June 26, 2020

Building a Virtual Assessment Centre using No Code- Customer Speaks

In our Meet The Maker Series, we interview No-Code Makers for their candid feedback, their no-code journeys, initial inhibitions, and methods adopted to build production-grade applications for their businesses.

In this podcast of our Meet the Maker Series, we have interviewed an HR consultant and Co-founder of Authenticook, Aneesh Dhairyawan, sharing his no-code story about building a Virtual Assessment Centre from ideation to implementation using no-code platform DronaHQ.


You will understand:

  1. How did he build the Virtual assessment tool on DronaHQ.
  2. What were the issues before coming up with a virtual assessment center
  3. What were the initial fears or inhibitions as a non-technical person.
  4. Some skills that are important as a maker.
  5. Takeaway for aspiring no-code makers.

This podcast will help and motivate the CIOs, IT heads, entrepreneurs, non-technical founders, and many LoB executives to apply the No-Code technology in their digital initiatives.



Kinjal [K]: Hello and welcome to yet another episode of DronaHQ Insider series. We have today Aneesh Dhairyawan. Aneesh is basically from tech. HR background. He brings a unique combination of HR consulting corporate HR and entrepreneurial experience. This makes him look at HR projects in a very different light and enables him to create solutions that are unique, customized, and in tune with the organization’s reality. Aneesh has been having a lot of corporate experience and consulting experience.

With Deloitte Human Capital Consulting and combination cerebrus consultants. But very recently, having an entrepreneurial experience with Authentic Cook. And today we are going to talk about something very recently Aneesh has been doing. And he has been exploring his hands on making something interesting. He has made a virtual assessment center using no-code tools and being from HR and different background, not a technical background.

He has been able to create a different tool altogether. And I’m going to ask him questions all about it. Welcome, Aneesh onboard.


Aneesh[A]: Thank you for having me over for this Podcast, it’s great to be here.

K(1:45): Cool. So let me rewind a bit before I go to the question, which I’m very interested in deep dive into for this Podcast, I am also intrigued and I want to understand your background. What have you been doing before you’ve built this tool? Could you just share some of those elements that you have been really interested in and have been doing for a long time? 

A(2:13): So Kinjal you have covered some of those points. I have been an HR professional working with consulting firms for close to a decade? I have some corporate experience. And then after that, start my own food-tech venture. I have also been working with companies to create HR solutions for their business issues. All these experiences helped to look at traditional issues with a definite lens. Previously I was associated with Deloitte and the human capital advisory services where we worked on projects around leadership development, talent management across the globe. So that’s me. That’s what I’ve been up to before.


What was the idea behind a Virtual Assessment Centre?

K(02:52): So Aneesh, How did this idea about a virtual assessment center come to you?  What kind of points? What was the catalyst? What was the trigger point that drove you to create something like this? 

A(3:07): That’s an interesting question.  So in HR, in consulting, one of the areas under leadership development that I extensively worked on was on assessment and development centers. Now, what are assessment and development centers? Organizations use assessment and development centers (AC/DC) to create development plans for their leaders. Traditionally, the Development Center will have about 8-12 participants meeting at a given location and they will undergo a battery of simulations. For example, a case study, a group discussion, an In-Basket exercise. And then at that location, they are evaluated by trained observers on different competencies, needing to identify development gaps or identifying the high potential employees within your group, within the company.

One of the projects that I was recently associated with required us to evaluate the current process of the development center which the company was running in-house. Many companies also do it with external consulting firms. This company had an L&D team internally and they were running it from there. 

As we went through the course and as we did the pre-work, we realized that the internal team was us spending a little too much time in terms of planning, organizing. They were over-leveraged and DC tends to do that, 

there’s a lot of planning, etc. required. And this company had employees all over the world. So you can imagine the amount of time and effort that they end up putting to run a development center. And that left them with very little time to reflect on the value that they were adding. So, that’s when you proposed a virtual variant of the development center to them. Glad to tell you that the client was happy with the prospects of a virtual D.C. and he actually ran a pilot for about 50 leaders across six countries in a matter of a month’s time.


