As the unnumbered legions of eagle-eyed SME blog watchers will have no doubt noticed, there has been a lull in the tempo of our company blog posts of late.
Throughout 2023, the whole team here at SME Water has been working intensively to develop our new demand forecasting tool, Paradigm, which, at the time of writing, has just seen trials launched with four major English water companies. For those who may have missed our more recent weekly updates on the progress of the Paradigm project, SME Water’s bottom-up method of establishing expected flows for any given DMA has tickled the fancy of large portions of the UK clean water industry, as shown in the graphic below, and is currently out in the real world showing what it can do.
In addition to the initial four companies, three more have taken up the opportunity of a demo-run of the analysis over a small number of their areas and we hope to see them join the club project in earnest come October. Keep eyes peeled on that front! (For more information on this exciting project we encourage you to read more here).
Figure 1: Club project members (in blue) and trial members (in orange)
Building an academy
So, there’s a real feeling of dynamism in the office of late. Our team has grown to help manage the workload effectively and has also been upskilling across the board as we push to develop a well-rounded product offering.
My part in all this? Lacking in the more learned arts of data wizardry wielded by Technical Director Raasheed Pakwashi and Senior Engineer Matt Smith in the architecture of Paradigm and our new data warehouse, I quickly put my hand up for the production of the training materials that make up the Paradigm Academy.
So, what is the Academy?
The Academy is a multimedia training resource for all would-be users of the Paradigm analysis platform, which includes a combination of instructional videos, detailed articles and multiple choice quizzes. It leads the user through a series of modules and courses that progress from detailing the very basics of DMAs, on into discussing demand and leakage and building to a crescendo tutorial on how to get the best from the Paradigm analysis itself. We decided to lay the Academy out in this way to ensure that all the information that it is necessary to know to get the most from Paradigm is available. In doing this we decided it was best not to assume the level of experience of the end user, making the Academy suitable for everyone from novices through to old hands. There will be something in there for all.
Another feature of the Academy is the awarding of badges for completed courses, allowing users to track their progress through the courses they have been enrolled in, as seen in the screenshot below:
Figure 2: Paradigm Academy completed courses
This leads us on to the ability to tailor training content for individual users. The Academy allows for different users to be enrolled in different courses when their accounts are created, allowing for a training program that can be tailored to individual needs. We are pleased to be offering Paradigm-focused training to our club project members as a useful addition to the core product and regard the site as a resource where analysts can first build their knowledge of the analysis and later refer back to it if necessary.
Videos in the Academy are accompanied by an associated Library article that is on hand if needed to give either background information or specific detail where they might be useful additions to the video modules. The site is intuitive and easy to navigate, with users required to hit a button to confirm they have completed each module and needing to pass a short multiple-choice quiz at the end of each course before moving onto the next.
Figure 3: Paradigm Academy course video
Producing the Academy has been a departure for me after nearly three years with SME Water and one that I have thoroughly enjoyed. The upskilling in my case was getting to grips with Canva, a graphic design platform that has proven very useful to us for everything from designing LinkedIn posts to producing training videos. Producing so many modules has been a steep learning curve in how best to present information through instructional videos, not least through battling against robotic-sounding voiceover software! Word to the wise for anyone looking to make such software sound as human as possible: acronyms and repetition are your enemy, whereas inserting pauses into blocks of text and using bullet points to convey key pieces of information can have a dramatic effect on how well received your video is! All-in-all I have found Canva really intuitive and would recommend it to anyone looking to create interesting digital content.
A real pleasure of working for SME Water is the variety of projects that we have been engaged on in the three years I have been with the company. From analysing pressure data as part of our Dynamo analysis, to designing processes for the efficient use of acoustic data, to hunting for possible causes of transient pressure waves; there is always a new challenge and new things to learn. The Paradigm Academy is a departure for us as a company as well as for me personally. This is a first foray into the world of training materials and one that has had a great response from the clients who have engaged with it so far.
As we develop our Paradigm forecasting models, more and more material will be added to the Academy to keep our clients up to speed on the latest developments and how to get the best from them. Keep an eye on our LinkedIn for further updates.