Bristol, U.K.–based KnowledgeSmart Ltd. is starting to turn heads on the west side of the Atlantic with its independent, online-software skills-gap analysis and industry benchmarking service for design firms.

Rory Vance, CEO, says about 25 U.S. companies have subscribed to the service, including Stantec, HOK, Atkins and Cannon Design. Doubling in a year, the number of subscribers on the list globally is now "into three figures."

Subscribers are testing hundreds of users—and not just BIM jockeys—for comprehension and skills with specific software tools, such as Autodesk Revit and Bentley Microstation. Others are testing project managers for understanding of principals of BIM in practice.

BIM managers are enthusiastic. "I haven't found anything similar," says Michael Horta, BIM director at Kasian Architecture and Interior Design, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Kasian has 350 design-software users in four cities. When Horta joined the firm 18 months ago, he needed to evaluate individual skill levels to identify strengths, address weaknesses and benchmark the company against the industry.

"I could find standard tests, but I had to manage the metrics, figure out grades, evaluate skills and work out how those tests fit our needs," Horta says. "With KnowledgeSmart, I don't have to. They have the system down pat. I can customize and modify the test, and they collect the metrics and do the analysis. I can evaluate which city has the best users, which city has problem areas and [then] modify training to be very specific to them."

After stumbling upon the service, David Spehar, corporate BIM leader at Stantec, says he used it heavily at a company acquired by Stantec in late 2010. Stantec has since expanded the firm's subscription to cover its workforce of 10,000. "It's a great tool," Spehar says. "We run so lean we needed a tool that doesn't require high technology and support overhead. It's easy to get in, create assessments, gather results and analyze them. And customizing is very easy." He adds, "It's very important that the service is software-vendor-neutral, too."