Design engineers are a fickle bunch sometimes. One statement often made is that if a site fails to produce the needed information, "I never return to it." With the continual changes occurring over the web, that may not be the best policy. In this piece, we'll discover that the evolutionary speed of the Internet allows a company to provide continual updates and changes to meet customer needs. We'll also see how the Internet has affected distribution, specifically for software vendors.
Customer needs are all different. As engineers, we sometimes forget that what we need right now is not necessarily what the rest of the world of designers is looking for. Smart company sites try to adjust and adapt to the needs of the user, yet the user's needs continue to be different from one project to the next. As the comedian Steven Wright says, "You can't have everything. Where would you put it?"
In past issues we discussed portals, which offer a broad base of information typically supported by several companies. Just last month we discussed how web newsletters draw engineers into a site, particularly through a deep link. This month, we urge designers to return to sites that have the potential to help them in their job.
Recognize that these sites are on the upward arc of the learning curve and not only want, but also need, your feedback.
The Internet is changing the CAD distribution model from a linear, straightforward approach to a more flexible, more complex model. The New Mode, as illustrated, shows only one of many possibilities in today's market. According to the GartnerGroup report 'Distribution Model Changes:CAD and the Internet,' barriers to market entry will be knocked down, at least temporarily, once the one-directional, linear nature of CAD distribution is no longer the norm. As a result, they suggest that new players are expected to enter the market. At the present time, the ASP model, which uses the Internet for software hosting, will have a role in niche areas. This market approach is not considered a direct or indirect sale, but constitutes a unique channel of its own. (Figure courtesy of the GartnerGroup.)
The dynamics of one site. Even though numerous
sites are available to choose from, for efficiency, we'll look at one site to
see how it has adjusted to its user base through the use of a number of Internet
capabilities. Software vendors have the greatest potential to serve their user
base through a truly e-commerce model because their product can be downloaded
rather than mailed, and because the software user base is computer savvy.
Without the proper site dynamics, though, potential customers see only an
CADKEY has been fully e-commerce enabled since September 1999. Many of the capabilities this column has overviewed this year are being incorporated in the CADKEY site. Having watched the site change and grow for nearly a year, it is apparent that feedback is taken seriously at the company.
Some key elements that make the CADKEY site valuable to users include its e-commerce capabilities for online licensing of products. E-services only begin with the initial sale, as every OEM vendor understands. One of the more important elements on any Internet site is honesty. To provide a purely honest discourse concerning the com- pany's products, CADKEY incorporates a User Forum where users are able to interact and exchange information among themselves.
"Customers ask and receive advice on how to solve a design problem or better ways to approach a certain design task," says Robert W. Bean, president of CADKEY Corporation. "Our technical support team only enters the conversation when needed. Forum participants discuss industry trends, ask for enhancements, and post problems. There has always been a real sense of community among our users, and the Forum gives them a voice."
CADKEY provides as many tools as it possibly can to help its user base. An online Solution Partner Catalog in PDF format, a User Gallery of images and success stories, the company's e-News which is delivered to its users' desktops, and even an online CADKEY magazine are all support tools used regularly by customers. Through continual updating, these services provide answers to many technical questions, as well as insights into certain designs. The CADKEY Web Connection is also used to provide a gateway to vital information such as links to the extensive worldwide maintenance user base, as well as resources where users can download valuable programs, software utilities, and other special items used to increase productivity when using CADKEY products.
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experiences This article is part of a continuing series of monthly pieces on "E-services and the Design Engineer," sponsored by Hewlett-Packard. Design News will continue to report on the latest developments on the Web, and how new web-based products and services make life easier for engineers. Please share with us your experiences with websites that help you do your job better and faster.
Direct information to Contributing Editor Terry Persun at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Or you can call Terry at: (360) 379-3375 or fax him at (360) 379-3376.
For individual advancement and training, the company site provides live CADKEY WebCast technical demos and training, streaming video technologies for product tutorials, textbooks, and employment classifieds for CADKEY users. The site also provides free utilities, such as the CADKEY 99 Viewer, tutorials, fonts, and various modules for printing/ plotting, converting DOS data, etc. CADKEY information is also available from the web site in eleven languages, to date. Beyond the above-mentioned capabilities of the site, the offerings continue to change and grow with customer needs in mind.
E-commerce . As mentioned above, E-commerce is important to a company site, which may cost hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to maintain and update. Therefore, it is necessary to ask if the Internet offers greater sales potential? According to a research brief put out by the GartnerGroup, "The Internet is giving CAD vendors and VARs far greater customer reach than they had before."
The OEM CAD vendor now finds that its OEM sales model has moved from the direct sale of a turnkey system to a more indirect sale. Not only do present indirect sales account for about one third of the mechanical market, but the GartnerGroup report "Distribution Model Changes: CAD and the Internet," claims that it is growing faster than direct sales, as well.