What were the issues before coming up with a Virtual assessment Centre?

K(05:14): That’s Amazing. So if you could give us some insights about how many assessments ran in a year or what were the efforts that they’ve put before coming up with a virtual assessment center? 

A(05:30): So since the team was based in Mumbai and they were running these assessment centers all over the globe. They had to deal with multiple issues. There’s a lot of logistical costs that go in when you’re running a development center right from booking a banquet to having multiple rooms because you want to do it in a third party location, you don’t want to do it in an office setting. Plus, you end up spending a lot on travel for your employees, or your assessors.

Many times these assessments centers last for a day and a half. So which would mean accommodation expenses. And these are just the expenses that I’m talking about on top of that. You can imagine how beforehand you need to start planning for all these areas. The team that we were working with was doing this in and out. So the numbers would have been in hundreds. We were looking at a small pilot, initially of about 50 – 55 people just to see what was the cost-benefit that would accrue from taking this entire exercise online. 


What were the options in hand to build a Virtual Assessment Centre?

K(06:34): Cool. So you have a requirement in place. But you have a different idea to that requirement and then you looked at ways, How would you implement that? And the next step. So what were the options in-hand for you? 

A(06:51): So that’s an interesting story. We were looking at whether we can develop it or getting it developed from an external party. We explored both. Now you need to understand that there are no tools which are available in the market, which can run a traditional development center in a virtual format. Those that are there are pretty linear, with very little possibility of being interactive.

Some allow only a one to one assessment. But we were looking at one assessor observing three participants in a day and that too simultaneously. Time and money constraints couldn’t have allowed us to build a custom platform. And frankly, that wouldn’t have made business sense as well to incur that kind of time commitment, effort, and money. There were some thoughts around doing patchwork by using, let’s say, a google form or google drive, but it wouldn’t have been virtual and interactive.

So that’s when, a chance conversation with one of the founders of DronaHQ Divyesh led us to talk about how we can explore DronaHQ as a platform to create bespoke, customized solutions around assessment and development centers.

K(08:14): Cool. So, That is how probably you came to a thought of getting a custom application and when did you jump into creating one yourself? Were you confident enough to build whole yourself? 

A(08:30): Frankly, I wouldn’t have headed not been for DronaHQ because there are so many options out there and you frankly don’t know which is the right one for you because you want something which is customized, something which is bespoke and meets the organizational needs. And you wanted a tool that you could mold it as per your requirement. You’re not bound by the tool, you let the tool be an enabler rather than you be a slave to the tool. So that’s what I found very interesting about the DronaHQ. I’m not a developer. I don’t understand code. But I knew what the flow of the virtual development center would look like and using common sense we’re able to create a complete development center platform on DronaHQ.


What were your fear or initial inhibitions as a maker?

K(09:19): That’s very interesting Aneesh. Hold on to that thought, I have a lot of questions on this thought itself. A lot of times, there are so many makers out there, Probably they are not makers they don’t know they are makers. But there are so many domain experts like you out there and who have never, ever coded and never ever thought about building a tool themselves. And so what were your initial fears or initial inhibitions about doing it yourself or probably you are of a different kind. You would love to create something on your own and you would love to explore and experiment, something like that. So in either way what were your initial steps. And how did you go like probably taking baby steps and drive your hand? You did prototypes in the first place or you did all in. What were your thoughts and how did you go about it?

A(10:15): So if I remember correctly. Right. I knew what the flow would be for a participant who was doing a virtual development center that the person had to login. And then the person would see activities on the left-hand side and clicking on each activity a page would open up, which would be a particular tool, a case study. And there should be some space for the participants to enter the response. So what I’m saying is I had a small framework in mind what the user journey would look like a participant journey would like. And then it was more about spending time on the studio the DronaHQ platform just to see how it works. And if you were uncomfortable with Excel and by Excel, I mean, just simple understanding about how formulas work? And I’m not even talking about complex formulas. I’m just saying just basic formulas. It’s more about just understanding that logic once. And then, you can do that with DronaHQ.


