Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Do we really need training if the software is so easy?

Firstly, I want to say sorry for the long absence from this blog. I was finishing up my MBA from Simon School of Business, University of Rochester. Thank you for all those who supported me during the past 2 years. A big thank you!

Recently I had a very interesting phone discussion on "Training" for simulation software (ANSYS, Moldflow etc.). The question this young gentleman asked me was "All the simulation software firms claim that their software is really easy to use. But then they suggest 2-5 days of training! Why this mismatch?"

This question really intrigued me and I have heard several versions of this question in the past 9 years of my sales career. So, I thought I would put out my thoughts on this topic and also get some feedback from you guys on this. Let us see some concepts leading to such a question on training:

1. "Yes! The software is easy": Most of the software today is far more easier to use than it ever was before. ANSYS Workbench has changed the paradigm on the once clumsier and "specialists only" fea software. But has the ease of use of software really eliminated the need for training? The ease of use has certainly helped analysts do more analyses and more efficiently and also lowered the "barriers to entry" to some extent. Students right out of school now are getting employed as full-time analysts. Some pundits may claim that "easier" software still do not have all the bells and whistles needed and I may give it some merit. But for most analysts, a easy to use simulation user interface such as ANSYS Workbench is just fine! But that still mean one doesn't need ANSYS training atall?

2. "I can learn it on my own": I have heard this several times as well and this is true to some extent as well. Most of the simulation software today is at a point where one can install it and start using it right away with very little effort. And the in-built tutorials will probably be just enough to get you there. But then why a formal training?

3. "In-house experts are my gurus": Several larger firms have already established in-house experts who are probably well suited to teach most of the fea courses out there today using the software of their choice. And the newbie analyst can probably use the aide of some perseverance and in-house guru expert can probably get there too....

So, that being said, then why pay for formal training?

1. Makes you an efficient user (I did not say flawless user):
While it is true that the software is easy today, a formal training will give you a good understanding of most of the quirks and enhance your familiarity with the product in a systematic way. Within 2 days or so, you will know where most of the buttons are, how the product works, what is behind all that math and matrices, what solver to use and when to use (and also when not to use) and most importantly gives you direct hands-on exposure under experts guidance. By the time you are back at work ready to use the software, you will be able to "hit the ground" running with the software. You will know atleast how to set-up your own models, mesh them and solve it (doesn't guarantee you will do it right though, that is where your 2 yrs/4yrs etc. of education or years of experience comes handy).

2. It gives you a jump-start:
You sure can learn it on your own. And believe me, most of what you learn about the software, it actually will be learnt on your own (over years). The training only gives you a jump-start to get you there quicker.

3. Makes your co-workers more efficient:
Training makes life for your "in-house gurus" much better. Now instead of asking "What is this button?", you will now ask "Does an axi-symmetric model make more sense for this? Can I use a submodel for this?" to "Shall I use Anand's model or Neo-Hookean?" You will make your guru's time much more efficient!

4. Improves your ROI on simulation software itself!
Formal training surely enhances your chances of getting a better Return on your Investment on your software expenditure! Yep, you will now be able to use the software better, run more analyses and hopefully save millions for your firm (for which they bought the software in the first place).

I have also heard some other benefits over years such as "Great to know the teachers and now I have an outside resource available", "I wouldn't have been this diligent to do this in just 2 days or even few months", "I needed it for NY PE Credits" and "I just needed to get away from work!"

However, now that you may be a little more convinced on the value of training, end of the day, personal motivation and dedication goes a lot farther. Training is just a drop in the ocean!

I am eager to hear your feedback (even if you agree or disagree, I want to hear it).



  1. Rob:

    I agree absolutely. Most software is easy to operate, but that's different from knowing how to use it properly.

  2. John,
    I am glad to hear your agreement on this. I have heard this "Is training really required", especially amongst newer generation. I like how you say "knowing how to use it properly".

  3. Hi I am from India.I've recently completed a three months training program in Ansys and I do feel that training opens new dimensions and also help in speeding up Analysis process.I could have never figured out a few things myself so for me.......Ya it worked.

  4. Anshuman,
    Greatly appreciate your feedback. May I ask what training program you took for 3 months? Was it a combination of several ANSYS classes? I am interested...

  5. I would like to add another dimension to this discussion, by pointing out the fact that many commercial FEA software users have very little background in mathematical background of FE. I personally believe that any FE user should have implemented 1d 2d and 3d FE (truss beam, quad and tet elements) on his own to get a feel for what is out there, when I started my career in this field a book that really helped me in my research is Fundamental Finite Element Analysis And Applications: With Mathematica And MATLAB Computations by Ashgar Bhatti. Really knowing even the basics of theory makes you an aware user. Also back of the envelope calculations and skills to make sense of FE results is what lacks in a typical classroom at Engineering Schools

  6. Vaibhav,
    Well said. There is no replacement for sound engineering. While most of the fea/cfd training classes do touch on some basics on the math behind the screen, they do not go into anywhere close to what one could learn at school or on the job.

  7. Rob
    Hey it sounded a bit different than it actually is.I am sorry for that. I am actually pursuing my engineering and took evening classes on alternate days for three months. There i learned a few modules covering structural,thermal and analysis of fluid flow etc. They taught us about optimization and ya...its still was a very preliminary course. Actually I m currently working on a FSAE project which requires me to have knowledge of basic structural analysis.

  8. Anshuman,
    Thank you for the clarification.

  9. The software is only the tool you use during the analysis. The training should bring the insight into the overall process. You do not want to end up with report showing you the averaged values from a steady-state analysis of a transient case. Only experienced expert can give help you with where to look for the problems. The FEM or CFD or other software are expert systems, where you need to see beyond the button click.

  10. I think there is no harm attending the software tutorial. But you need to have a clear idea of what is going on behind the software otherwise you will end up creating pretty pictures from the software.
    If you know the basics probably you just need to know the interface of the software being used for your CFD/FEA analysis.