Train, train and train again

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Training is often overlooked as a means of juggling the capital budget, but those who miss out are wasting great potential says David Payne of CADline.

The days when buying software meant opening a box are long gone. We no longer have ýproducts¯ but ýsolutions¯. We talk about a ýconsultancy sell¯ rather than a straightforward transaction.

Or do we? Understandably, most architectural and building services firms still want to have something tangible to show for their financial outlay. Consequently, they are quite happy to spend money on hardware and software ± but keep a firmer hand on the purse strings when it comes to training.

There are many reasons for this ± but the main ones are surprisingly pedestrian. Training simply gets overlooked or is seen as an add-on. Leaving it out can be a way of juggling the capital budget ± or to make the purchaser look as though they have achieved a better deal.

Ironically, as CAD software becomes more affordable, so the cost of training appears relatively more expensive. Smaller operations that can only just afford to upgrade or change solutions may see it as an unnecessary luxury and, instead, try to learn by trial and error.

Yet, we know that most users still only take advantage of around one third of their applicationÝs functionality. At a guess, I would say out of all the customers we see, at the moment only around 20 per cent are using the software to anywhere near its full capability.

With some software, this doesnÝt really matter ± extra features tend to be for niche users or represent technology for technologyÝs sake.

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However, as CAD has evolved, vendors such as Autodesk and third-party developers have listened to users and refined their solutions accordingly to reflect real-world use and increasing demands such as the need to be first to market or to comply with new regulations. Vendors have acquired smaller companies with emerging technologies and made them affordable by adding them to mainstream products.

ýAs digital design, plus the need to analyse the performance of a building, becomes more prevalent, architects and engineers will increasingly look to outside experts to take an overview of workflow and processes and suggest a total solution rather than a single product.¯

Today, users who neglect training are really missing out on functionality grown through the experience of others in a similar situation ± and an excellent opportunity to gain ground on their competitors.

The good news is that attitudes are changing and the channel has a big role to play in ensuring we keep up the momentum. At CADline, we see customers fall into two camps. A substantial proportion of our customers opt for sufficient training as part of the main sale. A smaller number of clients choose to ýdrive¯ the software for a while before their training sessions, but remain committed to securing training nonetheless. Nevertheless, there remains a number of companies that do not effectively plan in or budget for their software training requirement at the time of purchase.

Just as vendors are now listening more carefully to the market and adding only practical and usable functionality, so are resellers becoming more responsive to their customerÝs training needs and tailoring courses to match with these. For example, at CADline we log all support calls and use the problems discussed as a guide to what customers find puzzling. Training sessions become more user-driven and, therefore, more valuable.

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Introducing new workflows

As digital design, plus the need to analyse the performance of a building, becomes more prevalent, architects and engineers will increasingly look to outside experts to take an overview of workflow and processes and suggest a total solution rather than a single product. Complete solutions tend to optimise software functionality and make the need for training more vital for achieving return on investment.

However, this approach presents a challenge. When an architect or building services engineer is using a solution day in, day out, lessons learnt in training are soon put to the test and ingrained. But when software is only used at a certain point in a buildingÝs development ± for example, Cymap solution to help building services engineers achieve Part L compliancy ± how do you ensure users retain their knowledge from one use to another?

The answer is that firms who opt for regular, ongoing, in-house training will reap the benefits. It means sessions can be designed to be task-specific and target key problem areas. When software is upgraded, new features can be put to use immediately and changing compliancy issues can be incorporated. To complement the formal training, users also need to consider other methods of relaying specialist knowledge. For example, CDs to help jump-start latent knowledge and communicate tips and tricks and e-learning facilities for 24 hour access.

When training stops being the poor relation of a software implementation, users will begin to achieve faster ROI. Smarter firms will consider it as an integral factor in their investment and as vital as long-term support.

www.cadline.co.uk

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