K(11:16): So can you tell us about your tool, how you went about making that on DronaHQ? 

A(11:25): See, one of the things about making this tool on DronaHQ was that we were able to ideate, executive, and evaluate the process and platform in real-time. So, I could create something. I could show it to someone. We could have an OK or NO at that point itself and then move ahead with it. This provided us an opportunity to tweak the development center as per the client requirements.

There was no service request or waiting time. we were in control of the whole thing. The agility that the platform provided was unmatched. And so the idea going virtual came about on, I think so it was mid of Jan 2020. We actually went live with the platform by end of Jan 2020. Now in my wildest dreams, I never imagined that I would be able to conceptualize, ideate experiment, create multiple variations, and then going live with something in about two weeks time. So was kind of, it was an exhilarating journey because every possible the platform just lets you keep, it helps you explore a lot more things so you suddenly realize that there are few things, you know, and then you can learn an additional thing. And you can see all your creations, all your works coming together. So that’s a high that the platform gives you. And especially me as a someone who doesn’t know how to code. 

K(12:44): Yeah, that’s really awesome. So you were telling me that you have gone from ideation to go live in two weeks. Exactly.

A(13:05): Exactly, And that was the need of the hour. And it also showcased the capability that we could bring to the table to the client. From conceptualization, ideation to go live within two weeks. I could say a lot of people who know how to code also can not promise. 


K(13:26): So, What was the first reaction of the customer, the development team, or the DC team?

A(13:35): They were amazed because we were able to put something in front of them in such a short period of time and see we did in in two weeks. But we had variations ready in a few day’s time and with every iteration, we were able to go back to them almost on the same day. So let’s say if you had a call in the morning, you could show them the changes in a few hours or in the evening or the next day at most. So that kind of turnaround was something that was very well appreciated. And finally, the way the platform work, the way the platform performs so that I think it was the icing on the cake. 

K(14:17): I think what we are talking about is an agile delivery, a perfect tool to have an agile and continuous delivery. You can probably add new features and keep amazing features and add different tools and variations to your platform or tool that you are creating. So can you highlight probably four features with which you created up your tool or a virtual assessment center, which are probably gonna amaze everyone who is going to think about it?

A(14:51): So one is, you can see assessment centers as a practice. There is a framework around it. Then you can tweak it, you can change it to suit your requirements. Somebody might use a case study, somebody might use an in-basket exercise, somebody might use a psychometric,  a combination of all these. Somebody might use a group discussion. Somebody might use a simulation exercise. So the platform can actually accommodate any activity, any tool that you would want to create.

Number two is it allows for real-time viewing of participant responses. So as an assessor, it is very important for me to see what participant “A” has written for a particular question? What does participant “B,” write, What does participant “C”? And I’m able to rate them as an assessor so that the real-time data transfer. 

And the third thing is, It is pretty simple to use. So a lot of participants, the way the UI/UX came out. The participants were looking at it for the first time and were able to navigate through it easily. So which is testimony to the fact that it was simple, it was easy, it moved with the flow. So I think these are the three critical things. Having said that, there are other features also, but these I think stood out and defined what the virtual assessment tool is. We obviously integrated it with Zoom as a platform where a participant could answer a question and then get on a call with the assessor and the assessor would see the responses and actually approve the participant. So we actually leverage a couple of technologies to create this DC. 


What Technologies have you integrated?

K(16:54): Could you name a few technologies or something tools that you’ve integrated? 

