Is Your Software Up To Date? Vendors Web should tell.

June 3, 2004
Engineeringsoftwarevendors help users manage licenses and more.

Vendor's Web should tell

Robert Williams
Product Manager
Algor Inc.
Pittsburgh, Pa.

Look for software demonstrations and training on engineering Web sites. On Algor's site, for example, class topics range from general finite-element modeling and analysis to specific applications. Webcasts and Web courses are available live and on-demand at www.eTechLearning.comfor training any time of the day.

Engineering Web sites are increasingly offering more online customer-service tools. One example is Algor's My Account section (upper left) that includes a My Resources area (center). It lets customers view Tech Tips, Tutorials and Webcasts customized to the products they own. The online services let customers manage their account and software-license data, update software, access reference materials such as tutorials (lower right) and easily communicate with service team members regarding products and services.

It's no surprise that the Internet has been a boon to engineering-software developers and users alike. Interactive tools let software vendors create multimedia environments that provide better support for customers regardless of location. And for engineering managers, an Internet-based customer-service center should provide a more direct way to manage accounts, deliver resources to help users get started quickly with new programs, and offer interactive tools for personalized support and training. Taking advantage of the online tools offered by CAE vendors lets users benefit more from their software.

Tools for managing accounts online give users more direct control over their software assets. For instance, the My Account area of www.algor.comlets customers view and change their contact and license information such as the products or software, number of seats for each product, and when the software was last updated. Users can also register software online,download license files that unlock new capabilities, and rehost software to a different computer or server in the event of hardware failure. All these online account-management features should be supported by instantaneous, automatic email communication that lets users know about changes to their account, whether done online or through an account manager. In addition, notifications within the CAE software let users know instantly about new capabilities and provide the option to download them immediately or later.

A CAE vendor's online customer-service center could also provide a convenient method for locating resources that help users get started efficiently with new software. The My Resources section of Algor's My Account area, for example, lets users view a list of additional learning tools tailored to their software. It includes technical tips, tutorials, and Webcasts that walk step-by-step through analyses.

Users benefit from Internet-based, multimedia learning tools that include free software-demonstration Webcasts and distance-learning Web courses. These teach users to work more efficiently with the software and do so while eliminating travel costs and time outside the office. Prospective customers can view these Webcasts to see the software in action before making a purchase. Because Web sites such as make this content available on-demand, users can improve their software skills any time of day from any location around the world.

In addition to on-demand Web courses, CAE vendors can use Web-casting technology to develop customized training curricula to fit individual needs in terms of level, pace, and content, and schedule sessions to fit the user's needs. This is an excellent and cost-effective option when a team of users in different corporate divisions and locations would benefit from consistent education.

This technology can also be used to deliver personalized support, in which a technical support engineer walks the customer through the solution to a problem, screen-by-screen, live over the Internet. Coupling Webcasting with other Internet conferencing tools such as WebEx or Microsoft Live Meeting lets users share files among participants in multiple locations. Personalized customer service delivered right to an engineer's desk is one trend that can only grow in popularity.

Other online tools that may be available include systems for initiating and tracking software feature requests, forums for posting technical-support questions, and e-mail subscription tools to control the type and frequency of automatic notifications that customers receive from their CAE vendor.

The latest Internet technologies let CAE vendors provide users with more direct control over their software licenses and account data. The Internet can also deliver additional resources and more interactive, personalized support and training. These capabilities keep customers more involved with managing their software, support, and education resources.

Algor Inc., (412) 967-2700,

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