someone's skill level also had to be free from subjectivity and ambiguity, with the calculation clearly understood and agreed company-wide.
“We wanted reliable and accurate metadata so the system could deliver its planned functionality right from the start and users would adopt it quickly,” explains Brent. “We based the initial taxonomy on our existing skills matrices and kept revising until everyone was happy. The support from FidraSoft and WAND throughout this process was excellent.”
The Outcome - A rapid, reliable and easy-to-use system
With the taxonomy in place and DiscoverMe up and running, staff started entering their skills into DiscoverMe's database. Sharing each region's progress in completing its skills profiles encouraged inter-office competition and also helped drive adoption.
With over 95% of employees now in the system, profile maintenance is today's prime data concern. BG&E cleverly handles this by making skills profile updates part of the staff appraisal and HR onboarding processes.
“User adoption is the biggest influence on the success of an expertise discovery system,” notes Rick Campbell, FidraSoft's CEO. “BG&E has done a fantastic job of promoting adoption while keeping the database relevant, fresh and accurate. This thorough planning and preparation is why it is realising so many of DiscoverMe's benefits.”
“DiscoverMe is very much part of our day-to-day operations and we don't want anyone dropping into the old habit of emailing,” says Brent. “We were planning training videos for new users but DiscoverMe is so easy to learn that they aren't needed.”
Getting quick answers to specialist questions was tough too. Many engineers assumed that others would answer or were wary of “putting their hands up”, something that also made the company's technical forums ineffective. “We could store explicit knowledge and content in our SharePoint system and tag items with metadata so we could find it,” explains Brent. “But the problem was the tacit knowledge in people's heads. How do you make that searchable?”
Instant access to every company expert
Finding people for new projects has never been simpler, with DiscoverMe recently supporting BG&E's move into defence contracting by uncovering over 50 employees with defence experience.
“Without DiscoverMe, we would have missed most of those people,” reports Brent. “It was amazing how few of them actually had defence on their CVs. In general, it's shocking how many skills are left out of CVs.”
“Finding the right people is definitely faster now,” he continues. “Target a smaller group of the most relevant people and you're more likely to get a response. And every email you send distracts staff, so picking the right experts from DiscoverMe first means you don't waste everyone else's time.”
Answers to tricky design questions arrive quickly, and there have been unexpected benefits too. “If we're thinking about changing software, we can see which experts on different applications we have in the business,” explains Brent.
New features and capability updates keep on coming
As new skills appear, it's simple to add them to the ever-evolving taxonomy. FidraSoft works closely with BG&E here, answering queries and adding new features – whether it's changes to search result rankings or advising on SharePoint configuration.
“Support from FidraSoft has been fantastic,” enthuses Brent. “They really listen and have released a stream of updates with our requested enhancements. They even helped our IT team with our own SharePoint environment recently. We're not a massive company so this responsive supplier service is unusual and very welcome indeed.”
BG&E is now developing a portal where managers can use MS Power BI to query, report on and visualise all the company's skills inventories, with the live skills database presented alongside sources like the HR database. Knowing where skills reside in the business, managers can target training to plug any gaps. Other ambitions include employing AI or bots to search for experts and content simultaneously; future DiscoverMe releases will support this and further BI capabilities.
“It's fantastic that DiscoverMe and its SQL database run on SharePoint and Azure,” notes Brent. “It makes it so much easier to build and populate, then tap into that data for many different end uses that go well beyond individual searches.” “The idea of going back to spreadsheets and emails sends a shiver down my spine,” he concludes. “This is a far, far better way to manage skills.”
Founded in 1970, BG&E is an award-winning, international consulting engineering practice. With offices located in Australia, the Middle East, New Zealand, Singapore and the UK, the company specialises in specific areas of engineering with designs for infrastructure, building structures, civil engineering, facades and construction support. It also advises on materials technology.
Technical excellence and competence in these chosen fields lie at the core of the company's high quality engineering services. It delivers solutions that are practical, cost effective and that focus on innovation and constructability. Its “can do” attitude and ability to successfully deliver complex projects are well known throughout the industry. To find out more, visit bgeeng.com
FidraSoft was formed in 2017 by Fidra Consulting, a dedicated team of data scientists and software engineers focused on creating DiscoverMe. Taking decades of experience working with hundreds of customers across the globe, this recent award-winning UK-based team work with partners in Europe, North America and Australia to support our customers.
FidraSoft adopt Agile and Kaizen practices to deliver rapid and continual development of the DiscoverMe platform. These practices rely on the continual feedback loop we enjoy with our customers and partners. We take the same approach to continuous process improvement of our operations and have been recognised as “developing disruptive, unique products that will drive a sustainable and inclusive economy and new ways of working and living.“
To find out more, visit fidrasoft.com
Since 1983, WAND has developed multi-lingual taxonomies to improve the way organisations can search and organise unstructured and semi-structured information. WAND is the premier source for industry vertical taxonomies, business taxonomies and specialty domain-specific taxonomies. The breadth and coverage of WAND's taxonomy library is unmatched and for years, WAND Taxonomies have been used by thousands of companies around the world to organise information.
To find out more, visit wandinc.om
Since its launch in 2017 as DiscoverMe and building on decades of bespoke solution developments in this area, FidraSoft's TeamFolio employee skills inventory platform has established itself as the best knowledge discovery, management and collaboration tool that focuses on doing two things really well:
- It makes it easy for anyone to find others with specific expertise, skills or experience and contact them.
- And, by simplifying things, it encourages people to update their profiles, making all their skills immediately available to those who are looking for them.
Rapidly deployable as a plugin to Microsoft SharePoint, and designed and built from the start with security, privacy and performance as design principles, DiscoverMe is certified to the highest technical security standards available within the test labs at the US Department of Defense.