Hollis is an international, independent real estate consultancy with a multi-skilled team of surveyors, engineers, technical specialists, consultants and project managers operating across the UK, Ireland and mainland Europe. Since 1991 they’ve provided a range of over 20 services to their clients, including industrial refurbishment, dilapidations, project management and more.
We caught up with Carl Sablon (Senior Associate) and Jade Pitt (Business Support Team Leader) to find out more about why the business has adopted NBS Chorus and what support they’ve received from the NBS training team.
NBS Chorus is a cloud-based specification writing tool which can be used on any web browser or device with internet access – from desktops to laptops, tablets and even mobile phones.
As a cloud-based platform, which enables users to invite people both internally and externally into a specification, Chorus is all about easy and effective collaboration.
Hollis has consistently used desktop specification tool NBS Create on their past projects, but when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the UK at the start of 2020, they decided to transition to NBS Chorus to benefit from the platform’s suitability for remote working.
'When the pandemic hit, we started working from home and took the opportunity to take a step back and review our processes. At the time, we had been using NBS Create, but as Create is a desktop product, it wasn’t totally suited to homeworking', Carl said.
'We already knew that NBS Create would be retired in the near future but working from home gave us the opportunity to roll out Chorus across the business to help us to work more efficiently.'
The transitionOnce the decision had been made to shift to Chorus, Carl collaborated with his NBS account manager and the training team to create a bespoke digital training session for Hollis, which around 100 staff attended.
While the training was delivered in the form of a live webinar by NBS, Hollis has its own intranet system (Hollis Learn), which can host the recorded session on demand so that staff can go back to revisit the training at any time.
According to Anuran, the ability to work on projects in the cloud has been one of the most useful features of NBS Chorus. As a cloud-based specification platform, Chorus allows multiple users to work on a specification remotely and on a range of devices, which has been extremely useful for Hydrock given the distance between their offices - and around 90% of their technical staff are currently working from home.
“We’re dispersed all around the country and are working from home so having an online version of the spec is very helpful,” he said.
"Having an online platform makes things much easier for us while working from home because now the engineers can access the specification and share information without overloading our servers"
Before adopting NBS Chorus, Hydrock used desktop product NBS Create, which is due be retired. Anuran highlighted the consistency and standardisation benefits that NBS Chorus’ stylesheets feature provides as one of the significant benefits the business has seen since making the switch.
“One of my main tasks last year was to standardise our specifications and projects, and that is why we decided to use NBS Chorus. NBS's automatic updates to the standards and guidance take away a big slice of our work because we cannot dedicate a team to continually update our standard template. We’re pushing hard on our branding and thanks to the Stylesheets feature; we’ve now got the front page of our documents looking standardised which is great progress.”
“Shortly, we want to utilise the Masters' feature and have one standardised template that we can work on to create our specifications and projects.”
Chorus has now become the go-to platform for Hollis’ specifications. The business is in the top five users of the platform worldwide, while Carl (who specialises in industrial refurbishment) personally uses it weekly on a number of different projects since May.
Since switching over to Chorus, Hollis has benefitted from an increase in efficiency. Specifications are being written faster than ever before, particularly due to their use of the Masters feature, which are used regularly to ensure that projects are standardised and consistent. The Masters feature enables users to build up a library of commonly used clauses so that they’re ready to use on a project in an instant.
'Just by having the masters there, if you’re doing a lot of projects which are similar in nature, it’s just a case of dragging and dropping – that saves us so much time.'
By using Chorus’ notes feature internally, Hollis has been able to speed up project decisions and cut down on the amount of emails that are sent around during the decision-making process. This feature has also helped to improve the level of consistency across the business, with the risk of staff using old or incorrect information being reduced.
Chorus has helped the consultancy to manage risk by providing control over the specific products that can be used in a specification. ‘When a client wants sustainable products, you can type in ‘green’ and Chorus will come up with products we’ve highlighted and tagged which meet BREEAM standards. If a client wants a less expensive refurbishment, you could type in ‘economy’ and Chorus will show some of the cheaper products’, Carl said.
NBS’ training team helped Hollis to accelerate their transition from NBS Create to NBS Chorus, which has led to an instant impact on the level of efficiency in Hollis’ projects. The intuitive nature of NBS Chorus has sped up the decision-making process – while still ensuring a high standard of quality and consistency across the business.
As well as Chorus, Hollis has also benefitted from product-selection platform NBS Source. Having been launched earlier this year, Source combines Product Selector, NBS Plus and the NBS BIM Library in a single platform to help specifiers find the most suitable products for their project specifications.
Carl said: ‘NBS Source is so easy to use and has been a real help for us in identifying products for our projects. It’s been really beneficial to be able to compare products and product data before making a decision on what goes into the specification’.