CADline’s Paul Woody looks at the process of purchasing discipline specific software, and how a dedicated deployment / implementation scheme can be much more effective than a software sale with a training initiative.

Training, Implementation and Deployment are important words when it comes to software purchase and anyone who has had to grapple with CAD software over the years will be aware of how lengthy the learning curve can be. Often the skills required at the start of a project in the setup and project initialisation are fairly advanced and the first projects can end up being very painful due not to the speed of data collation and representation, but to the presentation quality and style of the finished result. When someone has decided to purchase a particular application, questions and statements such as these are often heard:

“Is this software easy to use or do I need training?”

“I am usually very good at picking up new skills.”

“Does it come with tutorials?”

“I have been using CAD for twenty years so I won’t need much training.”

Here are two scenarios for the purchase of discipline specific software. It is not important which software application or associated discipline one cares to examine, as the principles apply to all specialist software. In this instance, a principle architect reviews his current selection of CAD software and realises that he needs to invest in order to stay competitive.

Scenario 1

After looking at the available software, he chooses an application because he recognises the efficiency improvements to be made. He decides that with the available budget, he can afford five copies of the software plus a standard, classroom-style training session for five members of the team. He checks to see which members of his team are available on the dates of the training and sends them along.

When purchasing software, many people wrongly look at the price of the box to assign a budget

After the training, the team are keen to press on and meet with the principle to discuss a suitable project, a possibility for which is currently in tender. They get that contract and after finishing the current workload, they start to use the new software a couple of months later.

Scenario 2

In discussion with a software consultant, the business process is analysed. This analysis covers the representative project type, current technology adoption, available skills within the team and standard presentation style as well as performance expectations of the software solution. A report is presented with several recommendations which are accepted. This includes three copies of the software and an implementation package.

In consultation with the specialist, the most cost-effective features of the software are recognised, leading to the identification of an ideal project and a suitable team, based on key skill requirements. One or more power-users are trained in the project management aspects of the software, along with the required knowledge surrounding file management, document set-up, templates, libraries, etc. The software consultant will then provide standard templates which will allow the users to pick up the software and be as effective as possible from the start.

The training of the main group is timed to precede the commencement of the project as closely as possible and depending on the software, can be delivered in stages as the project develops. The specialist will then follow the progress of the project and be on hand where required to assist, either by phone for the ‘How-do-I?’ questions or on-site to review and give pointers.

The Results

The first of these scenarios is a software sale with a training initiative, whereas the second represents a deployment / implementation scheme. In the first scenario, one member of the team was not interested in learning the application, the gap between training and project start was too long and the team refused to make use of the support network, preferring to ‘work it out for themselves’. In an attempt to save the investment, the principle then pumps more money into training.

In the second scenario, the project is a success and the team move on with confidence and lessons learnt to the next project with a larger team, investing with confidence in more copies of software.

When purchasing software, many people wrongly look at the price of the box to assign a budget and when speaking to any software vendor, they will advise the need for training to compliment the software, but it may surprise some of you to know that the more discerning dealer would prefer the implementation of three copies thoroughly as opposed to the purchase of five copies which end up sitting on a shelf.

Putting it bluntly, the customer is far more likely to come back for more copies if they have had success with the first three copies, so there is a vested interest in ensuring a successful implementation of the software as opposed to simply selling a quota of boxes. The software advisor exists to service your business and ultimately your client. By keeping your client happy, they make you successful which makes them successful.

So to summarise, implementation does not have to cost more money; rather it is using the monies available to make a sound investment and to allow the investment to mature such that subsequent investment is made on a sound foundation of knowledge. Bear this in mind next time you think of upgrading and ask to speak to a Software Advisor.