Vol. 8, No. 4

April 2006

PQ Systems

Software support options

Quality Quiz: With a video!

Six Sigma

Data in everyday life

Bytes and pieces

FYI: Current releases


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Software support options
The importance of the help offered

A recent letter to the editor of Financial Times complained that the writer had tried six times to get a solution to a problem he was having with a computer he had purchased-all "over 12 time zones, with someone in another continent who did not understand me" and to no avail. His solution: he had already talked five other people out of purchasing the same computer "and I'm working on the sixth," he said.

Clearly, support for both hardware and software products should be an important part of the purchase decision.

Choosing a software program involves consideration of a number of factors, including identifying features in the program that fit one's needs and getting a feel for the software's ease of use. One dimension of the decision that is often overlooked because it may not seem to be immediately relevant is the availability of support for the program and for the ways in which the users' ongoing learning is encouraged and supported-something to which PQ Systems is deeply committed. A long-term relationship with a good software program, like a good marriage, is enriched by outside support.

While a hearty "I can figure it out myself" may be sufficient to get started with a software program-especially one that is easy to use from the beginning-it is in discovering and utilizing the real potential of software that ongoing training is essential. PQ Systems can respond immediately to the important question with long-term implications: "How will the developer help me discover the full potential of the program?"

And because software users are busy people, they need to have a variety of approaches available to fit their needs and support their learning. Among the training approaches that PQ Systems offers to its software customers are:

Public seminars in Dayton or other venues that offer instruction in the use of the program;

On-site training to bring several members of a team to the same level of learning in an organization;

Web-based training with interactive capabilities;

Manuals, books, and supportive print materials.

Each type of instruction offers benefits to users, and PQ Systems helps customers determine the best ways to assure ongoing learning about its software products.

Public seminars, offered in convenient locations, provide opportunities not only for instruction and hands-on practice, but also for interaction with other users of the software. Learning what other users are doing with the software can provide the fabric of success. This kind of "cross-fertilization" sometimes opens doors to new applications of the program or another way to approach a specific problem. PQ Systems has a full panoply of regularly-scheduled seminars for its software products. Some of these training sessions are held in Dayton, the company headquarters, or in cities throughout the nation. "Beyond Excel: Easy SPC Charting," a half-day session that introduces CHARTrunner software, has recently been scheduled in Raleigh, NC, Chicago, IL, and Winston-Salem, for example. "These regional seminars make training accessible for customers who may find it challenging to be away from their desks for longer periods of time," according to seminar leader Brad Platzer.

Seminars related to SQCpack, GAGEpack EZ, DOEpack, and other software programs are scheduled in Dayton throughout the year. Descriptions of these seminars and information about specific scheduled sessions can be found at www.pqsystems.com/services/training.php

When a number of users at a given site are ready for training, the best option may be an on-site training session tailored to these users' specific needs. Saving both money and time for participants, these on-site training seminars are highly flexible. "Sending several people to a seminar in Dayton can be less productive for individual needs," says Platzer, noting the ways in which on-site training can be quickly adapted to organizations by using their own data or accommodating special requirements. In a recent on-site session for Borg-Warner, for example, Platzer broke participants into two groups, each with different learning needs.

PQ Systems' latest approach to training is that of the webinar, an electronic version of training seminars. Over-the-web training encourages a quick overview of the software or an opportunity to learn to accomplish a specific task with CHARTrunner software. Technology enables interactive inquiry as well as "live" presentation of software features by PQ Systems trainers and consultants. The web-based instruction is offered in three-hour increments, with no travel required. Platzer and fellow seminar leader Matt Savage have led webinar training reaching nearly two dozen organizations. "An additional advantage of web beaming is that at a given site, one or several participants can learn at the same time," Savage says.

Of course, all training ultimately relies on the ease of use of a software program itself, but as users become more sophisticated in their requirements, supplemental training can "move them along" on their learning curve. Clear, easy-to-use print documentation can support this learning, an online help can provide quick answers to questions. PQ Systems provides a library of quality and statistical questions and topics through QualityAdvisor.com, an online support service. Customers with questions about statistical concepts or quality can find helpful information at this site, in addition to resources about the specific software product itself.

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