My 10-year-old son came to me a couple of weeks ago with a problem that he needed my help with. His bicycle wouldn’t shift out of the upper gear and therefore he wasn’t able to ride it. As it turned out, all I needed to do was to straighten a bent derailleur and add some lubricate. A few minutes later my son was pedaling happily down the street to meet with the rest of his friends.
That got me to thinking, the help that my son needed from me is similar to the help we often need from our CAD technical support service. Something is broken or not working right, and we need help getting ourselves back on the road again. He came to me because he knew that I would be able to resolve this problem. In the same way, we expect our support technicians to be able to resolve our problems when we need them to.
When you are evaluating new software, one of the items that you should be considering is what kind of technical support is available. This is because there are different types of support on the market. You should understand exactly what comes with your software and what you can add on before you sign on the dotted line. Let’s take a look at the different types of support and services that circuit building software companies typically offer.
Call center operators are often part of circuit building software support.
When you need help, what kind of support is available?
Let’s face it, you are going to need help with your new circuit building software at some point along the way. You need to understand up front what kind of support is offered with the software, how it can be accessed, and how much will it cost. Here are some questions that you should ask when you’re about to purchase software:
What kinds of support services are offered? Support is usually provided by phone, E-mail, or some kind of “chat” service. Make sure that you are going to get the type of support that suits your workflow.
What are the support plans available and what are the costs? Different companies offer different levels of support through different plans. In some cases it is general support for a yearly maintenance fee. Other companies use a “pay-to-play” methodology where you are charged for how much support you use. While some use a tiered approach with different levels of support for different prices. Make sure that you understand the support plans and prices that are offered before you commit to the software.
Are there FAQ’s, blogs, user groups, or other information available? These types of resources can be of tremendous help to you, and are usually offered without cost.
Is training provided? There are different forms of training from the traditional classroom setting to web-based training that can be offered. Make sure that you know what the options and the costs are first. In this way you will avoid paying an unexpected amount for training in order to understand the basics of your new software.
Professional services are essential to good support.
What kind of professional services are offered?
Standard support services, such as phone support or FAQ’s, may not offer all the help that you need. Although these services will answer specific questions about functionality, they may not help with larger issues such as enterprise installations or database conversions. Circuit building software companies usually offer additional professional services to help with these issues. Before you commit to the software, you should determine what your needs are and if there are professional services available to help. Here are some questions to consider:
What can you expect from the application engineers (AEs)? Typically AE’s will answer your questions and work with you to help you through rough spots. This is very helpful as you come up to speed on their software, but may taper off with time. You should find out whether this level of AE support will continue after the sale has been finalized.
Can your old libraries and designs be converted to the new software? This is an extremely important point to consider if you need to access your legacy design data. The ability to translate your legacy libraries and databases to the new format could save you an incredible amount of time that would otherwise be spent on recreating them. You should find out if the new software is able to do these translations, or if the company provides services that will do the translations for you.
Is there support for installation and configuration? If you will be doing a large scale enterprise installation, you may need additional help with the installation of the new software. With a multi-seat and multi-application installation, you may need the assistance of the software vendor to correctly configure it to all work together.
Are there services that can help with software customizations? In some cases, CAD software is customizable to fit the needs of the users. Depending on the complexity of any desired changes, it may be more cost effective to use the professional services of the software vendor to perform these tasks.
In my career, I have seen how different levels of support can help or hurt the productivity of a design department. I have also seen how good effective support has restored strained customer relationships. My son didn’t need a new bike and he didn’t need someone else to do the pedaling for him. He just needed his support person to help him fix a problem. In the same way, your success with your new CAD software may boil down to the help that you get from technical support. Make sure before you buy that you are getting the kind of support that you want and that will help you to be successful.
Circuit building software, like Altium Designer, has many different types and levels of software support to help make you successful. This will help you to create and deliver high-quality designs in the shortest amount of design time possible.
Would you like to find out more about how Altium can help you with superior support? Talk to an expert at Altium.
About the Author
PCB Design Tools for Electronics Design and DFM. Information for EDA Leaders.More Content by Altium Designer