A(16:59): So one is obviously the platform on which the conversation will take place. Something like a Zoom or Microsoft teams or Google Hangout. So links were provided for those. The other is every organization has their goto psychometric tools. Somebody uses a workplace Big 5. Somebody uses a Sosie. Somebody uses a DiSC profiler. So psychometric tool linkages were created bases.

So psychometric tools were also different. It basically directed a person to a different page for the psychometric assessment. So those linkages were provided through the tool and there was a timetable in place. So a participant can look at the schedule and understand what is that they would need to do at a particular time and you had one person managing it.

So with this solution, just to give you an idea of how it was managed, the DC manager was based out of the Middle East. Participants were based in Europe. The assessors were based in three cities in India. So that’s how diverse it was. If it would be a traditional development center. You would have wanted all of these people to assemble at one physical location. So you can just imagine what are the cost savings and the efficiencies that you’ve been able to drive with this.

K(18:32): This is really crazy and amazing. I can understand the ways of the real assessment center that you have tried to implement. Assessing in real-time understanding the body language probably understanding the person. How they have answered the previous question and then assessing them you have integrated with a lot of tools you like. This also highlights how the DronaHQ studio platform is powerful to integrate with different tools. And you have kind of implemented it with your other tools of psychometric test, As you understand the domain, you want to customize according to the customer.

A(19:09): Yeah! I think that one of the things that happened post creation of this virtual tool is suddenly you start looking at all the other activities also, with a digital mindset. So, suddenly you start looking at a virtual development center as something that you were doing in the traditional physical manner. What are the other activities in the HR, which you can digitize and the tool is so versatile that any HR issue, which you think you want to digitize. You can get digitized on the platform.


What are some skills that are important as a maker?

K(19:47): What were some skills which are very important that you realized that you need as a maker? As a no-code maker, you would have some skills or you thought these are some skills that will really help anyone to create. What according to you are those skills that will help anyone bring such tools to live?

A(20:12): I think the tool is very powerful. One of the critical things that you need as an individual is the ability to visualize what your product and solution looks like. So if you know what the end state of the product is going to be, you’re set to begin. A simple understanding of how you need to store data, how it gets retrieved basis, some logic that you can decide on is all it takes to manage this beast. So that’s all basically. A simple understanding of data and how you want to bring that data back to your tool. And by data, I mean, a simple data. So it’s not a particular language or stored in a particular thing. Just a basic understanding of how you want the flow to go. 

K(21:09): That’s the code for the podcast, a lot of common sense. A complete visualization of what you want to achieve, the end output, and understanding of data where and how you want to use it. So, as you have already delivered this tool to your customer. So have you been able to replicate or do you want to give these similar tools to other organizations? Have you taken it across? What are your next steps toward this? Can you scale this? It can be and it can be customized on bases of each organization’s requirements. 

A(21:46): Like I said, developing centers are done in different manners across the globe, so depending upon whatever is the need. Any consulting firm which is run which is a boutique consulting firm. Any consulting firm which is run as a proprietorship and consulting firm which is 300- 400 people. This tool can be used by any of them to create solutions basis their specific clientele, basis their specific requirements. We are in talks with a few players who were looking at virtual development centers. And looking at the situation virtual development center will be there for some time.


Takeaway for aspiring no-code makers 

K(22:32): So, Aneesh any feedback and suggestions for the audience right away who are trying to build something on DronaHQ studio and do and going to go on a makers journey. 

A(22:48): If you have your problem clearly defined and you are clear how the system needs to respond. DronaHQ can do that for you. As you spend more and more time on the platform, the easier it becomes. So I can speak day 2 was better than day 1, day 3 was better than day 2. And if you don’t come from a tech background, you will be amazed at the progress you’ve made on creating something that was just completely digital without knowing even an ounce of coding.

K(23:19): That’s great. Thank you so much for your feedback for the audience. I’ll be sharing the link to your demo tool and probably we look forward to more insights, how you scaled it out and what were the benefits achieved by organizations. Thank you so much, Aneesh. Have a nice day.

A(23:39): You too.

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