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.
‘Nick and Martin, the NBS trainers, made the session really enjoyable, and their technical knowledge was incredible. It was a one-day session with one of them taking us through the morning and one in the afternoon. The day covered everything our team might need to know, and the NBS support team are always there if we have any queries’, Carl said.
“Every consultant will use the platform differently so the trainers took the time beforehand to understand how we want to use it at Hollis and tailored the session specifically to our needs. It was also really beneficial to be able to ask questions during the session and have them answered straight away, which wouldn’t have been possible with a pre-recorded session.”
Jade also attended our Stylesheets Masterclass to find out about one of Chorus’ new features in more depth. ‘I work within the business support team so finding out more about how to use the stylesheets feature was particularly useful for me as this will support us with the preparation and formatting of our specification documents’, she said.
Hollis has also been impressed with the support received from NBS throughout their subscription: ‘The support team are always very quick to respond to any problems we might be facing. Having that support is invaluable for our business because deadlines are always looming and it’s crucial that any software issues are resolved as quickly as possible’.
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’.